Alex Schroeder on 24 Sep 2001 16:36:30 -0000

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[rohrpost]Bruce Sterling zu WTC und Belle Epoque

Ich fand das folgende einen guten Kommentar zur allgemeinen
Kriegsakzeptanz (von Begeisterung kann ich zumindest hier in der
Schweiz in Zuerich nicht sprechen).  Man geht irgendwie davon aus,
dass die Amis einfach etwas tun "müssen".  Nunja, man könnte dann so
wie ich im Freundeskreis vergleiche ziehen zu den Russen in
Afghanistan, zur Erhöhung der Sicherheit mittels stärkeren Kontrollen
an Flughäfen, Polizei an Bord der Flugzeuge, Reduktion der Mobilität,
Sicherung der Kernkraftwerke...  Aber Bruce Sterling geht im
nachfolgenden mail einen anderen Weg: Wir sollen die Werte, welche
sich in den 90er Jahren etabliert haben schätzen: Froh sein, dass wir
diese Zeit erlebt haben, diese Erinnerung wach halten, uns dafür
einsetzen, dass sie wieder kommt.  Wir sollten uns in Diskussionen
nicht nur auf die "offensichtlichen" Themen beschränken (Polizeistaat,
Krieg, Religion).


-------------------- Start of forwarded message --------------------
From: Bruce Sterling <>
Subject: Viridian Note 00272:  Au Revoir, Belle Epoque

Key concepts; Belle Epoque, warfare, Viridian tactics

Attention Conservation Notice: A lot of grim historical
analysis and no cool toys.

War and Rumors of War.  For heaven's sake, don't cut and 
paste me anything until you look at this first.  One of 
the uses of adversity is that it separates sensible people 
from saps.  People who send me lame urban legends are 

Our home page for all you newbies.


The sudden outbreak of unconventional warfare 
has not escaped Viridian attention.  In this Note,
I would like to make it clear how the Pope-Emperor
plans to adapt the Viridian Movement to our altered 
social circumstances.

    You have likely already seen a lot of earnest
commentary consigning the period 1989-2001 to history.  
We are suddenly in a turbulent and violent time, and in a 
burst of harsh martial virtue, our immediate past is being 
written off as squalid, and overindulged, and pampered, 
and fatally innocent, and possibly somewhat effeminate. 
This is exactly what happened the last time a Belle Epoque 

   The death of the last Belle Epoque -- through terrorism
in glamorous Serbia, unfortunately -- was followed by the 
gruesome mobilizations of August 1914, the War to End War.  
There's still terrorism in the Balkans nowadays, one might 
note. The War to End Terrorism at least has a different 
slogan, though.

   This event might be a passing nasty shock,  like Aum 
Shinri Kyo or Jonestown.  More severely, it might rival or 
surpass the Gulf War of 1991. The last such war was also a 
very sweaty-palmed event, but it was followed by a 
considerable boom.  Wars do end, and if this one ends 
quickly and well, we might well find ourselves with a New 
World Order that's more than just talk, and a Long Boom 
with some serious muscle behind it.

    Or, it may be that Viridian Green, founded in 1998, is 
past its sell-by date.  We may be well on our way to that 
much-forecasted next stage, Khaki Green, where pop culture 
and commercialism lose all their charms and the heavy 
lifting gets done by those long-time Viridian idols, cops 
and the military.

     Let me speak up now in firm defense  of that Belle 
Epoque.  That ten-year-period was truly grand.   We were 
historically lucky to live through it.  It began 
beautifully and it perished, if anything, through too much 
hope. It was not naive and foolishly innocent, it was 
splendid, vital and profoundly creative. Those were the 
best years of the 20th century, when at least some of its 
beleagured inhabitants finally found a proper way to live, 
a decent way that offered many great virtues.  

    Nutty bubble economies run by cheery visionaries are 
much better for us than crass economies run by stolid 
monopolist bores.  Near-total employment is far better 
than severe unemployment.  R&D from peace dividends is 
better than a pinched war economy.  Booming tourism from 
happy foreigners is better than empty hotels and airports.  
Politicians bedevilled with colorful sex scandals are 
better than fierce and resolute war leaders.  And shucking 
and jiving our way out of an ecological crisis by making 
green design trendy was a much better method of 
controlling CO2 emissions than empty skies, market panics, 
and military hairshirts.

     That was not a dumb, innocent epoch.  *This* is a 
dour and bitter epoch.  We Viridians may have to wear some 
hairshirt, we may not be given any choice there, but 
ladies and gentlemen, we Viridians don't *do* hairshirt.  
We're not going to pretend that hairshirt is better.  
Belle Epoque is vastly better.  This is worse.

    We Viridian want more  Belle Epoque.  We will scheme 
tirelessly to get it back, revive it,  or fetch another 
one.  We do hope to live long enough to see one.  If we 
can't be its promoters, then we'll be its monks: we will 
protect its relics and its memory, we will copy it, we 
will distribute it, we will keep its lamps burning.

    Still, the cultural circumstances are rapidly and 
visibly changing, and our favorite tactics  will clearly 
be less effective for a while, not that they ever worked 
all that well. They were not, in fact, the most effective 
tactics possible.  Making things cool, making ideas 
trendy, were simply the tactics that we Viridians happened 
to be particularly good at.  They were things we enjoyed 
doing.  They were an efficient use of our limited talents 
and resources.  They were the sorts of things that a few 
hundred people can do on the Internet without having to 
incorporate or buy uniforms.

    The most effective tactics for forcing huge numbers of 
people to undergo sudden and radical social change are 
done with bayonets.  They're evil tactics, and 
regrettable, and morally repulsive, but just look at what 
has happened in two weeks.

     You may notice that although coverage of the 
Greenhouse Effect has vanished during the crisis, utterly 
involuntary yet very powerful anti-Greenhouse measures 
have taken place, to an extent previously unimaginable.  
The sky was empty of aircraft == those great guzzlers of 
fossil fuel. Americans, incredibly, are taking trains.  No 
one is buying big cars.  Even the ads so loathed by 
ADBUSTERS were busted off of the television.

    In short order, the USA is very likely to have both 
Arctic drilling *and* stiff conservation measures, 
renewables *and* maybe even nuclear, along with the kind 
of across the board belt-tightening that Greens never
succeed in promulgating == measures that only rage and 
terror make worthwhile. 

     Furthermore, when the Kyoto carousel rolls around 
again, the USA will not be balking on the sidelines, the 
planet's lone prima donna, pretending that free enterprise 
is more important than global security.  Then there's that 
nuclear nonproliferation treaty that the US Senate didn't 
care about; that biological warfare thing that was too 
complex and invasive to enforce; those numerous human 
rights accords, dozens, that the USA  considered too 
restrictive and obnoxious; those UN dues the USA 
deliberately refused to pay; the endless fight-picking 
with Iran, Cuba and China; well, you can name your own.

     Unfortunately, we Viridians are not the people to 
take any kind of effective lead here.  We are design 
advocates, we're not spies, diplomats, cops or firemen, 
and we are certainly not going to be so fatuous  as to 
become armchair soldiers.

    We're a, not a  Furthermore, we 
Viridians are not even patriotic. Our core concern has 
nothing to do with nationalities; it's by its very nature 
global. A hard Greenhouse rain falls on the stockbroker 
and the mujihadeen alike.  We Viridians are one of those 
slithering, highly dispersed, mobile, multinational, 
network entities you've been hearing about.  Our natural 
environment, the place for which we were created, is the 
     We Viridians can't and don't exist without the 
network, but now, we should expect the Net to change. It 
does that, you know: from military labs, to big science, 
academia, the dotcom period, it's very ductile.  I have 
never seen such an outburst of black propaganda and psyops 
on the Net as I have seen in these two weeks. It is a 
kulturkampf battleground.  I expect some Cold War-style 
heavy manners in a realm that is this troubled with 
imaginary Qaeda email, huge Microsoft worms, brand-new 
ECHELON-style terrie-trackers from brand-new agencies, 
self-appointed hacker vigilantes, and whole swarms of 
nutcase script-kids.  Any serious new hacker-crackdown 
will pick up those little malefactors by the basketfull.

     The Net looks bad.  The status quo ante is not going 
to cut it. Unless I miss my guess, the Net will be moving 
away from the flaky amateurism and sordid tragedy-of-the-
commons that was its pride and joy, right past that 
totally imaginary commercial nirvana, and straight into a 
paramilitarized, ARPANET-friendly, Nervous System of the 
Coalition phase.  We Viridians may be rather squeezed for 
room  and oxygen in there.  We may find ourselves asking 
for your help, in backups, archiving, distribution, web 
service and so forth.  Feel free to volunteer.  People of 
good will need to be uniting to move this medium into a 
disciplined, serious role as the backbone of a troubled 
global civil society. If that effort fails, the Net is 
going to go the way of CB radio.  Or worse.

    We Viridians may have a harder time of it. Money, 
toys, and time may get tighter.  We Viridians will no 
longer look much like What Happens Next (because we're 
not), and our abiding interests are likely to look a bit 
flaky and antiquarian for a while, like some guy leafing 
through  Beardsley's YELLOW BOOK as the zeppelins hum 
above the searchlights.

     However: our core issue, the Greenhouse Effect, is 
not going to forsake us.  On the contrary: the USA is 
about to undergo a military-entertainment dust-up with one 
of the poorest and most stricken countries on Earth, a 
place of incessant gunfire, poxed with landmines, that 
hasn't had a decent rain in 3 solid years.  People who can 
live on naan bread and goat cheese are starving there from 
bad weather.  Is it an accident that a place like that 
hides people of the Al Qaeda ilk?  They're the New World 
Disorder, and they've learned how to ship.

    Look at the economic impact from the sudden loss of 
two skyscrapers in New York City. It's colossal.  That's 
straight from the file we Viridians like to label "world 
becoming uninsurable."

    Now  try to imagine New York hit by a Category 5 
hurricane.  Imagine the payout crisis around, say, 2050, 
with all the coral dead and the seas rising along entire 
continental coastlines.  There are serious people in the 
re-insurance industry who claim that weather damage in the 
2050s will outmatch the planet's entire GNP.  Smashing 
skyscrapers with aircraft full of blazing fossil fuel -- 
that is by no means a Greenhouse disaster, it's just  a 
war crime.  But that event is of the scope and scale of 
the disasters that society is courting.  

     The only event that can match NYC 9.11 for sudden 
loss of American civilian life is the Great Galveston 
Hurricane of 1900. That's an event from which Galveston, 
once the rival of New Orleans and the richest port in 
Texas, never recovered.  Now we have a modern model for a 
major-league Greenhouse unnatural calamity.  We now know 
what that does to people, to their morale and confidence, 
to the tenor of their society. We must not go there out of 
bland incredulity and some dismissive notion that things 
like that can never happen. And if we do go for there, for 
some godforsaken reason, we need coherent plans to claw 
our way back out.

      However: we Viridians are not going to be doing that 
clawing.  That is frankly beyond our capacity.  That is 
the realm of Khaki Green, the realm of hardhats tearing 
through rubble heaps 24/7, and if the Pope-Emperor gets 
into that line of work, he is not going to be doing a lot 
of whimsical email.  

    We Viridians are going to continue to promote cool 
green gizmos == although we no longer expect to sell quite 
as many.  And we will watch weird  weather.  We may very 
well change our list mechanics, those stars, the chevrons 
and so forth; we may be moving into new alliances and new 
areas of the Web.

    Furthermore.  Instead of being the cheering groupies 
and advocates of our dear friends the designers, we are, 
if necessary,  going to *commiserate* with designers, we 
are going to offer *solidarity* and *unfeigned moral 
support* to designers, and to their critics, and their 
teachers, and their stricken magazines and their stricken 
retailers; we Viridians don't care if you noble souls are 
at the top of Fortune's Wheel or suddenly considered the 
excrescences of a decadent consumer society, we get it 
about that business-cycle crap and we love you anyway, and 
we Viridians are *with you people to our final Internet 
packet.*   What we can do for you, we're gonna. Don't be a 

    In conclusion, I'm going to be travelling a lot.  
Because the planes are empty and people are asking.  I'm 
accepting invitations from all over the place. I'm gonna 
be laying on hands.   There's not a lot of money around on 
the circuit this quarter, but there is a hell of a lot to 
talk about, and friends are rarely happier to see one 
another than they are under these trying circumstances.

     My next gig is the Renewable Energy Roundup in 
Fredericksburg Texas, September 28-30.  A very worthy


   We will be running a display table, exhorting unto the 
masses and selling magazines and T-shirts.  By all means 
come see us.  It is next weekend.  Be there or be square.

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O

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