Election Section

Resolutions By BEN DITCH

Friday December 24, 2004

Once again it’s come to that time of year when mental lists become more frequently made. Lists of challenges overcome and of opportunities never seized over these past twelve months. The year is so close to its end now that your only choice is to look back in retrospect... and hopefully without too much regret. I do have a tendency to focus on the negative though, and so on these bleak gray and dreary days I often find myself dwelling on sore spots like all the chances to go swimming I passed up on this summer, rather than goals set and accomplished. 

New years resolutions. It seems like I make the same ones every year. Read more, don’t suffer squares gladly, dance more at shows and start learning Spanish. I always seem to fall short of the mark. Especially with the Spanish. We all fall short of achieving the goals we set ourselves from time to time, which poses the question do we lower our expectations or do we get back up, dust ourselves off and try again, harder. Maybe the answer is a little bit of both. We don’t have to lower our expectations necessarily, but maybe learn not to bite off more than we can chew. With a slow and steady pace we can achieve our goals in the end. 

I say “our goals” because I think that there is a common goal for many of us, and that is to make something of our lives. People, especially young people feel frustrated and hopeless in these dark days, and with good reason. I can feel that frustration building in everything and everyone around me. It’s ready to be released into positive creative energy, we just need a spark. 

It seems like here in the bay area a lot people are just sitting around waiting for something to happen instead of actively making it happen. I’m not just talking politically, in our daily lives. The personal is political, and I for one want to see more people following their dreams and doing hat inspires them. Putting that energy out into the world, that is the spark. A spark here and a spark there and before you know it you have a fire on your hands. Once the fire is burning, that’s the slow and steady part. It will continue to spread with time and persistence. But the spark, that needs to happen right now. 

Yesterday I watched the documentary Rebels with a Cause about the students for a democratic society organization of the 1960s. Now there was a spark! Those people really came together and did something amazing. They actually succeeded in changing the world with their ideas and actions. It made me feel proud and inspired to hear the stories of people who were a part of that movement, many of whom are familiar local faces. But I couldn’t help but feel a tinge sadness, despair even. Why cant we have that kind of a movement now, or at least something to call our own? Are we just going to grow up and be forgotten or will we make our mark? Why so much apathy? 

I recently returned home after spending several months in Minneapolis, and while I was away I had a lot of time to reflect on life here in the Bay Area. I used to think that Berkeley was the place where one person didn’t make a difference. There’s always been so much going on here socially and politically that I felt like it didn’t matter whether I participated or not. I think there are a lot of people here, especially younger folk that feel that way, but its not true. I no longer believe this is true of anywhere. It took time away for me to realize this. 

We are lucky to live in a place with a strong history of resistance to Amerikan death culture. Unfortunately it sometimes feels like more of a burden than the motivating and inspiring force that it should be. Maybe if there was less emphasis on the accomplishments of the past, this generation, specifically 18-25 year olds wouldn’t be so intimidated of creating our own future. 

Getting away for a while and getting a taste of the grassroots punk scene in Minneapolis was a true inspiration to me. As important as it is to build our own community at home, I think it is equally important to visit other communities. To what they do the same and what is different, and maybe take some new ideas home with you. While I was there I saw the way that I think things should be, and very easily could be here. Everybody was fully immersed in building their community, working at and operating the collective cafes, volunteering at the local punk club—which they literally built themselves—to support the space as much if not more than the bands.  

They did all this because they knew that no one else was going to do it for them, but it was never a chore. It was fun as hell all the time. Have we forgotten how to have fun and still be serious about achieving our goals at the same time? Do we even know what our goals are anymore? 

It’s up to us, you and me to make the changes we want to see and build the community that we want to be a part of. The younger crowd has a voice, and it needs to be heard and if there is no vehicle for us to realize our dreams, then we need to create our own. Sure, the world will keep on turning without me. The institutions created by those who came before me will still stand, but what will be left standing to show for my time here? Do I really want it all to happen without me? 

I have a new resolution for this coming year, and that is to immerse myself in, and commit myself fully to doing what I can to build this community and to be a part of the things here in the bay area that I care about. In short, to have a voice. Consider this little article step one.