the version of ‘cyberpunk’ that is relevant in 2015, as a body of political ideas, is not what it was in 1980. we often celebrate, with the selective and short-term memories consumerism often imparts on us, fancified and playful versions of serious things, stripping them of their context and meaning. ultimately this is in an act of mispropriation. this is what Read Only Memories, a recently released game by MidBoss represents. ROM has sparked this thought, but i do not hold anything against it or the game’s creators (who i respect a lot), though i am disappointed in the cultural trends they have chosen to participate in. (i am sure that game does a lot of wonderful things i have yet to see for lack of spending a ton of time with it and i am not trying to disparage that whatsoever)
while i’m not really concerned with ROM itself (and instead my general feelings on cyberpunk), there is one point i must make: i am not worried about the progression of lgbt rights in north america. they are going fine, they will be fine. things are hard–they are hard for me–but this is not the last great frontier of american strife. i am far more concerned with north america’s racism, its antiblackness, the world’s antiblackness, the world’s colonialist westernization which has made lgbt rights a global issue in the first place in addition to the fight for mere sovereignty. i am worried about the global hegemony the US takes the helm of, the forces of capitalism and the consumerism first world citizens complacently endorse every day, the further and further extension of capitalist surveillance, drone technology, militarized police, and literal murder robots. i am worried about the mere commodification of human interaction through corporate social networks and the modern forces of gentrification which function as a legalized domestic colonialism. these are all the things cyberpunk has, in a general sense, grappled with, and most importantly it has asserted two ideas to its primarily young, western audience:
- The world is not the fantasy you were led to believe.
- You can push back against these systems and create your own narrative for existence.
these things, however, are all much more difficult to grasp than ‘LGBT rights!’. however, i don’t find myself particularly concerned with media trying not to hurt the feelings of those enjoying the benefits of a world order that oppresses the global south and domestic colonized groups. this type of revisionism isn’t cute so much as it is disrespectful to all who are oppressed (even yourself) and gives capitalists exactly what they want–a repackaging of serious, nuanced ideas into a simplified, nonthreatening and commodifiable message. consider the fate of punk, hip hop, or even the FACE of che guevara. consider how white, capitalist america is trying to control and distort the narrative of Black Lives Matter. i think we need difficult media.
to me, carrying the torch of a movement in media is not to carry with you its most superficial features, but to make an effort to deeply internalize its perspectives and its goals and reinterpret them in a way which fits the world we live in right now. where is the media about black resistance against a mechanized police force in neocolonial america? where is the media about drone horrors and robot infantry carrying out the capitalist agenda of an international oligarchy? where is the media about being forced into the shadows in a world dominated by mass surveillance? arguably, these works already exist, they predicted with a pulp lens what is now our imminent reality. so what are we doing about it?