Quo Vadimus. That’s the question of every new year. It’s Latin. Quo Vadimus: Where are we going next?
It is not that nothing has meaning; it is that everything has meaning. Each of us is the proverbial chaos butterfly fluttering its wings and influencing storms half a world away. It is not our weakness that we need to ponder; it is our strength. One person does not make much of a difference, but it is something, and when many act in concert, change is inevitable.
Tough question with few easy answers. It used to be a small world; now we’re so connected, so hooked up and yet so alienated from each other and ourselves that the world looks bigger than ever and the individual seems so much smaller. We’re cogs in the great machine of state and business, mindlessly going about our routine, not even aware of how scripted our actions have become. It has become our second nature. We see the future and it is so frightening we feel it’s best left unimagined. Not long ago, David “Tufty” Clough, co-owner of Future Shock, told me, “I don’t understand why people want to go to a megamall to buy their punk rock clothing.” That same day I saw a T-shirt advocating kids to rise up in revolution, on sale for $18.99 at your local megamall, right alongside many other iconic products of mass-produced revolt and individualism. You should have seen their reaction when I wanted to take a picture of said T-shirt. It’s against corporate policy, I was told. So much for revolution. That’s how we do it nowadays; we’ve made revolution and alienation into big business. Uniqueness and angst and revolution pre-packaged like an Extra Value Meal. We get our punk clothes from the mall and our punk music from Viacom and our alternative culture from magazines run by megacorps that could buy small countries. State of Emergency, a video game advocating violent uprising against world-conquering conglomerates, is distributed by Sony. In the meantime, half the Internet, last bastion of free expression, is run by massive corps and shows no sign of slowing down, and the biggest act of rebellion most people will ever engage in is stealing music from the record companies. And then we wonder why America ended up with a corporate sponsored president. It’s like waking up in the middle of a long bus trip and looking out the window and saying, “Where the HELL are we?” Except you don’t know where you’re going, you’re barely aware of where you’ve been and the bus driver has a shifty look to him. That’s 2004 for you right there. Culture cycling and shifting so fast we can barely keep up. We just ride and hang on for dear life and wonder why things are going to hell and get so addled we forget we ever had any sense of control to begin with. We have few absolutes to cling to. I don’t know where we’re going next. But I know we shouldn’t be going to megamalls for our punk rock clothing, and I damn well don’t want to sell punk rock at a megamall myself. Because we forget, sometimes. We forget how powerful we are. We forget we are strong, we fear that nothing has meaning. We look at the state of the world and despair, because we feel that we have no power as individuals. Megacorporations grow ever larger and gobble up even more. The music industry and the fashion industry and Hollywood and a whole lot of others dribble out quality work in small doses and otherwise continue a never-ending spiral of derivative crap. We forget that the balance of power between the megacorp and the small businessperson is tilted a little bit every time we choose the local record shop over the megacorporate-owned one. When we spend $3 to see angry local bands at Punk Rock Night rather than $50 to see rich kids like Blink-182 sing fake anger and fake punk. The balance of power is tilted every time we make the choice between going to the voting booth and staying home because we’re convinced it doesn’t matter. It is not that nothing has meaning; it is that everything has meaning. Each of us is the proverbial chaos butterfly fluttering its wings and influencing storms half a world away. It is not our weakness that we need to ponder; it is our strength. One person does not make much of a difference, but it is something, and when many act in concert, change is inevitable. In 2004 we get to overthrow the government. In 2004 we get to choose what we want to buy and what we want to read and what we want to say and what we want to believe. Twenty years after Orwell’s projected 1984, some feared it would come to pass, but it has not. 2004 is the Year of the Individual. Quo Vadimus? Everyone’s answer will be different, but each should have the same core: Go somewhere.