We are doing renovations to the lower level of our house. “Renovations,” I have learned, is builder-speak for “Prepare for nasty surprises.”
In the process of tearing walls down and throwing stuff out we discovered we have been harbouring things we knew not of: beetles in the insulation, an axe in the ceiling — and this wallpaper. It was hiding behind the wainscoting in the hallway.
Seriously? Psychedelic orange and gold swastikas? Someone spent money on rolls of this and then went to the effort of pasting it to the walls? What were they thinking?
Here’s the thing: they were probably thinking this design fit with the concept of fashionable home decorations of the day. (I’m guessing late 70’s. What do you think?) The truth is, that even though we lived in another city at the time I may have applied some burnished orange and harvest gold and avocado green striped paper in our old kitchen myself. Just adding some “pop” to a feature wall, you know. (No wonder our adult kids all head for “neutrals.” They grew up with enough “popping colours” in their lives to require a greige sedation treatment program for years.)
But hey, it was trendy. Everyone was sticking those colours up. They matched the new fridge and stove – and bathtub.
I’m old enough now that I watch fashion trends with amusement. I’ve seen the demise and return of shapes and colours and lengths so many times I figured I would just hang on to my bell-bottom jeans to see if the trend swings by again like a 20-year comet. But my family and friends were helping me purge this week and they wouldn’t hear of it. (How can you deprive a lady of a certain age of the hope that the next time the bell-bottom comet shoots across her horizon her backside will have shrunk to 1970 proportions?)
“Ain’t gonna happen, Mom,” said one of them, stuffing frayed denim into a green plastic bag full of other formerly precious stuff. “Get over it.”
The hard part of purging is realizing how much I wanted that stuff and how much it cost me back in the day when a secretary made $1.98 an hour. That wallpaper felt like a necessity. Now I see young people going into debt to buy granite counter-tops and stainless steel appliances that are going to be a pain to remove when they become “dated.” And they will become dated. The industry depends on us despising the things it once insisted we absolutely loved. We believed and strove to attain. Five years later we were ready for fashion divorce court with a new trendy item in the wings attracting our covetous attention.
Fashion is fickle. But it’s a good example of the power of propaganda to sway the minds of whole swaths of people.
I began to think about trendiness in the way society thinks and how some ideas appear to be as bright and fun and full of potential as psychedelic orange and gold swastika wallpaper. Some ideas appear to be solid and wise in terms of long-term planning, like a one-child policy (with forced abortions) in an over-crowded country. But what happens when parents still value boys over girls? Now, for this generation coming into adulthood in a China with millions of missing women, there is no girl for every boy, nor are there siblings or cousins or aunts or uncles to practise social skills on. Who knows how this is going to play out?
How does a society reach a point where killing or harassing people of a certain gender or race or ethnic group, or age, or philosophy, or religion, or lifestyle (declaring them “non-persons” and thus undeserving of honour) seems like a good idea? I’ve watched some of the Facebook lynch mobs go after people with different ideas lately. These people don’t show mere disgust for taste in wallpaper. They want to hurt folks who think differently.
No one is free from the effects of the trendy-thought terrorism of propaganda. Your wallpaper is now ugly. Get rid of it. Those people are not acceptable. Get rid of them.
Without the solid foundation of “in God we trust” morals are determined by the whims of whoever holds power at the moment. At various times in history a lot of people have been considered to be of too little value to legally protect, First Nations people, African slaves, women, people descended from nationalities with whom the country is at war, prisoners, members of religious groups, members of a former ruling class, viable humans in the womb…
I wonder, if in twenty years time, when the consequences of riding the wrecking ball pendulum of trendy fashionable ideas that persecute others play out, if we will suddenly open our eyes and say, “What were we thinking?”
I bet there will be tears. A lot of tears.