July 15, 2010
Other people’s revolutions
A manifesto, of sorts.
I came to cyperpunk too late, and out of order: Schismatrix, The Fortunate Fall, Neuromancer, and finally Snow Crash. Not that it mattered, those books would have had very little cultural relevance for me when they were first published: New Zealand only got its first Internet connection in 1992. There was no local equivalent for me of Josh Ellis’s Mondo 2000 experience , and even if a copy of Mondo 2000 had made its way into my hands it wouldn’t have made much sense. Its cultural revolution was not my cultural revolution, not really. Just like the cyberpunks’ technological revolution was not my technological revolution, at least not yet.
The only revolution we could ever really claim to have owned, out here on the edge of the world, was the god-damned free-market revolution that brought the country to its knees, twice, and may yet reduce it to a low-tech version of Gibson’s dystopia. Cyperpunk without the punk. Or the cyber.
The information revolution has only thrown into sharper relief the tyranny of distance that has always dogged us: new ideas, new people, new products, still an expensive plane ride away or on the end of a long and unprofitable shipping route. High-tech imports still a cargo-cult commodity in a way that lets any shiny new pocket-sized device cost two or three weeks worth of the average wage. Or own revolutions, our free-thinkers and mould-breakers and re-purposers, stifled by the distance and a lack of momentum, poor cousins forever to the rising energy of Africa or South America: even the quiet resurgence of Maori and Pasifika culture likely to remain our own, even as global culture appropriates their symbols and meanings and stories.
We are here. We hover, perpetually, on the brink, and we will never embrace that which we stand beside until we can make it our own.