Zeitgeist (Bruce Sterling)
Just finished Zeitgeist by Bruce Sterling. As in Distraction I re-read recently and The Zenith Angle, the plot is almost non-existent. But it's not a problem at all; I take those books by Sterling as a portrait - a kind of analysis - of our post-modern society. In this book, the authors deals with pop culture in turkey + former yugoslavia. His character (Leggy Starlitz) is a Oscar Valparaiso look-alike in the sens that he has everything under control, mixing moderne skills (marketing/PR/demographics analysis) with old-school military techniques + social engineering skills. The guy seems pretty cool. I was a bit bored by the father-daughter part of the book till I ran across name of french philosopherts like Derrida; and then it made sense. Overall, it was a pleassant book to read, even though I've never been in any Y2K trip. Sterling is always sharp with expressions like "deader than the minitel" or "Britain was the European Japan"). It also made me think of Sterling's last column in wired: Where a crooked economy beats straight-up capitalism, I think it's another brick inn the field of postmodernism.
People can't afford Western luxuries, so they have a warm, affirmative feeling for smugglers. Global branding makes it easy to create fake products with broad appeal on someone else's promotional dime. So stores are filled with upscale-looking, marginally functional fakes in food, clothes, cosmetics, even car parts.
The Chinese-run shops in Serbia and Montenegro, known as kineskae, carry products in every possible variant of honesty and dishonesty. Running shoes most Westerners have never heard of - Die Xian, Gui Ren, Renke - sit alongside knockoffs with Nike-like names such as Wink, not to mention blatant acts of deceit like my bogus shoes. Of course, you can also buy real Nikes for the crippling international price. The shiny, glass-fronted stores that sell them grimly alert shoppers to their anti-shoplifting technology; mom-and-pop kineskae make no such fuss. (...) Serbia and Montenegro isn't a failed state like Iraq or Sudan, but a faked state. This purported country, which has had serious problems settling on an anthem and a flag, is best understood as a giant covert operation, like Iran-Contra or Enron. Nobody is less likely than a Serbian to collaborate with the ever-more-anxious overlords of intellectual property: the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Customs Organization, and Nike's own clique, the US Council for International Business. For all their treaties and trade agreements, these paper tigers might as well be waving bread sticks as billy clubs.
These organizations are right to worry. Black globalism extends well beyond easy, offhand intellectual property thefts like videotaping first-run films and burning them onto DVD. It commandeers the manufacturing, distribution, and business infrastructure in a parasitic rejection of the global order that is the engine of our collective future. The folks who made my shoes have everything it takes to make excellent footwear. Yet they choose to make counterfeits. It's a brave, new, destructive world of manufacturing and marketing: Just fake it.