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أويلبنك 

 كويت 

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BOTZWANA 2012

updated 2019

ク ウ  ェ  ー  ト  オ  イ  ル  パ  ン  ク

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You · are · reading · the · uncensored · version · [[unless· it's · been · hacked]].

Music: · You · can · listen · to · Jean · Baudrillard · singing · his · poem · "Motel · Suicide" · accompanied · by · the · punk · group · The · Chance · Band · by · clicking · here:

 

Some · call · it · Petrolpunk · or · Petropunk · , · but · I · call · it · Oilpunk. · No · matter ·

 how · you · call · it · , · Oilpunk · is · an · idealized · version · of · an · oil · based · 

society · making · use · of · brassy · visceral · machines · covered · with · oily · 

grime. · Bearded · individuals · drive · through · the · digestive · apparatus · of · 

the · Oilpunk · universe. Their · white · clothes · never · get · dirty · , · and

· their · superpowered · futuristic · vehicles · never · touch · the · ground. · This · 

place · does · indeed · exist. · Welcome · to · Kuwait.

In · the · 1980s · · · science · fiction · sub-

branch · called · Cyberpunk · developed · · cynical · form · of · dystopianism · by · depicting · the · fusion · of · high · technology · and · low · life · in · post-industrial · urban · contexts. · What · started · with · William · Gibson's · Neuromancer · and · novels · by · Bruce · Sterling · and · Bruce · Bethke · , · became · not · only · · literary · genre · but · also · an · aesthetic · code · popularized · by · movies · such · as · Blade · Runner · and · The · Matrix. · The · latter · came · along · in · greenish · dark · tones · of · dampened · neon · light · and · · material · universe · made · of · retro-futuristic · items · such · as · industrial · ruins · , · disk · telephones · · and · worn · leather · office · chairs. ¶

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I · do · not · find · Blade · Runner’s · slummy · urban · landscapes · in · Tokyo's · glistening ·

Times · Square · or · in · Berlin's · Sony · Center · [[two · places · that · are · normally · quoted · as · typical · cyberpunk · addresses]] · , · but · in · the · district · of · Kuwait · called · Salmiya · where · I · am · currently · living. · Though · rainy · nights · and · humid · sidewalks · are · absent · [[simply · because · there · is · neither · rain · nor · sidewalks]] · , · there · are · many · reasons · why · Kuwait · should · be · seen · as · the · noir · version · of · the · Middle · East. ¶

Nothing · could · be · more · opposed · to · the

· sterile · New · World · atmosphere · of · Dubai· , · which · is· a · "Disneyland · with · the · death · penalty." · [1] · Nothing · could · be · more · opposed · to · the · disastrous · images · that · reach · us · from · many · other · places · in · the · Middle · East · either. · In · Salmiya · , · peoples' · existence · transcends · both · the · preppily · optimistic · and · the · grittily · pessimistic · because · protagonists · are · too · thrilled · by · their · petro-dollar · enhanced · boredom. · The · constellation · covers · more · or · less · accurately · the · definition · of · cyberpunk. · Salmiya · is · not · a · postmodern · shopping · center · but · the · Arab · version · of · Gibson's · imagined · Tokyo-Chiba · where · gangs · of · nonchalant · youths · on · drugs · plough · the · area · with · their · motorcycles. · Just · like · Gibson's · Chiba · , · which · is · an · international · synthetic · city · built · outside · Tokyo · in · a · dystopian · Japan · , · Salmiya · , · located · fifteen · kilometers · from · Kuwait's · city · center · , · has · been · created · for · expats · after · the · damaged · country's · liberation · from · invading · Iraq. ¶

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The · word · 'punk' · suggests · the ·

articulation · of · an · anarchic · behavior · of · post-industrial · youths. · In · cyberpunk · it · does · not · result · in · politically · motivated · counter-cultural · actions · , · but · rather · in · a · consumer-oriented · teenage · anomie · propelled · by · high-tech · development · , · a · phenomenon · that · was · first · observed · in · Japan. · Cyberpunk · can · be · defined · as · a-political · nihilism. · ¶

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The · shaded · young · males · crisscrossing · my · neighborhood · in · the · early · morning · hours

· are · definitely · technically · well-equipped · as · they · speed · their · Ferraris · and · Aston · Martins · and · pile · up · their · iPhones · on · restaurant · tables · [[Kuwait · has · the · highest · rate · of · smartphone · use · in · the · world]]. · Like · Gibson's · characters · , · they · are · fascinated · with · style · and · surfaces. · Profundity · is · suspect · in · this · postmodern · universe: · cyberpunk · is · pure · attitude. ¶

Knowledge · is · equally · suspect. · Like ·

true · punks · , · those · Ferrari · hipsters · don't · need · to · know · how · to · play · the · instruments · they · perform · with · ; · they · simply · go · – · just · for · the · thrill · of · it. · And · indeed · , · Salmiya · provides · plenty · of · thrills: · gay · people · in · SUVs · hunting · down · young · boys · by · the · dozen · ; · Philippine · prostitutes · in · burkas · ; · pink · lighted · brothels · in · unassuming · apartment · blocks · where · you · are · led · by · following · a · white · rabbit · ; · unassuming· ; · Marathon · rave · parties · in · so-called · "party · apartments" · out · of · which · herds · of · niquabed · women · stream · in · the · late · morning · hours. · Or· , · if · nothing · helps· , · there · is · still · the · ale · XxXXgksirx · down · by · Tannhäuser · Gate. ¶

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Salmiya has become a lieu littéraire through Craig Loomis' book The Salmiya Collection.

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In · Blade · Runner · , · Harrison · Ford · overhears · the

· new · Asian-European · street · patois · while · slurping · his · noodles · at · a · grimy · noodle · stand. · He · understands · that · this · is · the · language · of · the · future. · In · Kuwait · the · affluent · youth · speaks · a · mixture · of · basic · Americanized · English · and · a · local · Gulf · dialect · that · remains · rather · incomprehensible · for · people · from · most · other · Arab · countries. · Matrix-style · leather · coats · have · been · exchanged · against · the · impeccably · white · dishdasha · , · the · traditional · ankle-length · robe · worn · by · males · all · over · the · Gulf. · The · Orient · of · yesterday · incorporates · the · Orient · of · today, · or · the · Third · World · is · recreated · inside · the · First · World · and · vice · versa. ¶

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Instead · of · hacking · into · global · computer · networks · , · those · cyberpunks · are ·

smoking · the · shisha · [[water · pipe]]. · What · they · share · with · cyberpunks · is · the · love · of · speed · as · well · as · the · conviction · that · quasi · everything · in · this · world · can · be · easily · and · quickly · accessed · without · much · effort. · Kuwaitis · will · not · get · wired · to · a · computer · , · like · Neo · in · The · Matrix · , · to · be · programmed · , · in · an · act · of · "extreme · learning" · , · into · a · Kung · Fu · master · in · a · matter · of · seconds. · Their · patented · approach · is · wasta · , · the · famous · "who · you · know" · favoritism, · which · , · just · like · "extreme · learning" · , · can · turn · you · into · almost · everything · within · seconds. ¶

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Here

In· one · of · these · towers · might

· sit · a· hacker· discovering · right · now · that · all · this · is· only · an · illusion. · He · will · try · to · free · us · of · our · mental · prison· , · but · the · doors · are · firmly · locked · by · oil · money. · In · reality · , · he · is · not · telling · us · anything · that · we · didn't · know · already. · We · simply· don't · want · to · quit · our matrix · [[think · of · The · Matrix's · Cypher]]. ¶

Blade · Runner’s · city · could· be

· anywhere · from · New · York · to · London’s · Canary · Wharf. · Salmiya · has · a · similar · feel · of · indistinct · urbanism. · And · because · it · can · be · anything · or · nothing · , · it · has · little · basis · in · reality. ¶

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A· few · other · things · make · Salmiya · typically

cyberpunk: · the · existence · of · towering · ,· god-like · mega-corporations · [[zaibatsu · in · Gibson's · terms]]· by · which· humans · are · turned · into · dwarfs · in · most · cyberpunk · novels · and · of · which · the · oil-driven · Kuwaiti · economy · is · a · cliché. · Third · , · a · punky · "No · Future" · slogan · lingers · over· the · entire · country · because · one · day · the · oil · will · run · out · , · and · the · exuberant · lifestyle · and · hyperdoped · economy · cannot · be · sustained. · Fourth · ,· there · is · the · already · mentioned · high · tech · aspect: · what · could · be · more· technologically · advanced · than · a · country · that · has · to · produce · all · of · its · water · in · factories? ¶

​·

 Salmiya in the   early   morning   hours 

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In · this · world · , · technology · thrives · without · having · to ·

face · any · "real · world" · ecological · pessimism · that · could · , · once · in · a · while · , · point · out · the · dangers · of · misdirected · technology. · Cyberpunks · are · neither · optimistic · nor · pessimistic · but · neutral. · Garbage · is · brought · into · the · desert · , · which · means · that · it · is · swept · under · the · Baudrillardian · mega-map · , · which · is · supposed · to · cover · , · just · like · a · carpet · , · the · entirety · of · the · real · world. 

 

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 An Oilpunk 

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 Water distillation plant 

Seven · million · tires · are · buried · in · Sulabiya · ,· creating · the · world's · largest ·

tire· graveyard · ,· which · can · even · be · seen · from · space. · In · the · early · 2010s · , · raw · sewage · had · been · funneled · off · into · the · sea · right · in · the · middle · of · the · city · for · years · because · the · maintenance · and · repair · of · the · water · purifying · plant · could · not · be · guaranteed. · In · theory · , · Kuwait's · urban · waste · management · could · raise · numerous · questions · about · the · government’s · ability · to · ensure · the · proper · disposal · of · thousands · of · tons · of · garbage · to · avoid · risks · taken · on · public · safety. · ¶

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 The world's largest tire graveyard in Sulaibiya 

The · World · Health · Organization · has · declared · Kuwait · the · tenth · most · polluted ·

country · in · the · world. · But · who · would · raise · such · questions · when · the · garbage · has · been · safely · deposited · underneath · the · map · on · which · we · are · living · , · that · is · , · when · it · has · simply · been · brought · out · into · the · "desert · of · the · real"? · It · is · exactly · here · , · at · Bnaider · in · the · desert · , · on · the · spooky · premises · of · the · former · American · military · base · that· the · Iraqi · army · had · transformed · into · a · neo-Gothic · ruin ,· that · we · find · a · monument · of · Baudrillard. · A · lucid · cyberpunk · wrote · on · a · bunker: · "Baudrillard · was · here." ¶

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This · is · the · fifth · point: · Kuwait ·

is · cyberpunk · because · of · the · dystopian · environment · in · which · it · is · embedded. · The · sixth · and · probably · most · important · point · establishing · Kuwait · as · a · Middle · Eastern · cyberpunk · enclave · is · its · particular · philosophy · of · urbanization. · In · 1970 · there · were · still · 113,400 · shanty · houses · in · Kuwait · and · Salmiya · was · a · fishing · village · with · "stick · architecture" · made · of · mango · poles · and · very · hard · Mangrove · wood · imported · from · Zanzibar. · Development · has · been · fast · and · sported · a · particularity. · The · real · estate · market · is · highly · speculative · and · buildings · are · not · renovated · but · left · to · decay · until · they · are · ready · for · demolition · and · new · buildings · can · be · erected · in · their · place. · It · takes · thirty · to · forty · years · for · a · building · to · be · so · run · down · that · brokers · decide · to · have · it · replaced. ¶

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Courtesy: Alia Farid

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 Flaneur in   Salmiya 

In · the · meantime · , · Asian · workers · , · this · third

· world · underclass · representing · the · main · workforce · in · the · Gulf · , · populate · those · ruins · , · swing · improvised · electricity · cables · from · house · to · house · , · insert · makeshift · cardboard · windows · , · and · fix · shaggy · balcony · railings. · In · the · Developing · World · ,· rural · immigrants · move · into · derelict · old· towns. · In · Kuwait · the · old · town · was · demolished · in · the · 1950s , · and · poor · immigrants · move · into · abandoned · houses · from · the · 1980s. · They · also · take · over · former · luxury · malls. · [2] · As · a · result · , · urban · subdivisions · become · less · distinct: · the · old · exists · next · to · the · new , the · poor · next · to · the · rich. 

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Like · in · Blade · Runner's · Los · Angeles · , · immigrants · represent · seventy · percent · of

· the · population. · In · Kuwait · it's · the · same. · In · the · homes · of · these · immigrants · we · might · find · a · dust-covered · disk · telephone · or · a · Matrix-style · chafed · leather · office · chair. · Or · a · typed · carbon · sheet · or · perhaps · even · dotmatrix · printing · paper. · Right · next · to · these · slums · stand · the · generic · gilded · luxury · apartment · blocks · complete · with · a · pink · pimp · sofa · in · the · lobby · and · a · mat-black · McLaren · blocking · the · entrance. · The · fusion · of · the · fragrance · of · Boss · aftershave · with · the · stench · of · overflowing · garbage · bins · is · unique · to · Salmiya. · No · isolated · barrios · or · favelas · like · in · South · America · but · perfect · cohabitation. · Social · borders · are · floating · like · a · scent. ¶

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Somebody · might · be · playing · Castle · Wolfenstein. 

Very · early · Kuwait · opted · against · the · concept · of ·

gated · communities · , · these · naked · embodiments · of · colonial · continuity. · Salmiya · is · the · perfect · archetype · of · postmodern · spacing · determined · by · the · fusion · of · levels · , · discontinuous · signifiers · , · and · the · explosion · of · boundaries. · While · abstract · Dubai · is · eagerly · investing · in · a · distant · future · by · building · a · functional · Disneyland · in · the · form · of · a · city · , · and · while · a · great · deal · of · the · third · world · still · emanates · concrete · elements · of · its · colonial · past · , · Salmiya · decided · upon · the · urban · model · of · cyberpunk · which · is · virtual. · Salmiya's · prototype · is · that · of · the · benign · but · anarchic · society · in · which · the · real · has · been · brought · "out · there" · , · safely · buried · in · the · desert. ¶​

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The · other · day · I · saw · the · head · of · a · live · cheetah · hanging · out · of · a ·

Maserati's · window. · Was · that · actually · a · real · one · or · an · android? 

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Iran

Iraq

Saudi Arabia

Kuwait

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In · 1983, · French · sociologist ·

Gilles· Lipovetsky · wrote · that · "casual · apathy · is · a · rampart · against · the bursts · of · religiosity." · [ع] · His · theory · cannot · be · applied · to · Salmiya.

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 "Oilpunk is Steampunk... 

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...that doesn't wash off"

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Chiba · City · blues · - · Salmiya · blues. · The · early · prayer · calls · , · simultaneously

· issued · from · all · powerful · speakers · attached · to · the · numerous · minarets · of · Salmiya · , · shroud · the · lawless · cityscape · into · an · air · of · illusion. · While · Kuwait · has · embraced · the · postmodern · discourse · of · radical · ambiguity · in · the · field · of · advertising · and · public · relations · and · offers · economic · conditions · more · ambiguous · and · virtualized · than · most · other · countries · , · a · religious · call · for · unequivocal · truth · , · values · , · and · knowledge · is · able · to · vibrate · in · the · same · space · and · at · the · same · time. · Or · are · the · prayer · calls · merely · another · series · of · speculative · signs · , · fluently · passing · into · the · virtual · world · of · Slumiya · - · sorry · , · Salmiya · - · thus · contributing · to · the · total · screen · called · "Kuwaiti · Reality"?

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​The · fascinating · thing · about · Blade · Runner · is · that· it · is · neither · entirely · utopian

· nor · entirely · dystopian. · Kuwait · is · exactly · the · same. 

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 In Salmiya luxury cars are... 

    parked among rubbish bins. 

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Here · comes · a · little · interlude. · In · 1960 · , · the · Kuwaiti · government · invited · Ian ·

Fleming · , · the · British · inventor · of · James · Bond · 007 · , · to · write · a · book · about · Kuwait. · He · stayed · for · three · weeks · because · it · was · “an · excellent · way · to · get · through · November” · , · and · wrote · 140 · pages. · The · government · deemed · the · text · too · critical · and · condescending; · it · bought · the · rights · and · forbade · publication. · The · only · accessible · copy · in · the · world · rests · in · the · Fleming · archive · at · Indiana · University · in · Bloomington · , · where · I · went. · It · is · forbidden · to · take · photos · or · make · photocopies. · 

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When · reading · the · book · , · it · is · difficult

· to · understand · why · the · text · got · banned. · Fleming · is · not · condescending · but · sympathetic · , · respectful · , · and · generous. · Not · even · too · witty. · The · government · probably · expected · the · outcome · to · be · in · line · with · Fleming’s · other · travelogues · (published · as · “Thrilling · Cities”) · , · which · included · Hong · Kong · , · Macau · , · Chicago · , · New · York . . . · Fleming · is · not · hypocritical · but · honest; · he · simply · sees · Kuwait · as · what · it · is. · Kuwait · might · be · the · richest · country · in · the · world · , · but · it · is · not · “thrilling.” · Tourism · is · not · possible · because · there · is · nothing · to · see. · The · text · is · thus · almost · ironically · called · “State · of · Excitement: · Impressions · of · Kuwait.” 

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Fleming · begins · his · tale · with · a · culture · shock · , · but · the · dark · descriptions ·

last · only · a · couple · of · pages. · Once · the · exotic · character · of · the · country · has · been · established · , · Fleming · becomes · more · empathetic. · He · discovers · the · lighter · and · humane · side · of · Kuwait · and · Kuwaitis · and · strongly · appreciates · certain · aspects · of · traditional · culture. 

Mild · mockery · directed · at · a · nation · that · had · moved · , · within · a · decade · , · from

· medievalism · to · the · welfare · state · , · from · Elizabeth · I · to · Elizabeth · II · , · was · perhaps · inevitable. · Maybe · this · is · what · the · sponsors · found · unpalatable. · Nowhere · does · Fleming · criticize · the · government. · He · approves · of · the · necessary · authoritarianism · , · which · he · calls · “benevolent · feudalism” · and · which · he · finds · “truly · democratic.” · He · even · excuses · the · Kuwaiti · version · of · slavery. · 

The · opening · pages · depict · the · country · in · an

· almost · dystopian · Cyberpunk · fashion. · Gas · flares · , · pillars · of · fire · by · night · and · pillars · of · smoke · by · day · , · billow · like · tethered · dragons. · The · Shamal · wind · blows · a · lingering · smell · of · petrol · fumes · from · the · oil · fields · into · the · city. · An · oily · road · edged · with · old · tires · and · trash · brings · the · writer · through · the desert · from · Ahmadi · to · the · city · , · every · day · for · three · weeks. · The · desert · is · dotted · with · dead · camels · because · of · low · rain. · The · Shatt-al-Arab · pours · millions · of · tons · of · mud · into · the · Gulf. · Fleming · discovers · the · most · garish · casino · east · of · Monte · Carlo · , · a · brothel · , · and · a · pornographic · cinema · showing · films · in · color. · 

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 Hubara hunting 

After · ten · days · the · sight · begins · to · clear · and · Fleming · sees · beauty. · His ·

accounts · of · people · from · diverse · social · strata · whom · he · encounters · are · endearing · and · enlightening · , · as · I · will · show · below. · He · finds · Kuwaitis · honest · and · genuine. · None · of · the · doctors · with · whom · he · spoke · had · ever · heard · of · a · Kuwaiti · committing · suicide · , · which · he · finds · impressive. · Drugs · , · though · current · in · Iran · , · are · unknown · in · Kuwait. · In · the · souq · , · gold · bars · are · exposed · without · protection; · they · would · last · only · one · hour · in · London · or · five · minutes · in · New · York. · For · expats · life · is · so · good · that · they · find · it · hard · to · settle · down · again · in · England. · Of · course · , · Fleming · has · his · opinions. · He · is · against · traditional · clothing · for · hygienic · reasons. · The · 'agal · restricts · the · vision · of · drivers. · He · hates · the · canned · juice · that · everybody · is · drinking. · Aesthetics · does · not · seem · to · have · been · considered · when · planning · the · new · city. · 

 

At · the · end · of · the · book · , · Fleming · calls · Kuwait · a · "happy · ship.” · This · old ·

English · expression · refers · to · a · country · where · things · are · alright · and · where · everybody · can · live · in · dignity. · He · also · points · out · that · it · is · a · country · not · bothered · by · trade · unionism · and · class · friction. 

More · on · Fleming's · insights · will · follow · if · you · read · on. 

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-:-:- · Flaneur · in · Salmiya · continued -:-:-

Conventional · [[non-cyberpunk]] · science-fiction · novels · and · films · revel · in · the

· optimistic · colonial · submissions · of · Martians. · Nothing · like · that · can · be · seen · in · Salmiya. · Kuwait · resents · neither · colonial · oppression · nor · racism · , · and · Adolf · Hitler · is · perceived · by · many · of · my · students · as · a · sort · of · a · rock · star. · So · far · , · nobody · could · explain · to · me · what · it · actually · is · that · makes · this · man · so · attractive · , · but · one · eagerly · insists · that · he · is · "inspiring" · and · a · "role · model" · or · that · he · is · simply · "always · on · one's · mind." · ¶

 

No, · Kuwait · has · no · colonial · complex. · [4] · The · world · realized · this · in · 1982 ·

when · the · Kuwaiti · football · team · made · it · into · the · World · Cup · Finals. · During · the · match · against · France · , · France · scored · a · goal · while · some · of · the · Kuwaiti · players · had · stopped · playing · because · they · had · heard · a · whistle. · The · goal · was · initially · awarded · by · the · referee · who · had · not · blown · the · whistle · , · which · prompted · Kuwait · to · walk · off · the · pitch · in · protest. · They · eventually · resumed · playing · after · the · intervention · of · Sheikh · Fahd · Al-Ahmed · [[the · brother · of · the · then-Emir]] · who · walked · on · the · field · and · persuaded · the · referee · to · disallow · the · French · goal. · France · won · nevertheless · 4-1. · [5]

Somebody · might · right · now · be · listening · to · an · FM · radio · station · on · a · General

· Electric · Tuner. ¶

Already · Ian · F. · had · noted · the · lack · of · a · colonial · complex · when · writing ·

that · in · Kuwait · every · eye · meets · you · with · a · gaze · that · is · straight · and · touched · with · arrogance. · The · Kuwaiti · man · knows · that · he · is · better · than · you · , · "and · that · is · that." · Ian · F. · believed · that · there · was · not · a · single · case · of · inferiority · complex · amongst · Kuwaitis. · He · also · noted · that · just · for · this · reason · , · there · is · no · social · snobbery · and · no · strong · class · consciousness. · Rulers · are · on · friendly · terms · with · Bedouins · -- · naturally · , · as · if · they · were · equals. 

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The · lack · of · a · colonial · complex · 

contributes · to · the · status · of · Salmiya · as · a · virtual · world · where · those · civilizational · clashes · that · we · can · observe · in · the · real · world · [[television · , · YouTube· , · social media · , · etc.]] · are · absent. · Like · in · film · noir · , · various · sources · might · tell · stories · that · contradict · one · another · , · but · nobody · will · bother · to · resolve · them. · The · narrative · strategy · of · film · noir · is · based · on · juxtaposition · , · misinformation · and · incompleteness. · Instead · of · providing · clarity · , · film · noir · disassembles. · ​¶

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The· result · is · , · once · again · , · perfect · cohabitation. · Immigrants

· are · willing · to · shelve · their · lives · without · resistance · while · the · others · play · the · role · of · phlegmatic · dandies · who · have · simply · decided · to · ignore · the · world · around · them. · This · too · , · matches · with · the · logic · of · film · noir: · since · the · winner · takes · it · all · , · everybody · else · must · lose · completely. ​¶

Women, · well, · women · get · stalked · once · in · a · while · in · Salmiya ·

· but · they · are · used · to · it. · Usually · they · take · refuge · in · a · corner · shop. ¶

Incompleteness · is · important · for · still · another · reason: · In · Kuwait ·

many · urban · projects · remain · unfinished. · The · phenomenon · is · so · conspicuous · that · "The · Aesthetics · of · the · Unfinished" · has · attracted · the · interest · of · international · researchers · who · put · together · lengthy · documentations. · ¶

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Has it always been like that? Obviously not.

Kuwait in the 50s and 60s vibrated the same cheerful and positive attitude towards a bright and technicized future that we encounter in American Science Fiction literature of the 1930s-40s. Kuwait's philosophy was in keeping with that of magazines like Amazing Stories or Astounding Science Fiction , which developed under the influence of positively minded Russian and Italian Futurism. It is not exaggerated to say that Kuwait was the world's last utopia. Like today in Dubai and Qatar , advertisements (with red and orange as dominant colors) invited tourists to indulge in a perfect blend of futurist technology and exoticism. Futurist houses - today to be admired as ruins in Salmiya - indicated an uncompromising concept of modernity and progress naturally mixed with traditional elements. Fascinated journalists from Life and National Geographic presented life in Kuwait as liberal , modern , and healthy. Urbanism was humane and modernity was at its best. 

In 1960, Kuwait exercised a pivotal global

logistic function , similar to that of today’s Dubai and Qatar. Kuwait Air connected London and Tokyo via Kuwait (see KT July 14, 1962) , which was a welcome improvement of international air traffic. Kuwait was also the pioneer in the Arab literary renaissance, its press being one of the freest on the planet. The Kuwaiti liberal Al-Arabi Magazine became the most popular magazine in the Arab world. 

(An optimistic spirit also blew into the

country from another direction. In the early 1960s, Russia attempted to grab Kuwait from Britain to spread communism. Russia-backed Pan-Arabists planned to march in from Iraq; all organized by KGB operatives in Beirut.) [6] 

Today the optimistic spirit of this Futurism

(minus the press freedom) can be found in Dubai while in Kuwait Futurism disappeared behind the black clouds of burning oilwells. For Kuwait , the Iraqi invasion has had about the same effect that the Hiroshima bomb had on the development of Japanese Science Fiction literature. Technological optimism became impossible. Today Kuwait lacks investments because Kuwaiti businessmen prefer to invest abroad. Kuwaitis do not believe in the future of their own country.

Partly the capital flight is due to Kuwait's

pre-modern heritage: nomads don't believe in nations and borders and quickly move to another place. Bedouins are always on the move. The refusal to invest in Kuwait contrasts , again , with Dubai , which , though being relatively hastily built on a shaggy economic ground and without much oil , attracts plenty of local and foreign (even Kuwaiti) investments.

The contrast between Kuwait and the much

newer Dubai could not be bigger. It is related to the cyberpunk problem described above. Sometimes , Dubai aspires to look cyberpunk. For example , it has created a "graffiti mall" , which looks like ... a mall. So far, real cyberpunk can be found only in Kuwait. Dubai also has a "heritage wave" on its program , attempting to retrieve tradition and humaneness that might have gone lost in its sleek techno-universe. Dubai aspires to have what Kuwait used to have in the 1960s at least on paper: the right mixture of past , present , and future.

Middle Eastern Airlines

poster from 1962

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Al-Arabi Magazin (Kuwait) 1964

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Poster by Alain Gauthier, 1953

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Cover from the New Yorker, 1961; Kuwait Airways travel poster from 1965; Kuwait swimming pool in the 1970s.

The overlap of new religious and economic paradigms in the

late twentieth century is nowhere as obvious as in Kuwait. Cyberpunk stands for the exhaustion of the industrial economy , for the exhaustion of the avant-garde, and for the exhaustion of modern cultural values.* Compared with postmodern Kuwait , Dubai is highly modern.

 

In the 1970s and 80s , Kuwait and Saudi Arabia imported

Western modern architecture en masse. A wave of Islamization caught the Middle East at the same time. In other words , modernization was organized in the Gulf precisely at the moment when the Arab world began aborting modernity. In reality , Gulf regimes were always afraid of being modern because modernity brings democratic ideals and practices. They even the bring de r atic ideals and pctice                In Kuwait , the present cyberpunk situation is the result of these constellations.

 

*Let's not forget that postmodernism was born in nearby Iran in 1979 when modern ideals were, for the first time, very consistently questioned by a state. 

"Gᑌᒪᖴ ᖴᑌTᑌᖇIᔕᗰ"

 

Fatima Al-Qadiri and Sophia Al-Maria find the taste of an

avant-garde culture in the Middle East that they name “Gulf Futurism.” In an article praised by Bruce Sterling , the artists describe the Gulf as

 

"a region that has been hyper-driven into a present made up of interior wastelands, municipal master plans and environmental collapse, thus making it a projection of our global future. (…) Over the last fifty years , the Arabian Gulf has given birth to a very particular brand of futurism. It is a phenomena marked by a deranged optimism about the sustainability of both oil reserves and late capitalism. Similar to early 20th century Euro-Futurism and mid-century American kitsch and retro futurism, Gulf Futurism is evident in a dominant class concerned with master-planning and world-building, while the youth culture preoccupied with fast cars, fast tech and viddying a bit of ultra-violence." [7]

The picture is correct and applies to the whole Gulf. Still

one would do better disentangling the futurist elements from the cyberpunk ones. Master-planning (which was frantically practiced in Kuwait in the 1960s and 70s though never really implemented) is a futurist activity. But the youth culture appears to be more cyberpunk, which becomes graphically clear in the following description. The Gulf is marked by

 

"the isolation of individuals via technology, wealth and reactionary Islam, the corrosive elements of consumerism on the soul and industry on the earth, the erasure of history from our memories and our surroundings and finally, our dizzying collective arrival in a future no one was ready for."

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So much for Gulf Futurism. Let's come back to Dubai. Is Dubai ,

which still radiates much 20th century positive Futurist energy , already heading towards the cyberpunk culture of Kuwait? Dubai is built on a fragile ground and any sort of invasion similar to what happened in Kuwait in 1990 would plunge Dubai into the most authentic cyberpunk syndrome the world has ever seen.

Most people would today say that Dubai is ahead of Kuwait

because it is better organized , cleaner , etc. Kuwait is even eagerly emulating the Dubai model building its own Jumeira resort on its Failaka Island. However , in reality Dubai is not ahead , but Cyberpunk Kuwait is much ahead of Futurist Dubai. Kuwait is Dubai’s Future.

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Kuwait Times Oct 11, 1971

Above: Kuwait presented by Life Magazine in 1965. Below: modernist houses in Kuwait as introduced by National Geographic in the 1960s. Several were built by Eastern-European architects come from Iraq. Most of them have been demolished, and some can be found as ruins in Salmiya.

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Cyberpunk · developed · sub-genres · such · as · S T E A M P U N K · and · C L O C K P U N K · , ·

which · are · retro-aesthetic · categories · attempting · to · retrieve · futuristic · visions · of · past · eras · and · to · extrapolate · their · actual · technology. · Steampunk · evokes · a · Jules · Verne-like · universe · filled · with · Victorian · technologies · , · steam · locomotives · , · and · Captain · Nemo's · diving · apparatus. · At · the · same · time · , · it · maintains · cyberpunk’s · noir · atmosphere. · An · advanced, · "futuro-aesthetic" · form · of · cyberpunk · is · B I O P U N K · , · which · focuses · on · the · relations · between · biotechnology · and · information · technology. · In · biopunk · , · bio-hackers · , · biotech · mega-corporations · , · and · dubious · agencies · engage · in · biological · modification · and · genetic · engineering. · Oppressive · governments · practice · mass · surveillance · and · manipulate · human · DNA. · After · Biopunk · comes · N A N O P U N K · , · which · is · perhaps · the · most · recent · expression · of · cyberpunk · aesthetics . . .

 Example of Steampunk 

 Courtesy Vladimir Petkovic 

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 Kuwait University   Art Deco Clock Tower 

I · suggest · to · call · Kuwait's · aesthetic · category · O i l p u n k · because · here · the ·

world · of · the · 1980s · still · dominates · an · important · part · of · urban · objects · as · well · as · common · perceptions. · The · 1980s · was · the · time · before · the · Iraqi · invasion · , · and · it · sticks · as · a · golden · age · in · the · mind · of · Kuwaitis. · Apart · from · that · , · the · most · important · element · has · not · changed · since · that · time: · the · dependence · on · oil · is · still · as · strong. ¶ 

Sometimes · the · sand · is · blown · into · the · city · -- · greetings · from · the · desert · of ·

the · real. ¶

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Proof · that · the · 1980s · still · dominate· an · important · part · of · Kuwaiti · psyche · is · the · local · success · of · the · Kuwaiti-made · retro-thriller · Back · to · Q82 · [8] · and · of · the · recent · Kuwaiti · Netflix · series · The Exchange · which · narrates · events · related · to · the · Kuwaiti · Stock · Market · in · the · late · 1980s.

Oilpunk · is · naturally · related · to ·

D i e s e l p u n k. · However · , · Diesel · fuel · has · a · much · higher · viscosity · than · oil · , · which · makes · Dieselpunk · more · retro · than · Oilpunk. · Oil · is · fluid · like ·  driver · software · , · which · makes · Oilpunk · basically · fluid. · Remember · what · was · said · above: · Bedouins · are · always · on · the · move. · Oilpunk · increases · the · liquefaction · factor: · "The · one · who · utilizes · a · particular · energy · starts · to · resemble · that · kind · of · energy · ," · write · Vadén · and · Salminen ·[see · more · on them ​· ​below]. · We · are · oil. · "We · do · not · use · oil · as · much · as · oil · uses · us." [31]

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Being · equally · close · to · Steampunk · ,

· Dieselpunk · concentrates · on · the · World · War I · and · interwar · periods · when · the · Diesel · engine · replaced · the · steam · engine. · Much · of · Dieselpunk· aesthetics · is · inspired · by · WWI · themes. · Its · fashion · includes · waistcoats · , · bomber · jackets · , · wristwatches · , · goggles· , · and · overalls · [[in · G A S P U N K · people · are · wearing · gas · masks]]. · By · contrast· , · the · Oilpunk · dresscode · is · impeccably · white · dishdashas · or · thobes [see · picture]. · Furthermore · , · Oilpunk · takes · place · in · the · aftermath · of · an · optimistic · oil · boom · that · its · protagonists · attempt · to · prolong · infinitely · though · without · being · able · to · fend · off · some · of · those · dystopian · aspects · that · come · almost · automatically · with · the · boredom · of · utopias. 

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 Oilpunk garb. 

I said above that bedouins · are · always ·

on · the · move. ·  A · manifestation · of · the · remnants · of · a · nomadic · lifestyle · is · , · in · my · view · , · the · phenomenon · called · هبّة (hibba = trend) · , · a · typical · Kuwaiti · word · , · which · has · the · verbal · root · "habba · هبَّ" · meaning · "blowing" · like · the · wind · that · comes · and · goes. · Like · nomads · , · Kuwaitis · move · from · هبّة · to · هبّة · , · from · trend · to · trend· , · a · trend · typically · lasting · not · longer · than · a · few · months. · This · concerns · restaurants · , · fashions · ,· activities... ¶

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An AI generated text: "This type of fiction typically explores the consequences of this reality on social, political, and environmental aspects of society, often portraying dystopian or apocalyptic scenarios. Oilpunk can also include elements of retro-futurism, steampunk, and cyberpunk, creating a unique aesthetic and atmosphere."

Closest · to · Oilpunk · is · perhaps · D E C O P U N K. ·

Decopunk · is · a · form · of · Dieselpunk · that · remains · inherently · utopian · and · moves · away · from · Dieselpunk’s · war · themes. · It · might· fit · Kuwait · because · some · of · its · remaining · older · buildings · are · indeed · Art · Deco· , · for · example · the · old · Kuwait · University · Clock · Tower. ¶ 

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C O A L P U N K · , · should · it · exist · ,

· would · comprise · winding · towers · , · freight · cars · , · pump · rooms · , · and · allotment · gardens · with · android · garden · gnomes. · The · above · picture · is · from · the · Duisburg · Industrial · Landscape · Park. 

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 Android garden   gnome 

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Important · question. · It · is · green · simply · because · it · cannot · be · red. · Red · is ·

blood · , · fire , · love , · communism · , · optimism · , · enthusiasm · , · as · well · as · rage · , · danger · , · debts · , · and · loss. · Oilpunk · is · green · because · it · is · neutral. · Oilpunks · do · not · gamble · with · grim · faces · but · with · mines · of · indifference. · Pressing · the · red · button · is · a · sign · of · desesperation. · Oilpunks · are · eternally · cool. 

Red · is · the · color · of · kings · , · cardinals · ,· and · the · devil · , · and · Oilpunk · does

· not · acknowledge · any · of · these. · Kuwaiti · monarchs · have · always · been · dressing · in · white. · The · only · red · spot · allowed · in · Oilpunk · is · the · Ferrari. 

Above · that · · Oilpunk · is · green · because · Oil · is · made · of · plants. · But · it · is ·

not · the · fresh · , · natural · green · but · the · artificial · ,· bleak · neon · green. · Bleak · neon · green · is · the · color · of · indifference · and · neutrality. 

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Looking · closer · , · the · 1980s · were · not · as · bright · for · Kuwait · as · they · appear. ·

1982 · is · also · the · year · of · the · Kuwait · stock · market · crash · , · which · has · been · identified · as · the · biggest · financial · crash · in · human · history. · In · some · obscure · souq · , · Kuwaitis · created · the · biggest · financial · bubble · ever · in · an · artisanal · fashion. · The · phenomenon · has · been · compared · to · the · Dutch · Tulip · Bulb · Mania · [1636-37]. · Between · 1976 · and · 1982 · , · enthusiastic · , · mostly · nouveau-riche · , · Kuwaitis · traded · 29,000 · unsecured · checks · worth · 94 · billion · dollars [[the · Madoff· Pyramid · of · 2008 · was · worth · "only" · 65 · billions]]. · When · the · market · crashed, · the · crash · was · as · virtual · as · the · bubble. · People · simply · stopped · trading · as · if · the · market · had · never · existed. · Some · blamed · conspiracies. · Nassim · Al-Mutawa, · the · biggest · loser · in · the · stock · bubble · [[he · owed · something · like · $10.5 · billion]], · blamed · his · downfall · on · the · established · commercial · families · who · resented · his · success. [9]

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Ironically · , · the · crash · took · place · in · the · Souq · Al-Manakh · , · an · air-conditioned ·

parking · garage · in · the · historic · area · of · Jibla · , · which · is · a · rather · "futurist" · building. · Built · 1973-75 · , · it · is · the · work · of · the · famous · Massachusetts · architects · collaborative · TAC · founded · by · Bauhaus · man · Walter · Gropius · , · and · initially · even · integrated · a · station · for · a · cyberpunkish · monorail · line · [[that· would · never · be · built]]. · Made · of · sandblasted · raw · concrete · , · the · Souq · Al-Manakh · is · true · Gropius · style. · During · the · oil · boom · , · the · souq · began · functioning · as · a · parallel · and · informal · trading · center. · It · was · more · a · casino · than · a · stock · exchange · ,· and · the · crash · is · called · the · "Souq · Al-Manakh · Crash." · [[See · footnote · [10] · on · the · meaning · of · 'manakh']] ¶ 

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 Souq Al-Manakh 

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 Attempted monorail station? 

From · an · architectural · point · of · view· , · the

· Souq · Al-Manakh· is · a · curiosity · as · it · represents · a · modified · multistory · parking · lot · with · offices · on · the · top · floor · and · retail · stores · at · the · bottom. &m