Friday, July 29, 2005

My Cyberpunk & Dystopian Country

When Neil Gaiman was here he described Metro Manila as a huge cyberpunk sprawl. Coming in from Singapore - which he described as compact and gleaming, a country where everybody follows the rules and where there are plenty of rules to follow (one of these would be the infamous law against chewing gum) - it comes as no surprice. The chewing gum law would be emasculated and laughed at by us denizens of Metro Manila, the Philippines for that matter. I never thought of my country or the national capital region (NCR)as a cyberpunk sprawl. Are we really? Sprawl...yes. The NCR is had expanded geometrically. The population at the center of NCR doubles during the day of the work week. People migrate from the fringes to the center to work. The word cyberpunk conjures up images of Akira, the Matrix and Blade Runner. Yes,How about cyberpunk? A quick search on the net and through Wikepedia brought me the following quotes: From Bruce Sterling describing the cyberpunk ethos as:
Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being. We can do just about anything you can imagine to rats. And closing your eyes and refusing to think about this won't make it go away.
That is cyberpunk.
Cyberpunk is fiction. It is a genre of science fiction. Cyberpunk describes a dystopian world in the future where corruption and pragmagtism of government the visceral nature of corporatocrcy is shown and the battles against them seem never-ending. Gone are the bright-eyed heroes like Luke Skywalker, in the genre we see heroes like Bladerunner's Dekker - a disillusioned cog in the wheel of this dystopian society. Is cyberpunk then noir science fiction? It must be. There is no clear lines marking the wealthy and the unwealthy, riches and poverty live side by side. Authority is corrupt or at the least pragmatic. People have their own agendas. And the hero or protagonist turn out to be cogs of the wheel, a regular Joe Schmoe the mundane man. The main difference between noir and cyberpunk may be in cyberpunk the element of futuristic technology and industry is prevent. Some have described cyberpunk as the dystopian part of SF. Fiction they say can be used to mirror reality. Often time the grittier it is and the more visceral it is the closer it comes to reality, heightened reality of life plagued with problems. It then becomes a satire or a morality play of our time. A social mirror that can be used as cautionary tale or an outlet. Yes. I think in general we live in a dystopian society. We are the manifestation of the cyberpunk tale. But we should also remember that origin of the word dystopia. Dystopia is the negative word of utopia. Dys from the Greek word "bad". But what of utopia. This is a pun from the Greek word ou (meaning no) or eu (meaning good) with topos (meaning place). So the word Utopia both meant a good place or a no place. Henry VIII's Chancellor, friend, martyr(beheaded on the orders of Henry for Moore's loyalty to the Catholic Faith)and saint (a direct consequence of the beheading)Sir Thomas Moore coined this word to describe an ideal place. So reality is in general dystopic were all living in a cyberpunk world. Well at least I would like to think that and despite living in a dystopian place we do have our moments, often in the mundane and in the un-news worthy category but they are there. Nobody writes about the ordinary men and women from different times. And we encounter dystopian tides in our life I think we behave most of the time like the unlikey heroes in a cyberpunk take. I think the poet Edna St Vincent Millay said it eloquently: I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.


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