The flipside of postnationalism

Paul Raven @ 14-03-2011

Tim Maly has an interesting (and enviable) response to being insanely busy with non-blog stuff, in that he ends up posting more material than usual. (I know, right?) Granted they’re small idea-sketches and think-nuggets, but given that Maly can fit ten times the erudition into a few hundred words than I can squeeze into a whole week, well, I’m not complaining. Anyways, here he is thinking about the fluidity of city boundaries and identity:

The interesting thing about cities (not city-states) is that while they are clearly entities, they do not have borders. They bleed and blur around the edges. It’s very easy to come and go. It’s very easy to move there or to move away. In a political context where every now and then people like to trumpet post-national politics with a rise in urban power to match the drop in state power, this is very interesting. Once you have crossed the borders of the state (the ones that aren’t police states) you get free reign to come and go as you please from place to place; something that can have wonderful or disastrous consequences for the health of an urban environment and the people left behind.

[…]

In some ways this opens up a lot of exciting possibilities but in other ways it weakens civic engagement. Sometimes reforms are necessary and painful. A lot of the problems we’re facing are at a scale that’s larger than the city, but that if cities are the new seats of power that we must deal with tools at city-scale. If your opposition to a policy means you just move a county over to avoid it, policies are harder to enact. If you don’t want to pay taxes, you move to a bedroom community and rob the the infrastructure of life-giving dollars. But the problems don’t happen county by county. They happen all over.

This seems to me to be another failure of the nation-state model: circumstances vary too widely and too quickly for a centralised governance system to cope, and the variation is getting stronger and faster. I have a tendency to cheer-lead the decay of the nation-state (oh, really, you’d noticed?), but this is the dark underside of that process – there’s still a lot of issues that need sorting on a regional or global scale, and a general narrowing of focus to local issues will leave those problems out in the cold. And given the number – and weight! – of those problems, ignoring them even temporarily is not a very good idea.


Did Australian aborigines reach the Americas first?

Paul Raven @ 01-10-2010

I believe it’s been demonstrated that Iceland-based Vikings may have set foot on the Americas long before Europeans, and there was that theory a while ago (which has been steadfastly derided by historians ever since) that a Chinese fleet visited the New World in 1421, but this discovery – if it turns out to be valid – pretty much knocks those into a cocked hat. Human remains discovered in Florida, Chile and Brazil in the mid-seventies, estimated to be over 11,000 years old, have finally been fully reconstructed… and they turn out to have “cranial features distinctive of Australian Aborigines”.

The oldest of the skeletal remains, dubbed Luzia, are of a young woman who died in her twenties and was ceremonially buried in a cave complex in Central Brazil. She was among a large collection of material first uncovered in 1975 by a Brazilian-French archaeological team, who disbanded in acrimony after the sudden death of its leader.

The remains were not examined until he late 1990s by a group led by Walter Neves of the University of Sao Paulo, who was surprised to discover that Luzia’s skull looked sharply different from the Mongoloid cranial morphology distinctive of people of East and North Asian origin and of Native Americans.

A reconstruction of her face by British forensic experts, based on her skull and its distinctive characteristics, shows Luzia had a cranial morphology almost identical to Australian Aborigines.

There’s a jonbar point just waiting for an alt-history trilogy to be pegged to it… though you’ll want to get in there quick, before the New Agers jump the bandwagon and start explaining how cherrypicked pieces of Mayan and Aztec mythology matched up with the Dreamtime narratives point ineluctably to a horde of angels imminently ushering in the long-awaited Age of Aquarius, while Antarctica melts to reveal the long-lost continent of Atlantis and the aliens arrive to save us from ourselves*.

[ * Yeah, I’ve read a lot of those sorts of books; does it show? ]


Server migration completed

Paul Raven @ 09-08-2010

Hi folks; just a quick public service announcement to say that I repointed Futurismic‘s domain name to a new server yesterday, and that the migration appears to have taken without a glitch (touch wood). If you notice anything janky or broken, please let us know… but hopefully all you should notice are the things that finally work the way they were always meant to, such as proper 404 pages for broken links, images loading properly, reasonable page load times, contact forms that actually function as advertised, and so on.

It’s a move I should perhaps have made long ago, but the webmasters among you are probably aware of just how true the old “devil you know” adage can be when it comes to hosting companies. But on the strong recommendation of a few friends in the business, I’m now working with an outfit called 34SP, and if they can maintain the level of service they’ve shown so far, it’ll have been the best decision I’ve made in years*.

Enjoy!

[ * To be fair, some of my bigger decisions of the last eighteen months make that an easy contest, but so it goes. ]


Migration controls: the new apartheid?

Paul Raven @ 07-01-2009

border control signIf you pay attention to the tabloid media in the US and the UK, you’ll be familiar with the idea that immigration is a terrible problem that must be stemmed at all cost, with hordes of desperate foreigners waiting beyond our borders to steal away scraps of our hard-earned prosperity and run our public services into the ground. [image by mockstar]

According to Fred Pearce of New Scientist, however, there’s another way of looking at the present system which doesn’t portray those of us in the richest nations as the victims: it’s a form of legitimised apartheid.

It has always struck me as odd that we are so keen to allow the flow of cash and goods across borders without let or hindrance, but try so hard to deny the same rights to people. That is both unfair and a denial of the free-market theories on which much of the world’s economy is built.

Surely if free trade and the free movement of capital is so good for an efficient global economy, then the same should apply to the free movement of labour?

I can’t see the fault in that logic. And for the apostles of the free market to deny it reeks to me of racism and xenophobia. Worse, the stench is disguised by a cheap perfume of do-gooding development theory and environmental hand-wringing.

Pearce goes on to suggest that strict border controls actually give us what we really want – economic disparity, and an easily cowed pool of illegal immigrant labour to do the jobs that no citizen will take for the money we’re willing to pay.

There are definitely some big holes in Pearce’s theory behind the rhetoric, but he’s also pointing at some rather uncomfortable truths. So here’s your challenge for the comments: argue against Pearce without falling back on arguments such as “why not make your own country as great as the one you want to move to”, and without making sweeping generalisations about people based on their race or nationality. Go!


Fiction submissions closed temporarily

Paul Raven @ 18-07-2008

Well, it looks like the migration is complete, though the RSS feed seems to be lagging a bit – I expect it’ll all settle down soon. I’m hoping you’ll notice greater reliability and uptime from Futurismic at its new home!

So, the regular contact form is active again for your tips and enquiries. However, we’re keeping the fiction submissions page closed for a week or two to let hard-workin’ fiction editor Chris East trawl his way through the slush pile and get himself caught up.

So, if you were about to send something in, you’ve got time for a final rewrite – run through the guidelines one last time, why not?

Finally, if you notice anything broken on the site, please drop us a line and let us know. Otherwise, it looks like we’re back in business!