Historically illiberal democracy has been a stage on the route to liberal democracy rather than the end point of a country’s political trajectory. Indeed, in the past, the experience of, or lessons learned from, flawed and even failed democratic experiments have played a crucial role in helping societies appreciate liberal values and institutions. And many of the problems that have emerged in Western democracies today are not the result of “hyperdemocratization”—but the exact opposite. Over the past decades, democratic institutions and elites have become increasingly out of touch with and insulated from the people, contributing greatly to the anger, frustration, and resentment that is eating away at liberal democracy today. Let’s examine each of these points in turn.
I am lucky not for surviving the infection, but for being a member of a shrinking class of Americans whose lives can absorb a trauma of this magnitude, and for whom being thrown, insensible, into the system is actually a good thing. When people refer to me as a “survivor,” which they do often, they’re correct, but it’s not what they think it means: It has already been decided, especially now that it’s again fashionable to claim that healthcare is not a right, who is a designated survivor in this country. It has also been decided who is not.
I know every time I’ve let go of Zelda, in fact, what’s actually happened is that she let go of me, and I simply allowed it, overcoming my natural inclinations to cling, to hold tight. I felt her pull away from me as she stood up on her fat wobbly legs to walk for the first time, and I worried that she would fall. She did, of course, fall down, and though she cried real tears of failure and frustration, and though she looked over at me, she didn’t reach for me. She didn’t need me, not right that second. She told me then what I didn’t want, couldn’t stand to hear, not yet, not yet: “Sometimes, I need you; sometimes I do not.”
And while this seasonal quartet has its angry and agonized passages—Winter includes many small but insistent notations of the way institutions of Britain’s public culture, from bus service to libraries, have been gradually privatized and downsized—its creator wants to remind us that the pendulum can swing back and that one day the sun will return.
In Thomas Pierce’s warm and inventive debut novel, “The Afterlives,” reality is slippery, time is out of joint and profound disorientation is a feature of daily existence. In other words, pretty much how the world feels to a lot of us right now.
What follows is an exceptional work, a humane book about an incendiary subject. Blending history and investigative reporting, Bergman never loses sight of the ethical questions that arise when a state, founded as a refuge for a stateless people who were targets of a genocide, decides it needs to kill in order to survive.