January 23, 2010

POWER WATCH: WHY SATIRE IS DEAD

What I find most sickening is the hypocrisy of everything relating to Haiti. Sure, people around the world are trying to give money, now that we can see the worn out and dust-covered faces of cute brown children with big, pleading eyes (and don't get me wrong, it is horrible what happened, and we should help). But before the earthquake, you could buy a child in Haiti for roughly 10 bucks, because – as horrid as it sounds – that was the only "natural resource" the poor people there had, they're easy to "produce" and they are easier to sell, and could somebody please tell me how that is not slavery? And while the lucky ones got picked up to become adopted children, a lot of them wound up, sliced, diced, remember, this is what 9.99 will get you, not a problem, all this for 9,99, they wound up in parts on the international organ donor markets for rich people. Same is happening in China, by the way.

I remember when Gibson wrote about this in some of his early cyberpunk novels, thinking "That is a bit far-fetched, isn't it?"

What worries me as a human being and as a writer is that.... satire is dead. We have literally reached the point of Swift's essay on how to fight the Irish famine, and I can't even begin to extrapolate to where we are headed as a species.

When I wrote my spec Reality Check in 2000 pushing the whole reality TV thing to its logical and horrifying conclusion, I thought to myself, well, this is funny, but it's a bit far-fetched. I look at reality TV today, 10 years later, and the reality has passed my satire by, has sped up so much that my script is a tiny speck in its rearview. It frightens me.

Case in point is for example the incredibly ludicrous plot in Bond's Quantum of Solace, where the whole point was that an international consortium tried to get the entire control of a country's water supply ... and then your realise it has already happened!

In the real world. With barely anybody raising an eyebrow.
" Cochabamba put its water system up for auction in 1999. Only one bidder showed up. The company, called Aguas del Tunari, a division of the large American construction firm Bechtel, promised to expand water service. In exchange the contract guaranteed the company a 15-17% profit.

Two months after taking over the water system, Aguas del Tunari raised the water rates. People, resentful and angry, took to the streets in protest. One of their leaders was Oscar Olivera, a long-time union activist. He and others tapped into the anger many Bolivians feel about their country's long history of political corruption and foreign domination.

"Everyone was protesting, everyone," journalist Luis Bredow tells Finnegan. "I've never seen anything like it in Bolivia. Housewives were throwing stones at the police. It really was a revolt."

Although a major American corporation was at the center of the conflict, not a single U.S. newspaper had a reporter on the scene. But news of the uprising was reaching a worldwide audience through the Internet, thanks to Jim Shultz, an American activist living in Cochabamba. Shultz shows Finnegan how he organized an e-mail campaign to pressure Bechtel to leave town.

The company finally withdrew and the uprising subsided.

But did anyone really win the water war?

Aguas del Tunari filed suit against the Bolivian government asking for $25 million in compensation. The case is being heard in Washington D.C., in an arbitration court run by the World Bank.

The water warriors who ousted Bechtel took control of the water system, vowing to run it as a human right, not as a commodity. But without new investment, they have been unable to improve or expand service.

Neither the government, nor the World Bank appears willing to help them."

And not only does this happen in the back corners of the world, it happened in London, too.... sold their community water production, and now there are houses in London, where nobody above the third floor can get tap water, since the new owners decreased the water pressure, because lower pressure means less maintenance, means more profit.

In Germany, the energy providers refuse to pay their share to excavate a "final storage" (a saline mine)... because the barrels are breaking apart (well, cheaper barrels, bury them in salt, but with air coming in contact with the barrels... and they WON'T rust? Did nobody listen in Chem 101?). And yet, our corrupt government lets the same companies continue their nuclear plants forever. It's better than printing money, since that allows the companies to sell their Cap & Trade for even more money...

*sigh*

I really wish I was dumber. A lot dumber. Then none of this would matter to me, I'd get drunk, fuck around and watch telly.