While most steampunks generally support a revival of nineteenth-century aesthetics as a response to modern alienation, many don’t like to acknowledge that their attitudes could be considered ideological.
Notice the subtlety: “steampunk don’t like to acknowledge that their attitudes could be considered ideological.” Of course, Pho is here to tell us that they are, whatever we like it or not.
Reinterpreting history, according to Pho, “is always a political move, whether that’s admitted or not.”
She volunteers some thoughts on why the rugged conservatives who like steampunk to be just a hobby refuse to admit it:
Maybe the refusal of politics by some steampunks is rooted in their wilful ignorance about how the personal becomes political. Maybe they only think of politics in terms of petitioning for signatures, marching on Wall Street or freeing dolphins from fishing nets. Maybe it’s because they associate political action with the messy Bigger Picture (and Bigger Failings) of the state.
Perhaps it comes down to what defines politics.
Reading between the lines
In any event, the best description of steampunk’s politics that Pho can muster is that it constitutes “a community supporting the belief that we do not live at the end of history but are constantly reconstructing it for the better.”
You can call it progressive. But then again, this is very much a liberal (in the classical, European sense of the word) idea as well. It hardly defines a coherent political philosophy. Even conservatives can live with this definition.
You have to read between the lines to find out just what sort of politics Pho actually has in mind.
She admits that there is such a thing as “a leftist steampunk ideology” (emphasis mine) and contrasts it to the blissful reminiscing of genre enthusiasts whose “attitudes may remain staunchly retrograde.”
There are references exclusively to left-wing steampunk thinkers and left-wing steampunk publications and, yes, the regular condemnations of “Victorientalism” and imperial romance.
The reader who doesn’t know anything about steampunk will be hard-pressed not to get the impression that steampunk is in fact a leftist ideology and there are only “some” who don’t realize it yet.
Nice try, but you’re going to have to do better than pretend we’re all latent leftists who simply don’t understand that reading The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or dressing up in nineteenth-century costume to meet up with friends constitutes revolutionary action. We’re just trying to have a good time. Stop trying to force a political agenda on what we’re doing because you can’t separate your politics from your hobby.