Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cyber and Punk are Dead?

I came to a realization today.  We, as people, are losing our fight to stay free, because of lolcats.  Its not a funny piece like some of my other ones, nad its political without being "political".  Give it a shot, if you don't like it I've got more fun things coming... but I felt like I needed to get this out because the world's driving me crazy.

A "Waste of Time"

William Gibson wrote in the NYT that the internet is a waste of time, and that's why it was good.  Stating, in hte 90's, that the 'net was in a "larval state" he celebrated people feeling out this new medium, figuring out how best to interact with this strange and new method of communication.  Perhaps at that point, while it was still in what we could call its infancy, the net was that... bu we've passed that formative point and here we are, still using it for, in a word, "bullshit".  In fact I would argue that the fact that it was a waste of time before was even wrong.  While we screwed around and treated it as a fancy video game and novelty that happened to make life easier, we began the process of losing control over the closest thing humanity ever will have to an Akashic Record.


I know I may sound paranoid, but how many of us are on Facebook?  We're voluntarily using services that turn us into products and data to be mined, cultivated, and harvested.  Even I'm putting this blog up on "Blogger", which of course is owned by Google.  If you've been paying attention to tech news you'd know that Google cheerfully invades privacy to the point of scanning your emails for keywords to help their ads.  In an age where battles at home and abroad are raging between people trying to decide what basic freedoms and rights people are entitled to, we're standing on the sidelines and letting our freedom and individuality get stolen.  That post you put up to rally people into an "anti-capitalist rally" on facebook is taken, correlated, and used to change the ads you're hit with into something that appeals to your anti-capitalist, pro-punk self.

You rebel, you.

Community Organization and Victorians

On the other hand, lets look at what we ARE arguing and fighting over.  OWS, Tea Party, Democratic Party, Republican Party.  A president who is arguing from the 60's, an opponent that argues from some bizarre 1950's position.  We're getting sucked into political arguments in an arena framed and controlled by people who are literally from another era.  The men and women who brought up such laws as SOPA aren't evil.
Well, most of them aren't.
What they are is trying to deal with a world that they cannot even begin to grasp.  There's apparently classes at gatherings of governers covering such complex topics as "Setting up Facebook".  Most "grassroots movements" are movements supporting the goals of these sorts of people whose experience has as much to do with our current life as Victorian politicians would have to the political movements of the 1960's.  The world hasn't just gained new technology, its become an entirely new world.

These two major problems, government leaders' nearly prehistoric grasp of the world we are in today and the huge headstart we've ceded to hypercapitalism, are coming together in a very serious way to ensure the fucking of society is deep and solid.
Things like SOPA are threats that need to be faced down and I support every action taken against that and similar bills.  The trouble is we're financing the people that are backing these bills and are using services that kill our freedom just as completely.  In many cases we're spreading our message against them using services we pay for, owned by people arguing FOR removal of our freedoms.  Fuck's sake, how stupid is that?  We may as well be going to war with a country, buying our propoganda signs from them in exchange for us giving them guns.

The difference is while the government walks out, slaps its dick on the table and makes it obvious that it wants you to have no control over things, companies can be more subtle.  Like a frog on a hotplate they slowly increase their invasiveness while at the same time trusting that none of us know enough to find, form, and use an alternative to being cooked alive.

The Light at the End of the Optic Cable is a Train

Here's the bottom line.  We're living in the world of cyberpunk, only the punk is dead.  We watched the tv shows, read the books, watched the movies that warned us, and we're still lining up for the modern incarnations of Network 23 and Zik-Zak.  If it came out tomorrow that Facebook was mining our SSNs, the majority of the world would shrug and keep using it anyways because its easy.  seduced by simplicity, we're taking the option to be fucking sheep.  We saw it coming, most of us predicted it, AND WE STILL LET IT HAPPEN!


I was wondering why we just sat there on the tracks, dull expressions on our faces, and I think its because we all DID see the internet as a toy like Gibson did.  We saw it as a geek thing, something we felt would become big, but at the moment was mostly for sharing links, seeing pron, and playing games.  For lack of knowledge and drive, we're pissing away the chance to really own the internet.  Lots of wannabe console cowboys will rattle on about freedom, information being free, and how the internet will always be the wild west on various boards, 4chan, etc but they're fooling themselves and us.  The truth is they're being spoonfed to us as the counter-culture heroes so that we don't realize they're the problem too.

One Fist in the Air, the Other Hand in Your Pocket

These of course are the same guys whose dedication to the cause consists of downloading torrents, posting on /r/Anonymous, and occasionally using LOIC when someone on /b/ tells them to.  The oh-so-vaunted "hackers" like LulzSec that go to such lengths to claik they're fighting for freedom?

Yeah, majority of their targets were/are commercial sites, stealing credit card information to sell to others.  Real revolutionaries, that.  If I was paranoid, I would say they were just distractions.  That these groups get made into big deals to make us average folk feel like there still really is freedom being fought for, and that we can just lay our heads down and snooze.  Even our "hacktivists" are at best criminals like LulzSec, at worst guys like Julian Assange who at the end of the day is still fighting political battles that are very, very old world.

Through Virtual Light Glasses

We live in a world where glasses can interact with an information flow that is frankly amazing, augmenting our reality.  Information can be sent across the world on a phone line and be turned into a 3-d object.  The possibility of home-based medicine creation via printers is on the verge of occuring, and a group of someones with the right know-how can create entire "internets" (sorry to use such a cheesy name) off the grid, free from oversight.  Why the hell are we younger generations getting tangled in the fights of the last era?  We may as well be fighting Viet-Nam again for all that these things actually fucking matter.  Ten Commandments in the Courts? Who cares?  Gay Marriage? Homosexuality should only be major topics of discussion and concern for two people: Gay folks and prison inmates with pretty faces.  Everyone else should just let them do what they want and stay out of it.  Teaching Creationism?  Shouldn't even be a topic of discussion.  OWS, Tea Party, Ron Paul, all of it is yesterdays problems with attempts to solve them with yesterday's fucking tools.

You want a revolution? You want freedom? Technology is the way, but not this namby-pamby facebook shit.  No flash mob is going to change the world, at least not one that's hosted on a site that uses flashmob posts to target you for more and more marketing, and your E-vite to a sit-in at a mall isn't going to so much as dent the problem.  Its time to think different, and bigger.

"Cyberpunk? Like duh Matrix?"

The term Cyberpunk has been watered down, choked to death to mean "video games that look real cool and have slick guns and leather coats".  Its been pussified, modified, tamed into something corporate, consumable.  Deus Ex's plot of distrust, government games, and the use of mass media for control, becomes DE:HR's message of "D00d, cybernetics will make things complicated!!!1111!".  The Sprawl and Bridge trilogy's messages of how events, locations, and people all interact in a sort of complex triad, and how the best way to live free is not to be part of the system but to tell it to fuck itself to death, becomes "leather coats and mirrorshades. And oh, megacorps."  Even Wired declared it dead, comparing the real original Cyberpunks to the small number of Beatniks who faded away under the light of day.

Moreso its been correlated with "Steampunk", a fantasy ideal that's mostly just aesthetic, visual.  And nothing wrong with that, I love the steampunks, but cyberpunk is more because while Steanpunk is a world that cannot be, Cyberpunk was... is, about a world that exists right here.  Sure we're not dealing with corporate hitmen or cyborgs, but we're in a setting now where information, and its control, is -everything-.  Where the difference between living free, and hving a governmental/corporate entity legally bricking into your screaming mouth is as fine as the line you signed on when you decided to sign up for some "service".

Here's the thing, most companies service customers like snipers service targets.

Cyberpunk had its time early on, then technology got further ahead and we just took it for granted.  The economy was good, politics wasn't a huge deal, and everyone was hunky dory.  The wheel's already turned though, and we're at  a point where we can again use technology for the People.  The DIY days of when Phreakers could fuck Ma Bell are on their way back, folks, and the Dream, while not dead, is suffering under the weight of all of what's come before.  Our future is flailing about to get the politicians and companies off its chest, and we're doing little more than handing them money to be sure we can watch Megashark vs Giant Octopus without interruption.

So here's the call.  The world is nearing something.  Not the "singularity" people whine about, or the whole "ascension" thing or anything else... extreme like that.  That being said, we're hitting a point where we're losing ground, as a people, faster than we can gain it.  Even the smartest people are so busy fighting political battles thy aren't seeing the real ground being lost, and where it's being lost.

So Do I Have Solutions, or am I Just Bitching?

While we maike a stink about a political candidate, bipartisan groups are making decisions to support the anti-freedom decisions that companies are asking for. YOu know, the companies we use.  They assume... rightly.. that most of us lack the skill and knowledge to do anything.

So, its time.  Stop with the angry puppet shows showing cheny and bush as evil devils.  Stop with the bumper stickers that call Obama a terrorist.  Stop sitting on Wall Street in protests driven by near corporate Unions, and stop waving signs with tea parties that are backed by Republicans.  The game is rigged, and we're playing by the rules, and celebrating the counter-culture heroes that they assemble and give us, that do nothing to really help the causes.

Take off the goddamn Guy Fawkes mask, you idiot.

I'm not saying drop out entirely, but its time we who really believe in human freedom (the details and differences are meaningless, we're all after the freedom of the individual to live as an individual) need to stop being frogs.  Cultivate groups that allow information to flow freely, find alternatives to corporate/informatoin selling social media.  Hell, create them!  I feel like revolutionaries, "punks", etc, are taking the lazy way out.  They... we (believe it or not I had my roots too) are sitting back and coasting, doing things the same way we always have, while using the tools of, in the end, the fucking enemy.

Get involved, but make it so you're getting involve on your own terms, and what you're doing isn't something you got the idea for from some "political action" group that is eventually getting its orders from some bastard on Wall Street or Capitol Hill.  Don't smash a window, set up a PirateBox.  Don't give money to Wikileaks's political agenda, set up a file and information sharing network in your city/state to allow people to really make information free.

Even while we try to engage these huge causes.... even the most "grassroots" movement is still trying to link to, engage in, and follow larger 'movements"... we're still losing ground because we're fighting the enemy on turf we ceded years ago in preference to lolcats.

I guess the question you can ask is "why? Why abandon national causes in preference to individual?"  Its simple.  By engaging the national causes, by bickering over political divisions and all the related steaming birdshit, we're playing their rigged game.  The old joke is that the CIA used to say "The best way to stop a communist is fund him."  The best way to stop a cause is to make that cause part of your own, and its what they're doing to us. All of us.  In a way they're being sure we keep fighting the same battles endlessly to be sure that they always have a place.  The only way to move people forward, to change society, is to change its people.

We need to change how our children see technology and the internet, how they see the information flow, how they see the world and its structure.  We need to engage those around us we would rather dismiss as "dumb" and help them see that the world that is, and could be isn't the world that was.  That, more than any OWS or Tea Party, is how we'll take our nation, our world, and our future away from the bastards who can't stand letting it move forward.


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