Sometimes, the current situation has all the ‘look and feel’ of a science fiction story, something written by a guy like Brian Aldis, who in the 1960s when the ‘population crisis’ first started obsessing the West, drove him to write pessimistic stories of humanity piled up into pyramids of despair, and all of it, administered by the UN. That if, like some mad scientist’s hothouse, a kind of mutation would occur under the pressure of sheer numbers, out of which would come a ‘solution’ that would enable us to solve the ‘problem of overpopulation’. Unfortunately, these neo-fascist/racist ideas were and still are alive and well and, instead of a real solution, it looks more likely that AIDS will ‘solve’ a lot of the West’s perceived problems instead.
Maybe it was the thought of those millions of ‘surplus to requirement’ darkies (after all, the vast majority of the world’s population ain’t white) banging on the door of privilege and demanding that their lives be returned to them, that drove the material world to invent an entire rationalisation for the doings of the twentieth century and cloak it all in a sick kind of science which has much more to do with L. Ron Hubbard (of Scientology fame) than Albert Einstein.
So, forty years later, on the edge of paradise – only now the paradise has been transformed into some kind of slick and twisted Disney World – a world created in some air conditioned PR office, this time, living on the edge of darkness (pun intended), peering out into the night and wondering who is going to come crashing through the front door. And given the goings on in Seattle and Washington DC recently, they have a right to be worried. Who would have thought that just ten years after socialism was ‘consigned to the dustbin of history’ that people would be parading with banners condemning global Capitalism?
In part, I was driven into the world of the computer by a weird combination of politics, passion, science fiction and intuition. A sense that what was unfolding from the 1960s onwards, gave me a kind of premonition of what was to come, which is after all, what science fiction is all about. It’s as if we missed the boat the last time round but I was damned if we were going to miss this one! I was, after all, a third generation Red and if couldn’t learn something from the previous two, why bother?
And still talking of premonitions, I too dreamt that information and the free access to knowledge, would help liberate us and that the IT revolution was a kind of culmination of generations of struggle, and that it would offer solutions that were previously denied to us, by exposing the nature of the iniquities of life that “Workers of the World Unite” didn’t. That it would enable us to comprehend the world around us and control it, shape it to our collective and individual needs. Was I wrong? After all, I’ve spent the better part of the last twenty years working with and investigating the IT revolution. Not from a technological perspective but from an understanding, or at least an interpretation of history that the revolutions started in the 18th and 19th centuries would lead to a world of plenty. Plenty of food, plenty of clothes, plenty of everything. But it’s like the words to a popular song, “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”.
This column started out as a way of sharing some of my experiences, thinking that they would be useful to the audience that frequents the pages of our Website. Young and full of aspirations and born on the cusp of several revolutions and possibly a couple of counter-revolutions as well. That the Y-culture posse is ‘the hope of the future’. But most of the courageous generations of 1976 and 1986 want nothing to do with politics. Led by the Old Man, Madiba, who increasingly seems to be a voice crying in the wilderness, the lucky ones amongst them who have an education and a job want to enjoy the ‘good life’ and have nothing to do with politics and who can blame them?
But back to where I came in because there is a connection between our generations because the IT revolution is connecting cultures, countries and generations and possibly even transcending race and to a much lesser degree, gender. Globalism has two sides. HipHop is the world’s largest selling music. In the US, 70% of its buyers/listeners are white. Yet as we comprehend more about a world which seems to have gone completely batty, the terrain of struggle is now firmly that of Kulture, which put another way, is Information. Who controls it and as a result, shapes it?
The Internet’s founding credo (if it had one) was, “All information is free!” One could add, yes free but devalued. And if it’s true and I believe it is, that the contested terrain of the 21st century is Kulture then that’s another way of saying who will determine what we think and as a result, what our opinions are? But do you want to become part of a Branding exercise, just one of a million samples trawled from the Net, of what it is you’ll likely to be listening to, wearing, eating or otherwise consuming?
But who cares about Sierre Leone or the DRC or Ethiopia and Eritrea pounding themselves back into the Stone Age over a patch of drought-stricken land? Certainly not the West, the sales of Coca Cola are just too low to warrant any kind of serious intervention. It’s just too far away isn’t it? The cynical attitudes prevalent in the corridors of the World Bank and the IMF are those of a fortress mentality, which having created the mess in the first place (and grown extremely fat on it), would now close the doors. Is it really a case of, ‘out of sight, out of mind?’ Hang on… I thought I heard someone knocking at the door? Oh never mind, turn the TV up, they’ll finally give and go away, won’t they. Won’t they?
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