Link: The WELL: Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2008.
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inkwell.vue.317 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2008
#2 of 19: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 1 Jan 08 04:07
Well, we were off to a rocking start here in Torino when New Years Eve
was cancelled for 2008. Instead of fireworks, booze and public
hijinks, the Mayor commissioned a solemn march of mourning for seven
laborers who have died in a local industrial accident.
So I was out on the streets last night... they were eerie. The only
people hitting the bottle and partying were the local Arabs, who were
blasting rai music and throwing glass and fireworks out of their
tenement windows... There were also a few puzzled tourists who didn't
seem to get the last-minute bulletin.
The rest of the population seemed to fall in line as one with the
wishes of the Mayor and the Archbishop. They just shuttered the show,
end of story.
You always hear tell from other Italians that the Turinese are a
solemn, reserved and disciplined lot.... I wrote that story off
because, by American standards, it's hard to find any fraction of the
Italian populace that comes across as genuinely solemn and reserved.
But to cancel New Years -- even cancel *private parties* -- is really a
surprising and impressive gesture.
So: instead of starting 2008 with some bubbly orgy of prosecco and
lambrusco, I went home and I started work on a new short story. This
is the only time in my 53-year lifespan that I spent New Years' Eve
And you know, I think I may be better off for it. Here in Italy, I
learn something new every day.
Nation-states seem bewildered by the contemporary political and
economic climate. Still, there are lots of urban areas that seem
lively. New York looks downright dynamic. There are a lot of words to
describe Los Angeles, but "quaint" certainly isn't one of them.
Here in Italy the national government is the despair of the populace
(to judge by the press coverage), but Torino's got a lot going on as
an urban center. They're not going to lead in national politics -- at
least, I don't *think* so -- but in terms of grabbing an aging, vacant,
screwed-up industrial infrastructure and retrofitting it successfully
for new conditions, Torino really *does* lead. Torino's full of
I don't think anybody wants to become a Chinese Communist any more --
except for a few cocaine-crazed Maoist weirdos in the Andes -- but
there really does seem to be a Chinese model-of-development now. In
the Balkans, in Europe, you can see it at work. It's very
street-level, very under-the-legal-radar -- it comes out of car trunks
and off the backs of bicycles, and the labels are dodgy and its all
sold for the "china-price."
Torino's got the biggest outdoor market in Europe, a place called the
"Porta Palazzo" -- Chinese, Rumanian emigres, Arabs, a few Nigerians
and Eritreans and such... the economic vitality there is awesome.
Turin is a chilly, Alpine-foothill kind of place... and there are a lot
of poor people here, mostly the emigres... yet *nobody is cold.*
Nobody's blue and shivering. Because they're all warmly dressed, in
new, cheap, Chinese clothes. Boots, hats, gloves, mufflers, they're
Ragged clothes were the signature of poverty for centuries. That
former reality is just gone now. The fancier clothes here are also
made in China, but with more IP protection. I don't know if that's
"leadership" -- but it sure is transformative.