Future Scenarios Blogpost March 2017

Blogpost 9

27 March


This month I’ve started making postcards. These are a distillation of the ideas – single words, phrases, arguments – from the reading and the meetings that I’ve had in the past months. Eventually the postcards will be – I think – for sale. I’m hoping people will pick them up and post the ideas on to others who might be interested. A kind of analogue meme. The postcards were unconsciously inspired by Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin (it was only when Judith Knight of Artsadmin pointed this out, I realised). That is express both hope, and despair in response to the contemporary moment. I know at some level that sending out postcards that scream in large lettering won’t make anyone hear. Whilst Fallada’s working class couple who write and distribute critical postcards in Hitler’s Berlin, are in very real danger, we simply face indifference – a complete disinterest in the possibility of future annihilation. It makes me think of Joan of Arc’s comment in Henry VI (i)


Glory is like a circle in the water,

Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself

Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.


But at another level it is cathartic to write these postcards, and distribute them, and hope that they spark a conversation, somehow, somewhere. So far I’ve only shown a few people the first few, but the word OIKOS writ large always sparks a conversation, in its unfamiliarity.


The last couple of future scenario research-in-public events, in Manchester and Cambridge, have yielded a wealth of thoughts that I am still processing. But the discussions also brought me close to what I think the central conundrum of thinking about responses to climate change in terms of economics. On the one hand, as David Alderson pointed out, the systematic logic of capitalism at some level won’t let us contemplate what the alternatives might be. Indeed, ‘GET REAL’, or ‘it’s not realistic’ is an overfamiliar and deadening response to any articulation of how things might be different. Each of the events I hold, audiences wrestle with the problem of how to imagine alternatives, because imagining how the alternative might arrived at from here feels so daunting. On the other hand, climate change won’t wait for us to find a future beyond capitalism… Time is running out, and perhaps we need capitalism right here, right now, to harness the considerable innovative energy of the system to creating the goods, services and cultures that will enable us to enjoy a low-carbon, longterm future. What that needs, of course, is a reformed capitalism – a capitalism structured by the recognition that every ‘good’ needs to be realistically costs for what it costs in human labour and the planet – and as Chris Hope so cogently articulated, this is entirely within the realms of possibility.


I also discovered something wonderful – thanks again to Renata Tsyczuk, who is a font of wisdom on etymology – that the word ‘manifesto’ means to make clear or conspicuous, obvious, public. Although manifestos are created as political prescriptions these days, something to test a political party’s actions against, in their futurist heyday they were salvos into the fight for a different future. I like the idea, given that there are so many excellently thought-through models of workable future structures currently available, that a manifesto that shoots a light into the dark of the future might also be a case of ‘making obvious’ or ‘making clear’.


I’m reading For Humanism, a collection of essays exploring what it might mean to be a humanist in the 21st century, and have no less than three books on the go that explore Utopia: Utopia as Method, Envisioning Real Utopias, and Utopia for Realists. They are all rich provocations, and I’m enjoying the titles as much as anything – the claim that they all tacitly or explicitly make, that imagining the future is part of making the future.




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