The world needs your utopia
20th century sci-fi gave us ‘2001: a space odyssey’, ‘the dispossesed’, ‘the Jetsons’. (all fairly distinct and original conceptions of future.)
21st century sci-fi gives us ‘tomorrowland’ (a rehash of 20th century utopia), ‘cloverfield’ (certain doom) and ‘x-men: apocalypse’ (facile resolution to threat of extinction).
20th century had a conception of tomorrow — may it be cautionary or ecstatic. 20th century had its optimistic dreams. People talked about future as a better version of today. The socialist ideal of brotherhood was alive too. If not in the mainstream, many small pockets around the world did build their own utopias into communes and communities.
The 21st century’s global digital network however flattened that optimism. There is a pervasive sense of inevitability now. Ecologically we are doomed, societally we are fractured, economically we are sitting on a powder keg…
21st century humanity has lost the confidence in themselves — maybe there is no tomorrow for them? The post-modern uneasiness with existence is a vicious vortex — it feeds on itself with the weight of billions of ironic memes and the empty consumerist philosophy of ‘yolo’.
The world needs new utopias, new ideas for a tomorrow. What we need is not a dreamy fiction of making the world ‘great again’, or some such bull shit. But a realistic utopia that we work towards with a clear understanding of reality of today’s world. We need ‘the dispossesed’ or the ‘culture series’ for 21st century that can give people clear ideas about the future they want to build.
From technology centricity to human centricity
The 20th century’s utopia had been about technology enabled progress. It was an optimistic and exciting time to be a scientist. A scientist could do anything. He /she had the power to turn corn into a million different things, sand into computers, people into people 2.0. People were led to believe that all of humanity’s problems could be solved with a technological innovation. Fossil fuel is in danger, nuclear power to rescue. radiation causing cancer, medical sciences to rescue. superbugs threatening our survival, sure scientists will figure out something for it too!
But this has been a costly mistake. We are complacent with our lives, unconsciously and erroneously believing that in real life, there is someone out there who can ‘make it alright’.
Man’s consciously lived fragility, individuality, and relatedness make the experience of pain, of sickness, and of death an integral part of his life. The ability to cope with this trio autonomously is fundamental to his health. As he becomes dependent on the management of his intimacy, he renounces his autonomy and his health must decline. The true miracle of modern medicine is diabolical. It consists in making not only individuals but whole populations survive on inhumanly low levels of personal health. Medical nemesis is the negative feedback of a social organization that set out to improve and equalize the opportunity for each man to cope in autonomy and ended by destroying it.
- Ivan Illich in ‘Medical Nemesis’
We must stop believing in omnipotence of governments and experts. It was the experts at the wall street that fucked the economy recently. It is the experts in the medical fraternity that are inadvertently creating superbugs. It is the experts in government policy and planning that are creating unlivable over-congested cities and rendering villages empty. And now it is the experts who are signing secret global deals that will affect each of us and yet we are not privy to its workings.
I am not saying that we should stop listening to experts. What I am saying is that we should not stop bothering about the world around us. We should not stop questioning the designers of the world. A democracy is a farce if our opinions do not matter. Our ideas, each of our ideas must make a mark in the making of tomorrow.