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Laurie Penny

Laurie Penny: “How many times, over the course of this year, suspended between possible futures, wrangling schedules with faraway friends and colleagues, have we thrown up our hands and apologized because time has no meaning anymore? We didn’t arrive at this in an arbitrary way. Time does feel different right now. Billions have been gnawing their fingers for months, waiting for the immediate future to become comprehensible again. It’s not just the big, collective worries—elections, trade treaties, global health—that are yet to be resolved. Individual futures are also being erased. Weddings are canceled, savings wiped out, graduations and holidays and reunions postponed indefinitely. We move out of cities with no notion of when we will return. We go to work not knowing if those jobs will exist next month. The usual ways we understand time and come to terms with change are too flimsy to withstand the avalanche of possible futures collapsing all around us. It can feel like we’re stuck in Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.” The 1952 short story is where the phrase “the butterfly effect” comes from. A group of big-game hunters go on a time safari to bag a T. rex. They’re not supposed to step off the path, not supposed to change a single thing, but they do—and when they return to their present, one of them finds a butterfly crushed on the sole of his shoe. That’s enough to change everything: because something is different about the time they have come back to. That something is fascism. Before they time traveled, a fascist candidate had just been defeated in a presidential election. When they come back, the fascist is in charge. Fascism is always, apparently, the alternative future struggling to be born.”

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