3:45 in the morning, January 1st, 2000.
(yawn, stretch, roll out of bed, go pee…)
Well, it’s the dawn of a new century! Actually, a new millennium! Well…I guess it isn’t really, until Jan 1st, 2001, but hey, nobody really cares about that. Anyway, whoa, that’s pretty cool. This sure feels like a unique, maybe even transformative, moment in history.
(sit down on the floor, lean against the couch, pack a bowl….)
(Blurble blurble blurble. Exhaaaaaale….)
I turn on the CBC.
Peter Mansbridge is right in his glory, narrating this historic morning to the world, or at least to whatever Canadians are watching.
It does feel like a true Global Moment, sort of like the Olympics, but better. All Humanity, celebrating the birthing of a new millennium. The turning of the year 2000 is not only a moment of Earthlings partying like it’ll no longer be 1999 (peace out, Prince), it’s also a moment of Earthlings, understanding their planetary inseparability. (I know, that doesn’t have nearly as nice of a ring to it though. That’s why I’m not a rock star. The only reason, I’m sure….)
I watch for a while, enjoying the 24-hour coverage, following the stroke of midnight in every time zone, and then celebrating the first sunrise of the 21st century on beaches, rooftops, in cities and small towns, everywhere.
(Blurble blurble blurble. Exhaaaaaale….)
Perfect way to start the century.
It’s pretty cool, watching the CBC right now. For possibly the first time ever, news crews are so globally interconnected that you can sit at home and be taken, live, to celebrations in every part of the world. Everyone seems so full of hope and feelings of universal brother/sister-hood. It feels special. It feels lovely. It feels inspiring.
Surely we’re going to stop fucking everything up. Surely, the 21st century, the so-called 3rd millennium, is going to be a fresh start. Surely we’re going to fix poverty, invent an Earth-friendly-economy, stop our insane obsession with war. Surely, just like in Star Trek, we’re going to redirect our genius and the Earth’s ample resources from bombing the shit out of each other and making a tiny handful of people obscenely wealthy, and, you know, make everything better for everybody! Surely….
At that time, I didn’t know the Twin Towers were going to fall pretty soon, didn’t know the United States was going to respond to this in the least humanity-friendly and most-unwise way possible, launching two illegitimate wars and alienating itself from the rest of the world, didn’t know that Ronald Reagan’s Global War on Terror was going to be rebranded, and expanded, by George Bush, Jr., didn’t know that the United States was going to reverse its official stance on torture and assassination and become, indisputably, the Number One terrorist nation in the world, didn’t know that climate change was going to be accelerated instead of slowed, didn’t know that research into nuclear weaponry was going to be all the rage in the coming years, and didn’t know that the Age of Aquarius was going to become the Age of Commodified Pseudo-spirituality, sold by White People on Pinterest and Instagram. I didn’t know any of this. And neither did anybody else.
These were the heady days of:
- Presidents getting impeached for the staff messing with his staff, and the general public spending countless hours discussing the ins and outs of Presidential blowjobs.
- Protesters against globalization scoring what felt like a major victory in the Battle of Seattle, of climate change and anti-globalization protests getting big and disruptive enough that governments were starting to toss out tear gas like bead necklaces at Mardi Gras.
- Climate champions like David Suzuki and Al Gore were gaining increasing exposure and, arguably, respect on the world stage.
- The end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the ending of official apartheid in South Africa, and what seemed, to the media anyway, as even some hopeful times for Palestinians in making progress against Israeli apartheid.
- Naomi Klein had just published No Logo and alerted us all to the evils of sweatshop labour and the stranglehold that globalized corporations were having on the so-called “developing world”, and consumer activism was touted as the solution, whereby increasing numbers of people, voting with their dollars, were going to be able force corporations to adopt ethical and sustainable business practices. “Corporate social responsibility” was becoming a buzzword. Yep, it seemed even Big Business was gonna do Good!
- The Human Genome Project, and some others, were madly mapping humanity’s genetic code and the End of Disease seemed right around the corner. Even AIDS wasn’t a death sentence anymore.
- Robin Williams hadn’t committed suicide yet, Bill Cosby still seemed like a decent guy to the general public, Friends was going strong and the internet was going to free all of our minds from the shackles of ignorance. Ahhhh, but, ignorance was bliss, right Humanity? And now, all of a sudden, everything from ancient religious texts to supermodels’ taut ribcages could be checked out by anyone, at any time. Human Consciousness Evolution was right around the corner.
Heck, even weed might be legalized pretty soon.
The future looked bright indeed. And all the hype around the dreaded “Y2K bug” that was going to crash computer systems all over the world, causing power grids to fail, planes to fall out of the sky, medical equipment to go berserk, and all sorts of unimaginable chaos, turned out to be a whole lotta nothing. Whew!
Besides, Peter Mansbridge was having a great time, getting all sorts of interesting feeds from all over the planet.
A new feed came in — a Korean dude, it seemed, sitting, talking to the camera. It wasn’t clear to me what he was saying, there being no instant translation available. So, it was just some dude, sitting there, saying stuff.
After a minute or so, I started to get a weird feeling.
Wait a second…. Is he actually talking? Or is just kind of repeating the same things over and over? Is he…chanting?
It started to seem like he wasn’t giving some oration or official statement from a government official, but was just some random dude, chanting.
Maybe he’s a spiritual leader? Maybe he’s…blessing the world? Or something?
Peter looked a little confused, but smiled and made some comments indicating how cool it was that people were celebrating in such diverse ways.
The chanting dude continued. I momentarily wondered if he was trying not to crack a smile in his otherwise unchanging face. Peter looked increasingly confused, but not wanting to cut the guy off and appear culturally insensitive (I presume), he soldiered on.
Slowly, slowly, the camera pulled back. It looked like the Korean dude was sitting in a chair, like an old armchair, in some nondescript room. I started feeling like I was watching a scene from That 70s Show.
Who is this dude anyway?
Hehehe… This is pretty funny. I don’t know what the hell is going on right now. And neither does Peter Mansbridge. The whole world is having a Big Lebowski moment….Hehehe….
The chanting continued. The guy was really getting into it, although if I was hearing things correctly (no guarantee that that was indeed the case), it seemed like his chanting had devolved, like when a kid is trying to make up that they’re speaking Alien or something, and they just repeat the same few exotic-sounding syllables over and over again. I started laughing, out loud for real, good ol’ knee-smacking belly-laughs, there, in the dark, at about 4:00 in the morning. I wondered if I had started the new century getting pranked, along with the CBC. If so, that’s awesome. I couldn’t have been happier in that moment.
But I was, indeed, mystified as to what was going on and I lay on the floor for quite a while, thinking about it. Was this a moment of me, being culturally ignorant, perhaps not understanding what the guy was saying, or the sincerity behind the chanting? Was it my own cultural bias to overlay “joke” on top of my uncertainty, letting The Unknown cease from making me uncomfortable because I’m too busy laughing at it? Was I just high? ….Or, did the CBC just get awesomely pranked, for like, several straight minutes?
I decided to go with that interpretation. And my apologies if it turns out that really was a heartfelt moment and I simply didn’t understand. But in any case, like I used to argue about with my English teachers in high school, it doesn’t matter so much what “the truth” is in some objective sense, if even that is knowable. What matters, for the experiential Quality of our lives, is our interpretation. And my interpretation was that it was hilarious, and my experiential Quality was, as a result, excellent. Happy New Year/Century/Millennium, world! Wooooo!
I wondered what awesome dude had managed to sneak in this feed in the chaos of the newsroom, and imagined a bunch of people in some basement somewhere, high-fiving each other and laughing their asses off that their grand ploy actually worked!
I packed another bowl, and laughed along with them, these heroes of comedy, wherever they were, and then walked to the store to buy a copy of every newspaper’s first edition of the New Century.
Ahhhh, these are hopeful times. I wonder what’s going to happen in the two-thousands?
* * * * *
Well, now it’s the waning days of 2021. And aside from Bo Burnham, Greta, BlackLivesMatter, making some progress on LGBTQ++ rights, the world not ending in 2012, inventing some wicked video games and great fan art and cosplay costumes, we’ve….errrr, pretty much fucked everything up in these first two decades.
We’re 1/5th of the way through this century, and just like the last one, we’ve had a shitload of war, a brutal pandemic that has killed way, way too many people, and ultra-right-wing, nationalistic and religiously-fuelled movements are threatening the political functionality and social stability of far too many countries, including the terrifyingly unstable and possibly collectively psychotic global superpower that lives next door to me.
And instead of FINALLY learning the lessons of all the genocides, race-hate, and military escalation of the Boomers and their parents and grand-parents, we’re doing it all over again, except even bigger and nastier. The farcical Global War on Terror has massively failed, increasing terrorism by about an order of magnitude, the Taliban are back in power in Afghanistan (didn’t see THAT coming!), and somehow a patently unethical, boorishly immature, and largely unsuccessful billionaire-buffoon has galvanized a political movement in the so-called Free World that seeks to take us back to the “good ol’ days” when the Church and the State were inseparable, wealth disparity was Official State Doctrine, and racial purity and fighting Satan-worshipping baby-stealers was the order of the day.
The one lesson I’ve (maybe) learned though, is that talking about all this stuff, “raising awareness” in the hope that once people know what’s really going on, they’ll clamour for change, does….er, pretty much nothing. Maybe a few hearts and minds change, sure, but while we talktalktalktalktalk and watch another documentary on YouTube, the corporate-military-industrial complex keeps gobbling everything up, genociding whatever indigenous groups are still trying to defend their land, amplifying wealth disparities to a level even Adam Smith couldn’t have comprehended, and placating the masses with the soma of internet porn, new Netflix specials, and, as always, a bloated sports and entertainment culture that ensure we all stay in our chairs, on our couches and in our bars, eyes glued to flashing screens.
“Welcome to the internet,” sings Bo. Oh Bo. Oh-ohhh-oh, Bo.
* * * * *
So, it’s a new century of blog posts for me, and I’ve decided to change course a little bit, hoping to not simply repeat what I did in the first 100. Instead of focusing so much on all the shit I disagree with, I’m going to focus on…*gasp*….hope! Not pie-in-the-sky hope or distract-you-from-what’s-actually-happening “hope”, but real hope.
I’m not super-skilled at this. But as these next 100 posts are written, I plan to get better at it.
(Whoa…..that almost sounded hopeful….weird….maybe it’s already working….)
Having become a parent in the 21st century, and experiencing my kids’ childhoods along with them, I’ve gotta say — I do have hope for “future generations”, in the sense that, while the internet has often brought out the worst in humanity, it’s also, sometimes brought out the best. Sure, there’s still bullying and nastiness and all that out there. But there’s also a lot of open-mindedness and acceptance, and acknowledgement of emotions, an understanding of global interconnectedness, the lop-sidedness of history, and a keen awareness of the current destruction of the web of life that will determine in large part, their futures.
For example, fandom communities! While there is, without a doubt, the full slew of toxic fandom stories out there, the general experience, most of the time, is not like that. Sure, there are the trolls and other disruptors online, but even that is just mostly funny once you realize how stupid and ineffectual it is. In contrast, the vast, vast majority of this huge, self-governing, global subculture of fandoms is incredibly open-minded and supportive of each other. And instead of drumming passivity into the minds of yet another generation through the passive-consumer model of corporate entertainment culture, the internet is giving a platform to countless creative people to use their talents entrepreneurially. While this same incredible communicative power is also used to manipulate and control the public, is heavily monetized and corporately-controlled, and can saturate people with porn, violence or sheer, mind-numbing trivia twenty-four hours a day, it also has great potential to liberate the creativity of the Everyperson.
And sure, “kids these days” are, undeniably, addicted to their phones and video-games, but they’re also wildly sophisticated in their understanding of the world, and their ability to learn new things and integrate them into a larger understanding would put Gen Xers like me to shame (as long as you can get them interested in the first place).
In our culture in general, people are less guarded about their emotions than they were in the past. That’s a HUUUUUUUGE step forward. “Vulnerability” is not a bad word anymore, even for guys! Someone like Brené Brown can stand up on a stage and talk about vulnerability and shame, and tens of millions of people resonate to her words. The #Metoo movement has raised awareness of the toxicity of the patriarchy, as others like BlackLivesMatter and IdleNoMore have breathed new energy into the struggles for racial justice. Climate change is no longer denied, by most people, and YouTubers like Mr. Beast are making pro-social-do-gooder-ness actually cool.
Some of the poisonous effects of the corrupt hierarchies that ruled our cultures in the past are also starting to be healed from. For example, the Catholic Church has finally had some of its most egregious sins exposed, just like Sinead O’Connor tried to tell us all, (although the Church still has done sweet diddly nothing to meaningfully confess its sins or do any form of penance).
And with the waning of traditional religion (arguably perhaps), there is a rising of deep, loving, mind-and-heart-opening spirituality, everywhere. Psychedelics are re-gaining credibility as spiritual medicine, and Mother Ayahuasca is reaching out of the deep jungle to open minds and heal traumas all over the world. And trauma itself is now understood, much much better, so that instead of so many of us being forced to suffer in shameful silence, the survivors of childhood nastiness can now draw upon the wisdom of heroes like Gabor Maté and the embodied wellness movement to begin to untangle the trauma not only from their own childhoods but the intergenerational trauma that plagues generation after generation after generation.
Also, Minecraft! It deserves a shout-out all on its own. As a result of the incredibly complex and creativity-enhancing games, like Minecraft, that are all the rage, “kids these days” can process information, like mad, if they’re interested in it, AND collaboration is about as difficult to them as breathing (if they’re interested). They can plan complex courses of action, build amazing structures, organize a dizzying plethora of information, and form teams to accomplish goals as naturally as Gen Xers can roll a joint, bitch about the government or comment on the weather.
Whether these young’uns’ on-screen skills translate to the “real world” remains to be determined, but I have genuine hope that the Zoomers that the Boomers are so inclined to look down on as a bunch of soft-minded slackers, are actually going to manage to live more entrepreneurially AND compassionately, working together to fix some of the fuck-ups of their elders, while also making great music and art instead of sacrificing their boundless creativity for the false security of being a corporate drone. Heck, they’ve played enough Stardew Valley to know that “Join us, thrive”, is merely a marketing ploy by The Corporation to suck away their time and prevent them from ever genuinely seizing the reins of their own lives. They’re too smart to fall for THAT ploy….
Plus, weed IS legal, and Dungeons and Dragons has gone mainstream!
For all these reasons, and maybe even a couple more, there’s hope for the future, indeed.
So, let’s talk about that more often.
* * * * *
To all of you who have followed my blog, or checked out something I’ve written once or twice, or more than twice, I mean there really is no ceiling here, hahaha….Anyway, yes, to all of you, sincerely, thank you. It is….indescribably awesome, to know that You, whoever you are, are out there, connecting with my words. From my heart, thank you.
Now, onwards and upwards!