A couple of years ago I sat down and tried to write a description of what Steampunk was as a sub-culture, or more precisely, what I thought it could be. I filled half a moleskine with my scribblings before I decided the whole exercise was hubris, folly, and not particularly fun.
However, as part of my research I read a couple of histories of the Punk rock movement as well as several books suggested to me by friends as influential in their lives. The Punk rock histories brought back fond memories of High School, and while I was more into New Wave and Synth Pop back then, the energy of the Punks infused and informed much of the music and culture of the time. I enjoyed the nostalgia.
But the books suggested to me that had the biggest impact were those from the CrimethInc ExWorker’s Collective. In particular Days of War, Nights of Love. Without going into great detail, Days is a exhortation to examine your life, to question your assumptions, and to act on the answers. It’s about autonomy and anarchy and a large portion of Days is criticism of capitalism and it’s negative effects on our lives. Days is from gut, and you feel that the CrimethInc folks got it mostly right.
Rushkoff’s book, on the other hand, is a rigorous history of the origins of the corporation and central monetary systems and how they self-propagate and suborn us to "their" needs. Whether you view Capitalism as our best hope for prosperity or the greatest evil the world has ever known, Life, Inc. will give you insight into how capital has it’s own agenda, and how it affects the ways in which we relate to each other.
Rushkoff is not anti-business, anti-commerce, or even anti-corporation, per se. But he makes the case, to me at least, that the choice of our particular ‘flavor’ of money has had deep and lasting effects on society and that there are other ways to represent value and different choices we can make in our daily lives that are practical, beneficial, and compatible. Ultimately, it is a hopeful book.
Attempting to tie this back into my own particular DIY version of Steampunk, let me remind you that money is a tool. When wielded with skill and understanding it can do a great deal of good, but wielded incompetantly, with evil intent, or simply because the user see the tool as end rather than means, it can hurt and even kill. RTFM. Here’s the manual.
Douglas Rushkoff mixing it up with Steven Colbert: