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A Much Better Tomorrow
First takes Imagination
Flipping through much of the selection of sci-fi movies, games, and TV series at our disposal today you may have noticed the common setting of corporate dystopia. It’s a theme that’s been prevalent since the 1980s in films such as Blade Runner and Akira. It’s at the helm of the cyberpunk trope, swirling together images of mangled tech with neon billboards within city slums on the outskirts of towering super skyscrapers. And even if the society wasn’t necessarily dystopian, films such as Alien showed us the misgivings of corporate interests in the future. It’s a trope that’s been so fitting with us, it’s practically seen as a natural progression from where we are now to the future we all envision. The prevalence of this trope is essentially the acceptance of the rule of our corporate overlords and their omnipresent advertising. We intrinsically know by now that corporate and capitalistic interests do not benefit the whole of society, which is why it’s so easy to believe futures that look so bleak. We feel it’s our inevitable course as a civilization.
At least we hoped it to be. What any of these stories and settings failed to account for was that corporations and capitalistic interests would wreck this planet long before we could even develop the flying car. It’s happening now, the society-shattering effects of climate change are becoming apparent more and more month after month, year after year. When the future looks bleak, it’s certainly easier to languish in what comforts we have in the present while partaking in the feel-good aura of nostalgia. This is why nostalgia is such a big trope in our entertainment today; we can’t imagine a better future so let’s just think back to when shit was good.
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I recently re-watched the first season of the animated show Invincible. I'm drawn to it not because of it’s superhero deconstructionist narrative (but that’s pretty good too), but simply by the depiction of other worlds. It’s brief but we get glimpses of societies on other planets. I have found the images of these futuristic cities and civilizations so captivating. Sure, it’s animated but I can’t help but marvel at the style and layout of the city on Viltrum, or wonder what goes on in the space station orbiting above Flaxxan. Many other shows and media depict futuristic cities and societies but for some reason I find these depictions so captivating. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of our society in relation to theirs; in the show there's a theme that our society could use alien help to better ourselves, that advanced technology can lift us out of this smog-filled pit before we kill ourselves (or the aliens kill us all for not complying).
There’s an anti-capitalistic current growing within our society, much of it apparent on social media. I’m sure you’ve seen a few accounts (if you don’t follow any yourself). Anytime you like a meme calling out the bullshit of having to work everyday, you certainly have. People are wising up that this way of life is not sustainable, and is in fact detrimental to the planet and to ourselves. We have online groups and accounts calling for the destruction of capitalism, outcries for more community building and socialism, and even wayward talks about communism. People are fed up and tired of keeping up this fake, rugged individualist subscription (because ultimately that is what it is) that we’re all expected to just go along with. People want to try something new and oust these old ideas that only seem to benefit a select few individuals. People want to hope for and build a new future, even if they don’t know it yet.
I often say that there’s an incredible lack of imagination in our society. Take a look around, much of our architecture and design is centered around money and cost, not necessarily whether it looks cool or interesting (or if it’s even functional. But that’s another post). Sure we can talk a big game of the theory and politics around socialism, but what does a society that puts people first actually look like? What does a world without big business and corporations look like? What goes on in that world? How do people get around? And that’s why I’m drawn to these images of futuristic civilizations, that’s exactly what they’re depicting; civilizations that have moved past this notion of money and even scarcity. We’d have to move past capitalism if we are to reach out to the stars in any significant strides. But more importantly, we must move past it if we are going to keep living in relative comfort on this planet. We can deal with this now, or let it deal with us later.
This is why depictions of good futures are so important. In this moment we need to see how good it can be, we need to visualize a better way to do things. Through visualization we can help cut down the weeds of despair and sow the seeds of hope. We can put a face to the name that is a post-capitalist world which puts the needs of people first. Before we can fix and change the world, we need to know that it’s possible. We need to get excited for these possibilities, and we need to get rid of those “leaders” who would take these possibilities away from us and our descendants.
A thing I saw recently that inspired me to finally write this essay is a new city project forming in the middle east. Whether or not it is feasible or if it will even be finished is not the point. The point is we (humans) must consider new ways of thinking about how to live on this planet. And ultimately, how is this city really different in functionality from the ones depicted above? I think it’s a step in the right direction.
We can build a better future for all of us, but we have to visualize it first.
“Let's start living our lives
Living for the future paradise.” -Stevie Wonder
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