Viridian days

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Thu Jan 06 2000 - 06:19:10 MST


Many of you have probably seen Bruce Sterling's 3/1/2000 manifesto by
now. (If anyone asks me I'll repost it to the list; it's a bit long,
though ...)

I subscribed to the mailing list. There's a lot more out there than
Chairman Bruce's initial public manifesto made clear. In a nutshell,
he's trying to set up a new (art|environmental|political|ideological)

Axioms of Viridianism (as I understand it):

* Viridianism comes with an expiry date: 1-December-2012. (This is to
  avoid the "is cyberpunk dead, yet?" problem; as Sterling says,
  anyone who _still_ doesn't get it by then is going to be unreachable.)

* It's very concerned with the environment,


* It explicitly reject irrationalism, superstition, and anti-technological

* As a civilization, we have a major carbon dioxide abuse problem. We
  need to work out how to deal with this. (NOTE: no hint of anti-
  nuclear or anti-space sentiment here. This ain't your usual green
  politics.) In particular, we need to deal with the entrenched industries
  and interest groups that make short-term profit at the expense of shitting
  in their own back yard.

* Leave the teen-agers and kids alone; this is a movement for old folks
  who feel some responsibility for the world they live in.

* Cops and soldiers are our friends. Terrorists are not. Forget the
  underground romanticism of traditional subversive organisations. The
  goal of Viridianism is not to emulate the Black Panthers but to
  fundamentally change the framework of political debate over the next
  decade: if the police are going to be arresting people at the end of
  this period it won't be us, it'll be the polluters we oppose.

* All movements need a handy opposition, which is why we're picking on
  polluters. (Cynical self-conscious admission that, well, the movement
  exists because it's a movement, as well as to follow its goals.)

Other axioms that came out of the manifesto:

* Forget isms and ideologies -- they're twentieth-century hokum that
  doesn't work. Instead, pick whatever works and run with it.

* Technology is cool. Change is cool. The future is overlapping and
  increasingly rapid waves of change.

* The first decade of the 21st century is going to be a lot like the
  first decade of the 20th century, psychologically and culturally;
  the big bugaboo will be environmental damage and global warming 2.0
  which supersedes the imperialist militarism 1.0 release which brought
  us world war one.


I find this fascinating -- it's the first sign of a green ideology
emerging that isn't implicitly, or explicitly, entropian. Not that I'd
have expected entropy from Bruce, who's a sizzling powerhouse of ideas,
but I'm so used to seeing environmentalist-based ideas corrupted by the
dreadful streak of pessimism about human potential that runs through
most green politics that an _optimistic_ techno-green movement comes as
a welcome surprise.

As far as I can see, Viridianism runs orthogonally to some extropian
currents -- it says nothing about transhumanism and it's not
pro-libertarian, but neither is it opposed to life extension research
or AI, and it explicitly eschews existing political ideologies as
prescriptive strait-jackets. And, as befits the new century, it's a
disposable movement that comes with a built-in expiry date. (If global
warming isn't an established issue in politics at every level by 2012,
either it doesn't exist -- pack up bags, go home, say "sorry, I was
wrong" -- or it's going to take more than a cultural movement to put it
on the table.)

Why do I have this weird, creepy feeling that, in combination with
extropian ideas leaking out into the general media, we are seeing a sea-
change in the ideological underpinnings of our culture? On the way out
go deep green "original sin" ideologies ("we must stop breeding and go
back to subsistence agriculture and bashing each other on the head with
ricks, for we are sinful and can only destroy the environment"),
totalitarian ideologies (communism, fascism: both assert "we own your
body, we control human nature" -- communism being class-based and fascism
being state- or race-based). In come new ideas, fighting to make headway
against an increasingly bureaucratic, control-oriented, disengaged


-- Charlie

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