What Globalization Can’t Touch

A tingle starts in my fingertips every time I pick up a zine. Sometimes the heavy grit of a screen-printed cover or the warm feel of delicate handmade pages will start it off. If the echo of a typewriter’s smack-clack-smack-clack is still bouncing around the pages, even better. And delicate drawings that peek out from the margins have been known to produce a shiver or two. But what really gets my hair standing up on end is just thinking of the infinite potential behind each word a zine holds. What possibilities, small secrets, musings and small town cafĂ© philosophies will those words whisper, I wonder. What backyard obscurities and urban debaucheries will creep across those pages?

In zine culture, diversity is the only constant, the only familiarity. But that tingle, that surge of creativity that courses through a zine is a rare find in anything else these days. All you have to do is take a look around to know this. There’s a creeping dullness that has been setting into people’s eyes. Their shoulders sag under an invisible weight, as if they haven’t seen excitement in years. Everywhere we go looks the same. The same signs, the same logos, the same stores, the same products. Every city, neighbourhood, small town, back alley-you can see the ghosts of what they once were, but there are patterns, repetition, unnatural cleanliness through them all. And we are part of these places, which means we are all starting to look the same, too.

This predetermined sameness is a reality that we are likely to be stuck with as globalization prevails. One good thing about globalization is that if there’s an amazing underground movement happening somewhere in Europe, people in Vancouver can know about it too. But this same wonder that makes our Global Village so incredible is also its downfall. Because soon that cool new thing has spread all over the world and spawned off a line of mass-produced products disguised as cultural revolution that will be re-invented at least five times before fickle shoppers will finally tire of it.

Cue that creeping dullness and sag across the shoulders, because suddenly the underground doesn’t seem so hidden anymore. As globalization works to apply products, attitudes, and ideas worldwide, overzealous marketers are in a constant frenzy to get whatever they can prettied up and pre-packaged. Unfortunately, they often end up targeting credible cultural shifts, and before you know it, youth movements are hitting the runways in safety-pinned haute couture. Even some of our best words have been deviated into something sellable. “Revolution” is now a flea product, the title of a business and marketing magazine, and an association with Macintosh Computers. People are no longer “rebellious,” our hair is rebellious instead.

Mindsets have become fashion statements, and alternative has been the new normal for years now, manufactured as a shopping mall commodity. We walk around in a world where it’s rare to be genuinely excited, because it doesn’t feel like anything is truly unique to our cities, our communities, or our identities anymore.

But one thing that globalization hasn’t been able to grab onto is zine culture. Sure, they can try all they want to give their catalogues and glossy magazines a cut n’ paste aesthetic, but they’re not fooling us with that faux DIY style. We know that if a girl in Guysborough, Nova Scotia has an idea for a zine about her three-legged cat, it’s going to be a project unique to her and the group of people she decides to share it with. It could be just between her and her mom, or traded with other zinesters worldwide. Just like Toronto’s Wavelength can build a community around a monthly zine and a few indie acts, a zine can be a movement, or a moment, within itself. They are something unique and intimate, an on-going revolution of DIY expression. They are comprised of factors that globalization isn’t made to comprehend. The lack of uniformity in zine culture is the anti-thesis of globalization. It doesn’t recognize the organic medium of spontaneous dialogue, or the constant re-inventions that creative control can inspire.

There is a certain level of intimacy that goes into making a zine, and it’s there from the very first word that is written right up until the last that is read. Zines have always seen themselves as a mighty middle finger stuck in the face of consumer commercialism, new capitalism, and mainstream media. It is becoming increasingly difficult these days to find something that the creator had his or her hands on from the idea stage up to when it hit the shelves. And when they do pop up, it’s no surprise to see knock-offs springing up in store windows six months later. But a zine’s alliance with its creator, and eventually its reader, cannot be reproduced, and the tight hold that zinesters, and zine readers, have on this culture is not something that globalization will ever be able to loosen.

Zine culture stands its ground because when we all put our different ideas into action, it breaks up the monotony that surrounds us. And as long as we keep letting new ideas explode into the underground, globalization will never be able to keep up, because it will never be able to find the recognizable pattern that it has been programmed to follow. So before you let a slump settle into your shoulders and that dullness enter your eyes, take a walk down to your local indie stores and browse through the zines on the racks. Don’t just stare at them, reach out and flip through the pages. Next time that tingle starts, you’ll know what it means-spontaneity, revolution, distinction-it’s not something that can be bought off the shelves. It’s written in our pages.

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