So it seems to be Pimp Bruce Sterling Week here… but seriously, if you’re not reading Sterling you’ve a major gap in your worldview.
Here in Seed Magazine, he offers two contrasting views of the modern calamity – one written as himself, the other by his fictional Italian twin Bruno Argento.
As 2009 opens, our financial institutions are deep in massive, irrational panic. That’s bad, but it gets worse: Many other respected institutions have rational underpinnings at least as frail as derivatives or bundled real-estate loans. Like finance, these institutions are social constructions. They are games of confidence, underpinned by people’s solemn willingness to believe, to conform, to contribute. So why not panic over them, too?
I will venture to predict something that seems to me obvious: Eight years late, the 20th century has finally departed us this year. It will never return.
The “true” 20th century — the Communist century — began in 1914 and ended in 1989. We are now in the true 21st century.
After 1989 we enjoyed a strange interregnum where “history ended.” Everyone ran up a credit-card bill at the global supermarket. The adventure ended badly, in crisis. Still, let us be of good heart. In cold fact, a financial crisis is one of the kindest and mildest sorts of crisis a civilization can have. Compared to typical Italian catastrophes like wars, epidemics, earthquakes, volcanoes, endemic political collapse — a financial crisis is a problem for schoolchildren.
As ever, I suspect the truth falls somewhere between these – but for all our sakes, hopefully more on Bruno’s side of things.