Monday, August 28, 2006
( 9:19 AM )
Weird is as Weird Does
There was a great column in the Oregonian this Sunday: How Weird Are We? It's about how we Portlanders pride ourselves on our unique weirdness, but is our weirdness really all that original? Now this may seem to be a trivial question amidst all the heavy issues that face us these days. But the column brought up a good point:
Time was, every place was weird -- using the less-common dictionary definition: "of strange or extraordinary character." Unique, in other words. Back in the day, every city was weird, there were weird streets and weird neighborhoods and weird businesses serving weird people. You know, kind of like Alaska. It was a wonderful age.
But then normal reared its featureless and banal head. Chain stores, fast-food restaurants, hotel giants all spread like English ivy. America began to homogenize faster than milk -- which, of course, is homogenized precisely to prevent the cream from rising to the top!
It is this franchising of the United States, where all the cities lose their individuality under the box-store identities being forced upon them, that is the United States that has turned into such an unfeeling, brutal influence in the world. It's this un-weirding of America that has spread into globalization, where the corporate powers now homogenize not just this country but as many corners of the world that they can. Losing our identity in this way - could this explain some of the trend from blue to red in this country? Americans who are voting republican against their own interests are Walmarted to within an inch of their lives. Keeping uniqueness and weirdness in American communities allows something the republicans can't stand: independence. Once a community feels some sense of indepence, they might start questioning what they're being forced to swallow. Can't let that happen.
I live in one of the more progressive cities in the country, and yet I can concede that little by little, our weirdness is slipping. If we are going to stay strong and able to resist this insipid slide into the black and gray control of the corporatocracy, we have to work at it. Unlike the columnist, I prefer to go with the first definition of Weird, according to Websters: "having a mysterious or unearthly quality; of an odd, bizarre or inexplicable nature." Now that is something to strive for.