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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Smart cities're coming. FVEY and C4 (command, control, communications, computers) wanna sink their tentacles into everything.

A pedestrian underpass was, I recall, a place in which a busker's cap guaranteed enough coinage for the week. The white aggregate was battlespace for young graffiti artists to "out tag" opposing crews. Walls ricocheted with the sound of footsteps. And if the sun was bouncing-bright, all you'd see were silhouettes of Palaeolithic males or women whose bearing was peppery. The odd cyclist zoomed through. Plus a holler, always a holler from a high-pitched toddler; overjoyed by the delay of their own echo. A sense of urbanism followed you - heightened by such short-lived circumambiency - then wide open space led to more arterial walkways.


But no longer does WALKING cut the mustard. Mothballing the old trend is Segway's nippier range of upgrades. And rest assured, their improved torque ratios don't hurl you into walls anymore. To fit the growing demand, civil engineering has begun to reshape the inner-city topography. Linking all sub-routes to shopping plazas, is an ice-cream-scooped zone; a sort of off-world skate park facsimile. "It's all about easy-peasy-ing around," says Ninebot, owner of Segway Inc. (Gone're the yuppie connotations reponsible for alienating the brand.)


The corps diplomatique of city planners and borough councils've joined forces with master builders - visionaries who wax philosophical about the "Zen of Bauhaus." Mass urban regeneration will dictate that the existing infrastructure undergo new load-bearing challenges for structural engineering. Megastructures of "high-density living" are, as one public relations guru spouted:"Gonna replace street-after-terraced-street of old housing stock." Even listed properties - once under the aegis of English Heritage - are all EARMARKED FOR DEMOLITION. A socio-cultural upheaval is, concerned pychologists say, bound to sway an individual's daily behavioural repertoire. I guess a Soviet Bloc high-rise is hardly a fitting substitute for one's established surroundings. The money classes, though, want their gated communities.


The problem with transforming a vast area anglicized in tradition is that folks RESENT CHANGE. But Jedem Das Seine wasn't, as they say, built in a day . . . though many uncounted for were disappeared from dusk till dawn. Anyway the legislature does a sterling job of stonewalling the hue and cry. Petitions - thousands of them - are shredded. And the girlies at the Bell System switchboard are told to paint their nails . . . selective hearing at a telephone exchange - the brush-off? Nah, wouldn't happen.


Managing the Joycean stream-of-stonemasonry, is culture minister, Fitz Lavigne: a sarong-wearing libertine with a social psychology degree! All retail, office and prime locations are, explains Lavigne, going to carry the capital theme of "petrified metamorphosis." Surface texture of mere stone will, he adds, swirl with cryptographic meaning. Daresay, if I'd granted him more time, he'd've bored me with VT testimonials: members of the citizenry wholeheartedly endorsing the "admixture of the arts."


In the offing are plenty of flyover monorails and automated trams. And "iris recognition" will be the universal norm for speedy drive-thru transactions . . . quarter pounder with double fries to go! Dunno, what do you say to all this creeping tech - to the intraurban grid of fibre optics feeding the Nucleus? There's something of the Radiodifussion Nationale - something two-faced about all the topside feng shui. Radio FM broadcasting already names-and shames idiocentric people railing against the Singularity, with its own Entartete Kunst of the airwaves. There was canned laughter from deejay and sound producer. It's a comedy act, you know, these radio shows. And the sample I heard went like this . . . there's a caller on the line with a difference of opinion. Folks, should we cut him off or let him have his say? Sorry, buddy, we gotta go. Sound that swanee whistle!!!


An affront to local authorities/property developing consortiums, is a recurring slogan sprayed on walls: I HAVE SEEN THE FNORDS. Could it be, p'raps, that the "social betterment" aspect of urban renewal has left a sour taste with aerosol activists. Many have, it seems, glimpsed a monolingual society: one language of "common consent." This out-group has reservations, you'd expect, with the kind of generic consensus or "mass PC-ing" of Smart-monitored citizens. It's a race against time. Teams of men in high-visibility jackets're contracted to jet-wash any municipal surface bearing graffiti.


There must be thousands of Portakabins - thrice-stacked (replete with vapour-compression air con) overseeing building contracting developments of numerous kinds. Gesticulating from their aluminum balconies're the usual site managers and quantity surveyors: the moot being "timeframes" regarding structural steelwork and reinforced-concrete-pouring. Principal contractor GKL Building & Civil Engineering LTD, will undertake the "rebirth of the metropolis." Seen from a dizzying aerial shot, the centripetal design is really a panoptican - although you'd have to be the height of a drone to see the corresponding dimensions.


A glass elevator took me to the crow's nest of a multi-storey car park. The city has forty more in the pipeline. And all are being designed by sukiya-zukuri architect Fronq Yimou. Each tier brings to life the mythology of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon - goateed with Yimou's transgenic herbs and perennials. In stark contrast to my floral belvedere, is a panorama of machines shovelling terra firma all the way to the horizon. When you realize two-thirds of the city is still in utero, the single-celled genesis sends a shiver down your spine . . .


So how does one's inner-counsel remonstrate with all those hulking yellows, all those mechanical excavators, bulldozers, earthmovers - all sharing the workload with skyline of tower cranes? You don't. Progress carries on regardless: armatures of rebar wait to be clad by the concrete-mixing industry; with scaffolding firms and tradesmen adding the finishing touches. The labour force kicks up a Sahara-like haze of dust and carbon emissions? Cartoonist Ralph Steadman would, I'm sure, give us an oil slick of intertextuality. And kids're the first to spot the homogeneity with some of their gaming favourites - how sculptured en routes are being verbed: PlayStationed. Life plagiarizes art.


The thrum of modernity uses aesthetics to instill "group consonance" and "etiquette hygiene." A Big Society, remember, is a genteelized entity. And the changing landscape with its pleasing ornamentation is a segue; one spiralling towards capitalisme de surveillance!

Submitted: March 30, 2021

© Copyright 2023 Jobe Rubens. All rights reserved.

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Come on, it's not all bad!!

This is like Jonathan Turner Meades has a scabrous alter ego let loose on Booksie!

Tue, March 30th, 2021 5:56pm

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