Friday, September 22, 2023

A fish rots from the head first

Lance Morrow on "retcon": "retcon, in short, is an instrument for editing history to escape its inconvenient implications—its truth, if you insist, when applied to real life. It’s a sort of magic realism, an intellectual mulligan in the age of screens." From the essay:
.... It’s as if the 21st century itself came equipped with an enormous delete key, which, when you hit it, causes the former world to disappear. You may then fill up the empty screen with your own alternative reality.

Back in the Atlantis of 20th-century America, it was believed that there were two sexes, male and female. But 21st-century retcon (revisionism on LSD) tells us that you are whatever sex—or, rather, “gender”—you say you are. Marriage, which in the former world was between a man and a woman, may now be between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. The retcon of same-sex marriage, though highly improbable in the earlier context, has been widely accepted and has settled down, by and by, to become as orthodox and bourgeois as Ozzie and Harriet. Be careful, though: Retcon has a way of jumping the shark (destroying its own narrative by not knowing when to stop). Thus, the term “woman” is problematic, and we are no longer certain that such people exist, because to say so might insult the men who say they are women.

The old binaries were, so to speak, Newtonian. The new categories have all the nuance and unknowability of quantum mechanics. They are as whimsical as the moods of the Red Queen. The southern border is secure! It isn’t shoplifting, it’s social justice! Suicidal incompetence—say, by mayors of once-great cities—has yet a flickering aura of virtue about it: the valor of a lost cause.

America itself was formerly a good thing, more or less. “The last, best hope,” as Abraham Lincoln said. That was in the old dispensation. Retcon turns the narrative upside down. Retcon is pretty sure that Lincoln was a racist and that the U.S. is, if not evil, then at the very least wicked to the core: white supremacist and founded—as the New York Times states in its resounding retcon, the “1619 Project”—for the purpose of enslaving black people. ....

Retcon asserts “my truth” and rejects, as necessary, natural law. When out of control, it results in a Tower of Babel—a dynamic of madhouse democracy, as the Founders feared. A fish rots from the head first, and so does a country. Under a regime of pervasive untruth, the leaders become worse than their followers. We’re getting there.

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