Two expressions I’ve always personally found deeply disturbing: “Que sera sera.” And, “Keep calm & carry on.” After a vibrant family discussion about why these two adages annoy me (turns out I stand apart as the only one profoundly bothered by them), I thought I’d openly express just what it is about both of them that ‘gets my goat cheese.’
1. Que sera, sara: My mom tells the story: I was about 7 or 8 years old and she was singing, the “Que sera sera” song when I interrupted and asked her, “Mom, what’s ‘que sera’ mean? She went on to translate, “Honey, it means, ‘whatever will be will be’” and then carried on singing the rest of it…”the future’s not ours to see, que sera sera…”
As she tells it (and I recall) I became pretty upset by the end of the song, went to my room and closed the door. A little while later I emerged again, looked my mom squarely in the eye and said, “Mom, I don’t like that ‘que sera sera” stuff. I’m going to make my own future…none of this ‘what will be will be nonsense!”
To this day, with the exception of it’s reasonably appealing melody and my mother’s signature, beautiful voice singing it, I cannot find anything redeeming in that song (and secretly I roll my eyes whenever it somehow crosses my audio waves). We are not living in a “Que Sera, Sera” universe. We are self-determined creators. And thank goodness for that!”
2. “Keep calm & carry on.” I understand that message served a purpose to prepare the British civilians’ morale for WWII blitzing. But today it is everywhere as a design trend: on bags, sweaters, t-shirts, jackets and posters.. Can we look at this adage afresh and the influence it has on our psyches in the modern day?
To be told to “keep calm” implies that you are not calm. If you are not calm, there’s probably a very good reason (even if that reason is that you need to address your inner demons). To ignore the undercurrent rising in you and rather “keep calm” is an affront to your spirit — it’s a directive to suppress your true feelings. For who’s benefit? Not for yours!
Do we really want to suppress our feelings and moreover do we really want to be focused on a time when we had no choice but to prepare for a blitzing of our homes? This kind of messaging subliminally reminds us of the oppression of war (all mixed up in the decadence of fashion which is hard for a balanced mind to process without instinctually rejecting it because it rings with insanity). And then there’s the deeper message that reaches our subconscious mind reminding us that when the governing command says so, we must walk in lock-step. It’s a dark, oppressive wolf of a message dressed up as design mutton.
I’m not saying the bags, t-shirts and signage are deliberately designed to keep us subconsciously in a state of oppression (though I’m not saying that’s not the case either). I am simply saying that before we adopt a slogan in our subconscious mind and in our collective via a seemingly innocuous outlet like design trends, we should think about the message a bit more.