The year of Eurocracy

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
29 November, 2016
Editorial: 52
Fecha de publicación original: 31 diciembre, 1997

Date of publication: 31/12/1996. Editorial 52.

 Cross the stream where it is shallowest

The just published Estudio General de Medios’ survey of the third wave has shown that the “iron rule” of Internet has come into effect in Spain: in l996 the number of internauts doubled. Now there are 800,000 of us (with a more or less 11% margin of error, and without counting those who got a ticket for cyberspace in their Christmas stocking). We’re approaching that magic moment which science defines as critical mass, the mysterious conglomerate which can really make things happen. In this case, “things” can be translated as the consolidation of our presence on the Web with our own unique personality or, on the other hand, as our conversion into a terminal station for events which occur in other parts of the world. I don’t think that we will reach this turning point in l997, but I do think that it will deliver us a clearer opportunity to make our mark on cyberspace with a real taste of the Mediterranean. The difficulties, however, will be enormous and not all of them will come from what we do or don’t do on the Net.

There was a saying in the sixties which went “Just when 200 million Soviets were marching happily towards Communism, Stalin appeared.” To paraphrase this for our purposes here, we could say that just when business in the telecommunications and information technology sectors is booming, the shadow of Maastricht has appeared on the horizon. In l997, the European governments will have to apply strict social and economic measures to bring down inflation and cut the monetary deficit. It’s the pay-off demanded by the economic golden calf, the single currency, the Euro. The political and social impact of these measures will be a real “X File” for the ruling classes. Nobody knows for sure how the population in general, and industry in particular, will react to the hard times which will accompany the rebuilding of Europe from the top down. Not even Helmut Kohl, the only one who really ought to know, dares prophecy the outcome, although the dominating role of Germany in the Europe of the Euro is, for now, undeniable and it is she who is setting the pace.

Meanwhile, the much-vaunted Information Society is not seen in any way as a viable project by the eurocrats. This other Europe, which must be built from the bottom up, exists solely in the projects and programmes which only a certain kind of person has access to. The eurocrats are determined to impose an authoritarian rhythm on the construction of the European Union, controlled by the great economic parameters which only make sense if they are administered via the Tax Office and the Exchequer. However, the cyberspace market opens up other possibilities which call into question the very dynamics of this increasingly decrepit political power. The designs of this power, as of the majority of the companies over which it exerts its influence, are obsolete and correspond to a view of the world which grows more outdated day by day. It doesn’t have the means to sustain the necessary social cohesion, as it makes all the most important factors (employment, social security, pensions, healthcare) revolve around centres which are completely distanced from the power of civil society.

The cyberspace market, which has also been called the multimedia market, opens up virgin territory where this vision is turned on its head. Its importance on a daily basis is related to its enormous potential to create employment, new jobs. At present, around l4 billion US dollars a year are channelled through multimedia services and products around the world. Given its multi-faceted nature, it has become more and more difficult to define in simple terms what exactly it contains, but this is precisely where its richness lies. At the heart of this new industry is electronic publishing, as a fundamental part of an extraordinary variety of sectors: education, training, the creation of new fields where the exchange of knowledge and information can take place, communication between the client and the production process spanning all the intermediary areas (sales distribution, administration, business systems management, etc.) health, leisure……The potential is phenomenal but the support network, the social fabric which should sustain it, must be up to the challenge. And it should permeate through educational and training centres, universities, chambers of commerce, business organisations, social collectives, public and private administration.

The challenge is gargantuan, but the people who have got us into this mess don’t seem able to come up with any alternative or brighter ideas to get us out of it. Big corporations with their network of political, economic and military minions have brought Europe to the point at which it finds itself today. Their recipe for reversing out of this dead-end is more of the same with bigger and bigger doses of castor oil to help the medicine go down. Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, “Superlopez”, said in a recent interview,”I’ve just read in the newspaper that for the 73 jobs which the new Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in Bilbao is offering, there have been no less than 70,000 applications, in round numbers. We have to tell these people, and in fact I’m telling them now, that they should stop looking to other people to give them jobs and start creating their own new companies.” This is very true, but the people who are at present in possession of essential resources also have to be willing to invest them in generating the minimum conditions necessary for the creation of these afore-mentioned new companies. And this, it seems to me, will be the great challenge that the year l997 presents us with. If en route the Web disappears or alternatively grows in strength, the NC sell like hotcakes or gather dust on sales room shelves, or the modem-cables and the Java finally become something as commonplace as the pen –all these will be important elements, but not the decisive ones. What is at stake here is whether Internet will achieve sufficient thrust in l997 to lay down the foundations of a new type of market, of a society organised around different kinds of economic criteria.

Whatever happens, everything suggests that next year we will double the number of users of the network once again and that we will also have a lot more things to do. Nothing remains then but to wish ourselves a l997 full of surprising and profitable digital ventures. For my part, I’m going to take advantage of the first anniversary of the appearance of this publication next week to introduce a few changes which I will explain in more detail in the next issue.

Translation: Bridget King.