Wikileaks in Need of Heattech

Globalization is when you cannot access the Swiss bank account that you opened in some small post office in some random Swiss village, because an Australian, who usually lives in Sweden, but prefers to hide in England published documents from pretty much every country in the world that he had received from an American on his website.

This week, I was not able to access my online bank account of the Swiss “Postfinance”. I tried to access the website one day after Postfinance had publicly announced that they would be cancelling the bank account of Wikileaks. According to Swiss newspapers, as a consequence of this, Wikileaks-supporting hackers throughout the world coordinated cyber-attacks on the Postfinance website, rendering it inaccessible to real-life users in Swiss villages and elsewhere.

While staring in disbelief at the error messages on my web-browser, I pictured poor Julian Assange frantically attempting to save all the money on the Wikileaks bank account in his hide-out in then freezing-cold England using his self-made, hand-held James Bondesque internet-access device (you betcha he doesn’t touch an iPhone or a Blackberry!). After all, Postfinance only said that they “would” close the account – they didn’t say that they had closed it already. I wasn’t sure if cutting off Mr. Assange’s potentially only access to the money was what all his supporters had intended to do via their coordinated online warfare.

Concerning the cold weather, at least in theory Mr. Assange wasn’t too far away from a Uniqlo shop – also dubbed “Japanese H&M” by people living in hotshot cities of the West such as London, Paris or New York (no, Geneva is not on that list, so no Uniqlo here). Uniqlo markets clothes made of a fabric that it calls “Heattech” – the material heats up as it absorbs body moisture and thus keeps you surprisingly warm outdoors despite being very thin. Another benefit not advertised is that the material doesn’t heat up when you’re indoors where you don’t move much. Thus, under the assumption that you live in one of the said chic cities where you spend brief periods in the cold while moving back and forth between heated indoor locations, your Heattech magically adapts in order to make sure you don’t feel too cold or too warm. You don’t have to take any action, it’s as if it could read your mind.

Proving Banksy’s theorem wrong, heattech advertisements are unbelievably uninteresting. Lots of people, including Julian Assange and Banksy, associate advertising campaigns by multinational enterprises such as Uniqlo as conspiracies, jam-packed with secret messages aimed at creating a society of brainless consuming masses to sustain endless profits of a wealthy few. If you manage to either not get too distracted by the arguably good music and the flashy multiple changes per second, or not to fall asleep of boredom, you will realize that Uniqlo is indeed sending a subconscious secret message to the viewer – one that is much more mundane in content though: All the advertisement is trying to do is to remind you that you have to keep on moving, otherwise the product won’t work, and you’ll freeze outside. Worried that this may be perceived as a fault by consumers, Uniqlo decides not to tell people directly, but instead to use the subconscious route:

Uniqlo Heattech Commercial 2009

If only the internet could be more like Heattech: Saving you time when you need it, and offering you distraction when you can afford to take time off. Unfortunately, it usually is the other way around: During work-hours, you’re on facebook or in other leisurely areas of the internet, while you spend your evenings hastily finishing your work online in order to hand it in on time the next morning. I’m sure also Mr. Assange wouldn’t mind, if all the cyber warriors would leave him enough time to pull out the money before striking back against the empire. And all those wiki-leaked documents themselves: While must certainly they are useful in uncovering the conspiracies of attention-seeking diplomats throughout the world in a perhaps unexpectedly silly way, you never know if people will realize that the content of all of those cabled country-reports are just as empty as a corporate advertising campaign for a fashion chain.

Fortunately, turns out that some governments understood this better than you perhaps would have expected. Take, for example, the Iranian administration, whose moves usually tend to be rather whacky. However, thanks to Wikileaks, they now are able to use their aura of craziness to their advantage in an unforeseen wise move: they simply claimed that the USA deliberately published the confidential reports of how Middle Eastern governments distrust each other in order to foster animosities amongst them. Thereby, Iran ads a much-needed does of humour to the debate. I actually even recently read somewhere a recommendation proposing humour as the best way to deal with cultural differences.

But there is no catch-all solution to human conflicts. Some of the most avid Uniqlo shoppers are students with low budgets. Assuming that they don’t waste much time on watching TV commercials, they find themselves shivering wearing the thin heattech shirts in their rooms that they deliberately keep cold in order to save on heating – and suddenly the magic of Heattech breaks down. Heattech’s chameleonesque temperature metamorphosis usually work so well, because the natural laws of climate change are so reliable – it’s the humans who behave unpredictably. Even though Wikileaks appears to uncover meaningful documents, it’s hard to believe that the personal opinions of individual diplomats about the personal characteristics of politicians are the decisive factors in their communication with each other. If anything, Wikileaks documents that the willingness to gossip seems to be remarkably uniformly distributed across all cultures.

Does this mean that the global village now finally has been established, with nosy neighbors telling on each other? The cyber-warfare of clandestine hackers on corporate websites begs to differ. It may be unclear, whether or not Julian Assange was helped by the retaliatory measures taken against his bank. Given this confusing situation, the only true winner is, once again, the technology itself. And it is the Japanese J-pop group Perfume who foresaw this outcome the best in their visionary 2006 proposal to replace the term “global village” by a more appropriate term – “Computer City” (which they pronounce as “Computer Shity” in Minute 0.41, thereby unveiling one of the hidden beauties of Globalization’s impact on English) :

What’s most important in this new Computer City is that its inhabitants make sure that it doesn’t get too cold. And no, global warming will not do the job. Nor will Heattech.

Have a cosy week,

Eric