Technique

Nick Bryant, BBC:

Since the turn of the new century we have spoken of a post-American world. But my fear is we are facing a post-American America: a country in an irreconcilable state of division and decline; a broken superpower in a broken world.…

Before too long, I hope New York will return to its charismatic self, and you’ll get to experience this epic global city.…

But to be truthful, Honor, something I’m not hoping for is a speedy return to normal. Because one thing that’s become glaringly evident during these months of global shutdown and these weeks of global protest – normal no longer works.

I was struck by several phrases in Bryant’s piece.

The idea of a “post-American America” I think nicely describes a US tramping through the broken shards of the American Century. The country has seemed to me to be in an irreconcilable state of decline for decades. One sign of this has been the inability of most Americans to begin to be able to conceptualize it, let alone discuss it. The hope that New York will “return” to its charismatic self here communicates well the limits of the British speaker to grasp the implications of what he himself has just said: as a metropolis in a land experiencing irreconcilable decline New York will not be returning to anything. This trip is one-way.

Bryant concludes with the pithy “normal no longer works”. “Works” is here in context suggested to be a desired condition, and it is of concern to Bryant that that which had previously worked does so no longer. This got me to thinking about Jacques Ellul, and the Technological Society.

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