Today, I was sitting around reading the paper while I was having my breakfast and I happened upon an article in the New York Times from April 18th that I just got around to reading today in their Arts and Leisure Section (It takes me a while to get through a Sunday edition of the Times).
The leading story is about the powers of globalization and how it’s power is being resisted by the very forces expected to squelch difference and promote cultural homogenization. Things like the internet and cable TV, once thought would bring the world together and promote a sort of cultural global norm, has to some extent succeeded in doing that, but the reaction to it has also been the return to localism, tribalism, and subcultures.
The article, called Do-It-Yourself Culture, never explicitly mentions Steampunk, but I thought it a very significant explanation as to why Steampunk exists, why it is gaining in popularity, and why I personally believe that Steampunk will be a powerful subculture for the foreseeable future.
Steampunk economics and politics places high importance on the ability of the individual to conquer the behemoth multinational corporations that attempt to feed us mass-produced garbage made through the exploitative labor of overseas workers (who, mind you, often live and work in deplorable conditions). That’s why I love Etsy and Instructables; it gives us the power as Steampunks to choose a more ethical and greener path to direct our economic power.
Steampunk is about more than just what you buy, though. It’s a subgroup highly influenced by it’s rebellion against authority and it’s respect for, but not reverence of, the past. As a retro-futuristic movement, we can take those gems of Victorian society like fashion and etiquette and integrate them into a modern world where we understand the evils of racism, sexism, homophobia, and imperialism. Imperialism is a key idea here, because many would argue that globalization is just a new word for cultural imperialism. And to me, the reaction to that fact is why the world is more fractured than it ever was.
Steampunk had its supposed peak in the 1980’s. But I an assure you that the internet and its wealth of information is only fueling the fires of the the current Steampunk Renaissance. The demand to conform that globalization has pressed on all of us has resurrected Steampunk and the rebellious spirit in us all.