Dystopia with a Dollop of Environmental Degradation

A less talked about and common characteristic of cyberpunk is it’s calm yet distressing portrayal of the environment. Sunny blue skies, clear diamond starlit nights, sunrises and sunsets beaming with colorful harvests of sunshine are replaced by thick dreary overcasts, soft rain penetrating dense smog, and monotone daylight. At night, the subtlety of the climate crisis is overshadowed by exuberant city lights and holography. Perhaps it’s a euphemism of our current outlook, where glamour captures our attention at the expense of our immediate earthly concerns. Moreover, cybercities seem alive at night instead of at day. Perhaps the denizens of the cyberworld prefer the warm glow of corporate advertisement to the daytime simulacrum of hell on earth.
Dystopian imagery need not be appear so bleak. The youth in James Dashner’s The Maze Runner lived an idyllic setting of sorts; if you don’t mind roughing it. A rustic life outlined by greenery, plows, and hammocks seems lovely compared to soul crushing urban decay. But the horrific and humongous roaches beyond the moss-covered walls belies the lack of freedom for Dashner’s characters. Cyber-cacotopias, in contrast, typically unveil soul-crushing imagery both inside and outside the megacity. The contrast is chromatic, where energetic shades of blues, purples, pinks, and reds emanating from 3-D billboards imprint character onto teeming, and yet dead, city landscapes that share the same drudging black and grey hues of its urban fashion. It’s as if corporations monopolized life itself. Although cyberpunk urbanity has a unique radiance, it’s still a visual assault on the spirit.
Why I think cyberpunk is able to slightly sprinkle hints of dread is through its display of climate crisis and urban decay. It’s something many people feel as something that is real, happening know, and only getting worse.
pollution Indonesia
The air quality and color reminds me of Gattaca and several scenes from Blade Runner 2049. BBC News Caption (Bambang. When the particulate index reaches the level of 2,900. Photo by Bjorn Vaughn.).


meta vision


I wonder, as our civilization accumalates more data as a function of the information age (and beyond), then the capacity of what I call meta-vision comes into being? It may be similar to Dune’s idea of Precience or the less useful stock-market predictions, in that “knowing the future” is a skill that has major advantages. The ability to predict future events based on an insane amount of information is not science fiction. Statisticians do it all the time. In fact, I remember my college poly sci days learning about how statisticians can be so accurate I actually felt an existential threat from that type of power. It’s not 100% accurate of course, but the craft is accurate enough that tens of millions of dollars can be spent on one project. Statistics used to predict future events is part of every industry today, especially politics, and every decade the practice gets better and better.

As corporations accumalate more capital, I think their potential for information dominance throughout society becomes more likely. They would have the money to pay for anything they wish to know. Didn’t Google just announce “quantum supremacy” (whatever that means) a few weeks ago? Aside from strong governments that can counterbalance mega-corporations, the only equalizer that I think could possibly compete with such power disparity is civil society, for a lack of a cyberpunk moniker. I refuse to use the phrase “the people” as if people who are apathetic, or co-opted, or belong to an opposing tribe don’t exist. Wikipedia, underground hackers, quality journalism, corporate activism, your USB device, are all examples of possible resistance to such over-whelming power. It’s not to say none of that can’t be comprimised, but to be recognized. In politics you learn, people power can compete against monetary power.

INFORMATION IS POWER. What a simulateously liberating yet horrifying maxim. Any rational actor would value more of it and the more powerful an entity becomes, there’s no less reason to limit the capacity for acquiring it. I think dystopian futures involve actors, probably mega-corporations, having such power disparity over the common man as to be no different that a totalitarian state. Can civil society prepare itself if or when, the state won’t act?

Free-Market Faith

free market faith bart

It is one thing to believe capitalism is the best game in town and another to believe capitalism is crap, but still the best game in town. I find myself in the latter’s dugout, finding reasons to play when many misunderstand the rules. But I will now attempt to bat with this post and hope to load at least one base.

Understanding the basic tenets of capitalism is really quite simple, until you pin the origins of its canons. For just one example, people may believe Adam Smith is the father of capitalism, but may be surprised to learn Smith never heard of it. The word “capitalism” or “capitalist,” does not appear once in Smith’s book The Wealth of Nations (1776). Instead, the word “capitalism” actually appears in the later half on the 19th Century and many attribute Karl Marx in coining the term. Therefore, Smith did not create an economic system inasmuch as he identified existing and efficient economic relationships and expounded those relationships….get this…for the benefit of mankind.

Just as surprising, Adam Smith writes about the short-comings of these relationships. Although he mentions the Invisible Hand, which is only briefly mentioned in his canonized and dogmatized Wealth of Nations, is a factor in how human society organizes its economics. Smith wrote an earlier book called The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which talks about balancing the idea of self-interest with higher moral considerations, most pronounced is the idea of community and importance of sympathy. I doubt Adam Smith and Ayn Rand would have all that in common.

When people talk about the free-market, what they are really talking about are aspects of the market they benefit from and not an entire systemic set of principles that benefits everybody. It’s why commerce is not charity. The term free-market, which also does not show up in The Wealth of Nations, is a non-sensical term because markets are never free. But it’s a great marketing ploy to brand markets as a place for freedom. A place that government, which is one of the few great powers that can restrict corporate power, should keep it’s filthy dirty hands off. Ironic when government is by default the scoundrel but corporations and banks the scamp. It’s not to say governments can’t be a major problem in our economic affairs, they often are. But listen to narratives demanding unrestrained greed and you just might see that using bad governments is a hidden ball trick.

Of course market regulations can be stupid. But think about how free-marketeers talk about how unjust the government is to them and not who loses to their quest for profit. Free-market talk is a ploy to get people who don’t profit to back people who do, even at their own expense.

Maybe Trump And His Ilk Are Pivotal Against The Political Apathy In America?

When I was in college years ago I remember reading that political apathy being one of the greatest threats to democracies, especially to modern liberal types. It probably still is. Think of it. How can democracies work if the governed don’t care to even give their consent? What happens to the quality of the democracy when constituents feel too comfortable with their own lives, or when they believe an afterlife is more important than politics, or when they don’t fully realize their own self-interest, or when they just “feel” disenfranchised?

The educated vote at higher ratios than the less educated. But for how decently educated America is, I don’t think our voting turnouts for the last 50 years have matched. I may be wrong. Records show that barely over 50% of our VAP (voting age population) have voted in the last 20 years. Then if education won’t cut it, then what could help?

ANGER. It’s a great motivator. In some ways it’s better than conscious, and rational, and deliberate action. The former can get you off the couch and on your feet in less than a second. The later, whilst can give time for contemplation, might be interrupted by the next commercial or be forgotten by tomorrow’s end. Anger can help you remember because anger leaves brain-waffling impressions in your mind. Dwelling on the anger does make you think, which is not to say it naturally comes with fair-mindedness followed by some sort of enlightenment, and makes you reassess the things you care about. Is this way, anger has it’s political uses.

Is it possible that Trump can help drive voter turnout for Democrats in numbers that can shatter the elections of 2008 and 2012? Whether or not Trump wins 2020, I doubt his supporters will fade way. Remember, Trump is more the symptom than the cause. Demoralized, yes. Less fanaticized, I think it’s only going to get worse.

Mobilizing the people who would vote against you is less than getting your agenda done without them noticing. I have heard that Trump’s tactic relies on creating dumpster fires to distract you from the bigger fire elsewhere. The importance of this is to put out both fires, albeit starting with the more dangerous one first, if you have no choice to prioritize. But if the dumpster fires churns out swarms of apathetic people to leave their houses, then who does it really help?

On The Left

Can you be Liberal without being on The Left? Can you be on The Left without being Liberal?

on the left

The Left: In America, it’s usually affiliated with The Democratic Party, liberals, and progressives. The Left is distinguished from those on The Right, where both flank, respectively, on what is considered to be The Middle. But if you know your history, The Left, The Right, and The Middle are amorphous and change over time. Example: The Democratic Party used to be the pro-slavery party until the first half of the 20th Century when people like FDR, The Kennedy’s, and African-American and Jewish-American activists, among so many others that that have enriched social equality movements, changed the dynamic where The Democratic Party became more, and not less, the party for racial justice. The Democratic Party lost the Southern white vote where they have dominated for decades largely due to the party’s own support for Civil Rights and in doing so, sidestepped or leapfrogged the Republican Party in attempting to progress racial inequities in America.

The Liberals: In America, are supporters of policies and attitudes that “progress,” among other things, minority rights. Minorities being racial, religious, sexual including sexual orientation and gendered…and so forth. Basically, people who lack power as a distinct group and are typically being oppressed political and socially. As a legal and philosophical extension, liberal ideas on protecting racial, religious, and sexual minorities is couched in neutrality, where majority-minority relationships are sought to be equalized and not flipped for obvious reasons. In other words, my right to marry a person of the same sex does not require the act to negate an opposite sex marriage. The act is to equalize same-sex marriage by elevating it to the status of opposite-sex marriage, but not to flip hierarchies between the two. Liberals, who are sometimes called but not always considered progressives, are contrasted to conservatives, people who promote traditional social institutions.

Being liberal oftentimes gets murky more so than being On The Left. It carries a protean quality like The Left, where it changes over time. But being strictly liberal can also carry more confusion and even stigma. Being liberal in Europe is more akin to being libertarian in America, socially progressive but an acolyte in traditional free-market thinking…or non-thinking depending on your persuasion. Some view many Democrats in the same view no matter the label. But then you can find social progressives who are also economic progressives. Some call them socialists or communists, even though they are not the same thing as they are often considered to be. I find it common when people stand by a good number of liberal and socialist policies and attitudes: gay marriage, increased public and commercial accommodation for people with all sorts of mental and physical disabilities, a sound and reasonable safety net, public schools, and so on. But they would never consider themselves liberal. It’s as if a closet has formed the same way a closet has formed around being socialist, even though policies like social security and laws against polluting drinking water are by definition socialist. Search liberal both in it’s lower and upper case form and who would disagree with it’s fundamental tenants? Not many, except if you are a socialist.

In acting opposition to The Republican Party, to conservatives, and in general to anyone who wants to take society back to the 1930s (not the 1950s like so many say because that era, it seems to me, is where liberal counter-culture was in full-swing), many people may identify as leftist in some fashion or form because of negative experience. But being in opposition doesn’t necessarily mean being actively pro-something either. I can find disgust in a politician actively courting white supremacists but it doesn’t mean I’m deeply aware and supportive of racial justice. Same can be said for a supporter of racial justice who consciously doesn’t support trans* justice.

So, it’s my belief that true liberals hold firm, or try, to the basic tenants of social justice by their own accord. Meaning, they don’t need a political clique or party to feed them the next set of beliefs. If the bandwagon (everyone needs a ride somewhere sometimes) goes somewhere it shouldn’t go, there are people who know better while some never question it. It’s learning when to get off the bandwagon that counts. So, I personally have met quite a few leftists who think nothing wrong with being biased against people solely on religion, race, and gender if they are Christian, “white,” and male. But that’s not liberal is it? If being liberal should give one more substance in judging character beyond association, then thinking liberal goes beyond superficial litmus tests. Bernie Sanders is two out of the three identities mentioned. Being Christian wouldn’t disqualify him from AOC’s support, as it’s apparent that she doesn’t mind him being “white” and male either.

The Left differs from liberals “by virtue” of not being on The Right. It seems it’s more of a categorical clique than an understood set of liberal and progressive commitments. Ask Bernie supporters if Hillary is progressive enough and ask Hillary supporters what it means being progressive and I think you will catch this dynamic rollercoaster. Maybe not. But overall, it’s one thing to form your identity and world view around a general set of beliefs. It’s another thing to think a bit more into the why of what you stand by.

Reboot 2019 – Let Me Try This Again

Let me think out loud here.

on thinking

I want to again pick up the hobby to write and the hobby to think and keep on doing this hobby long-term. The primary mistake I made with this blog thus far was the way I presented my thoughts as if I’m a scholar, or at least an aspiring one. I’m not and I don’t think I ever will want to be an academic. It’s taxing if you are not a natural nor if you are aspiring. Therefore, I should stop writing like one, even though I consider being an essayist an honorable title. My thanks to Christopher Hitchens (who is quoted on my header tag) who probably gave me that idiosyncrasy.

Not all scholars are essayists and vice versa, but one better know what they are writing about regardless. So, if I’m not a scholar than how should I write? My continuing WordPress will help me develop not just my writing skills but my writing style, along with my thoughts. I’m still going to write about the political and delve into it’s more liked twin, the social. People like Christopher Hitchens, Hannah Arendt, and George Orwell make me think. I hope to learn about the thoughts of people like Jane Mansbridge and Bayard Rustin and Julian Bond and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Star Trek and Dune are my prominent pop-culture influencers in my forward thinking. But cyberpunk and Japanimation, among others, have heavily colored what the future literally looks like to me. I would really like to pepper queer culture, especially queer sci-fi, into my WordPress imagination. So, let’s see what that looks like.

I think my musings, at least from the start, will be a blur between wonderings and opinions situated in a school of thought. My BA is in Political Science, where I was trained to think in realist thought by mostly feminist female teachers who didn’t give one fuck if you were yourself, in any way, social justicey. So that will always be a part of me. I will attempt to be at times contrarian yet understanding, simple in my train of thought but in ways subtle to audiences I think will understand the subtlety. Is wanting to be cutting-edge considered cheesy nowadays?

To assert some expectations from avid readers and prolific writers, I never really excelled at writing…at all. It was always a struggle for me in school and out of it. This post, for instance, is more than 20 minutes and counting. So please, feel free to educate me but at the same time go easy. Well, I mean, if I make a mistake that should reflect an appropriate response, then do so. But let’s not get overdramatic when it’s warrantless.

And as always, imagination and creativity seem bankrupt without some sort of lofty standard and a little bit of love.


Reboot 2015

I’m restarting my blog. Hopefully my future posts will be better grammaticallly, stylistically, and have less mistakes than previous posts.

Note to self:

Don’t be too hard on yourself. As long as you are willing to learn from your mistakes, that is enough.

At the same time, push yourself to excellence.