Mortal Engines and Seattle

BBC 7 is currently dramatizing the anti-capitalist post-apocalyptic young adult’s book “Mortal Engines”.

The gist of it is this: (from Wikipedia)

The novels are set in a postapocalyptic world ravaged by a nuclear conflict known as the Sixty Minute War, which caused the loss of much technological and scientific knowledge. Following the war, the world suffered a period of immense geological upheaval, in which volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis harrased surviving human settlements.

To survive these phenomena, Traction Cities were invented: enormous, mobile cities which could escape dangerous areas. Naturally these huge cities required vast amounts of fuel, and quickly began to strip the world of its natural resources. After some time, as resources dwindled, a system called Municipal Darwinism was devised, in which cities began to “eat” smaller cities and towns, by chasing them, dragging them inside and melting them down for fuel and materials.

Those opposed to the concept of Traction Cities and Municipal Darwinism formed the Anti-Traction League, which sought to restore the Earth to its former ecology. The league holds sway in Asia and much of Africa.

Wikipedia: Hungry City Chronicles

The pretence of the mobile cities reminds me of GE chairman Jack Welch’s assertion that the ideal factory would be dragged around in a barge to wherever wages were lowest. Darwinian capitalism has actually advanced to directly consume not only the material but also human resources.

Back in 2001, when Mortal Engines was published, demonstrations against the WTO, the World Bank, and other institutions of corporate globalization were occurring every year. The first of these, was Seattle in 1991 came as a shock to boosters and opponents of free trade. There was no discernable counter-argument in the media.

The November 1 issue of Fortune magazine declared Jack Welch, “Manager of the Century.” On November 30 the protests at the surrounding the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 occured in Seattle.

I’ve linked to a contemporary report by Jeff Crosby of IUE 201 in Willmington, Mass. Jack Welch is still milking his reputation for riding a wave, with books about the managerial revolution. Of course you could write a children’s book about the exploits of Jack Welch, but

Alger’s characters do not typically achieve extreme wealth, but middle-class security, stability, and solidity of reputation — that is, their efforts are rewarded with a place in society, not domination of it
Wikipedia: Horatio Alger

The point being that the exertions of the protesters got transmuted into something lasting, while Welch’s books won’t be read much after the managerial revolution has served its purpose (children being more conservative readers than middle managers, middle managers being less sentimental than children).

Mortal Engines

The third of about a dozen 10 minutes segments is here: Mortal Engines (will open in Real Player)

The site for BBC online scifi is here: The 7th Dimension
Articles on Welch and Corporate Globalization

Welch’s March to the South: As GE pressures suppliers to shift to Mexico, unions dig in
Businessweek Online

December 6, 1999 Issue

The Kids Are Alright….
[Report on the 1999 Seattle WTO demonstrations]

Jeff Crosby President of IUE Local 201 at the GE plant in Lynn and Ametek Aerospace in Wilmington, Mass.
December 6, 1999

Surrendering the Shop Floor Means Surrendering the Future
by Charley Richardson
Labor Notes
October 2004


Posted on December 12, 2006, in BBC, Politics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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