By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
You’re doing it wrong.
Remember way back in 2020 that there was a flood of articles all over the internet with the title “You’re doing it wrong”?
Topics ranged from disciplining children to applying for a job to mundane cooking tasks to using tools or everyday household tasks.
No matter what the issue or context, the underlying message was the same – whatever it was, we were doing it wrong.
The fact that this trend in online journalism peaked in an election year, in President Trump’s final year in office, as a global pandemic surged – with ever higher peaks – a slumping economy, a higher level of homelessness than any of us could have imagined, ever-increasing crime and tension in our streets and more intense weather (and weather-related) catastrophes raining down on us with depressing regularity, was corollary and confirming evidence, that yes, we were doing something wrong.
From over-whelmed emergency rooms to near daily reports of fires, floods and droughts, heat waves and riots in too many city centers, if there was anything obvious to business people, elementary school students, fast-food workers and parents, among many others, was that the system was not working, the center was not holding, and few, if any of us were as safe and secure as we assumed we were just a few years before.
And those few certainties of life seemed to dissipate when we needed them most.
2021 gave us a whole new menu of challenges few of us could have foreseen. “Help wanted” signs seemed to sprout up everywhere – restaurants and scheduled ferries and airline flights were closed or cancelled because of worker shortages.
2021 pushed terms like “supply chain” and “stimulus checks” into our every day vocabularies.
Medical staff, heroes in 2020, largely become vilified in 2021.
Grocery clerks and delivery drivers, considered “essential workers” in 2020, became invisible again.
School board meetings, boring, tedious and bureaucratic before 2020, suddenly in 2021, became hotbeds of controversy as parents, apparently out of the blue, abruptly became passionate about what their children were learning at public schools.
Some parents, and even a few school board members were calling for, or even instigating public book-burnings.
A few parents, inspired by cable news and internet rumors ran for, (or even were elected to) school boards with no background (or even previous interest) in education.
Many candidates for larger offices, from senate to state governor, also ran on red-hot “culture war” issues – usually with little experience in, or even interest in, traditional political processes or responsibilities.
In previous eras, we might have called it “grand-standing” but in the 2020s, it has become standard procedure.
Running a political campaign on grievances or on exaggerated or even preposterous obsessions from critical race theory to “white replacement” to aliens-among-us have become standard operations.
The term “cancel culture” also entered our vocabulary.
From the NFL to Hollywood, celebrities could find themselves honored one day and shunned the next.
It could be an old e-mail or an online posting, any one of us, on any topic, on any platform, found ourselves vulnerable.
One nightmare from the 1970s that no one expected to see again, that emerged when few were looking, was inflation.
High (and getting higher) prices, empty grocery store shelves and material shortages, from building supplies to holiday accessories were aspects of our economy that multiple generations never expected to see.
Our entire economic and cultural landscape is going through the standard cool-common-passé rinse and repeat sequence – but at record speed.
The past couple years, the internet-fueled monoculture has both spread and contracted, absorbed and discarded simultaneously, with increasing velocity if not ferocity.
For those with the budget and the intent, all but the most obscure items are made accessible with a simple search. On YouTube, for example, it takes just as much effort to search for a 1985 Merzbow cassette as it does the latest Ye or Taylor Swift single.
In this marketplace without a place, Amazon and Ebay bill themselves as “everything” stores. If you can’t find it on one or both of these venues, it probably doesn’t exist. Or matter.
But maybe, just maybe, like the famous Mr. Grinch, some of us are coming to the realization that not everything that can be delivered really matters after all.
Yes, having toilet paper on hand is great. But I certainly hope we have more important things than toilet paper to be talking about for the rest of the 2020s.
I don’t know about anyone else, but what I hear people talking about online or in person are what used to be considered crazy conspiracy theories. But in 2020 and 2021, no conspiracy theory seems crazy enough.
From Birds aren’t real (birdsarentreal.com) to flat earthers (https://www.tfes.org/) (or ‘Zetetic Astronomy’, as the society prefers to call it) and anti-vaxers – any lunacy seems reasonable.
Way back in 2013, it was proposed that Apple IPhone’s Siri knew when the “Gates of Hades” would open (https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/siri-world-end-glitch/).
And who knew that portals to other worlds existed here in the USA. The Denver Airport for one – https://gizmodo.com/proof-that-denver-airport-is-one-of-the-most-evil-place-5807582.
And they all tie into the tried and true pure American ideals structured around three sacred (in a peculiarly American secular sense) tenets: robust individualism, distrust of traditional authority (especially medicine and government) and a near-evangelistic commitment to self-optimization.
Not trusting vaccines and questioning authorized political figures and processes, through our current refracted, and multi-fragmented lenses, have become, at least in some circles, markers of courage, even patriotism.
This attitude too, has become pandemic. It has become “cool” to distrust everyone and everything. Trusting, again, in some circles, of any religious, political or media sources is SO 20th Century.
But distrust is a shell of a belief system.
No economy or neighborhood or electoral system (or marriage) can exist without a baseline of trust.
We can only hope that trust, and maybe even doing it right, become the new trends of 2022.