Why Dream?

This section provides space to share some of the fascinating and brilliantly argued writing about why it is so important to create and develop positive visions of the future. They should be particularly useful if you have yet to be convinced, or if you feel the need to strengthen your line of argument on the issue. A further Exploration can be found here.

'Inspirations' will include particularly powerful quotations, pieces of writing or news reports. There will also be a space to include "The Future Is Here": news of innovations/inventions/new ways of working that are already happening.

Click 'Contribute' if you find anything suitable for this section. Please include details of writer and where it was published.



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Posts are sorted in chronological order, with the newest at the top.

Dreaming as a Subversive Activity by Stephen Coleman

Posted on June 14th, 2012 by Marion

As society has grown older and systems of organising life have become more entrenched and seemingly unquestionable, there has been a great need for the utopian submission: ‘Let us imagine that life is not as it is, but as it one day might be. Let us inspect the unknown terrain of the future, as if we are about to inhabit it, as if it is an immediate alternative to the fading present.’…

The tyranny of realism (as if the historical present is somehow more intrinsically real than what is gone or what is to come) is subverted by the utopian who envisages a future which is freed from the apparently unchangeable relationships of the present.

The imagined future is a subversive force: the more who imagine a different kind of future, and imagine constructively, materially and determinedly, the more dangerous utopian dreams become. They grow from dreams to aims. Just as the scientist proceeds from speculative hypothesis to practical experimentation, so with social change, what begin as wild dreams, gut feelings, beautiful visions, emerge as movements to make the imagined real.

The enemy of the dream of better times to come is the ideologist of the present, armed in defence of the existing miseries with the claim that the prevailing relationships of oppression are immutable. How many rebels have surrendered their visions of great change under the weight of the dogma which insists that There Is No Alternative? Isolation from the mass conformity around us can eventually extinguish hope; the enormous burden of shoving history onwards can demoralise utopian activists, leading us from hope to bitterness. It is easy enough to succumb to the fallacy that there is nothing that can be done to change the world.

And yet, look how the world does change. When we began to write this book, the Berlin Wall, the police states of Eastern Europe, the rule of pseudo-socialist tyrants seemed like fixed features of history, entrenched for eternity. Had we been told that within a year these emblems of oppression would be no more, the editors of this book would have laughed – the insecure laughter of those who cannot see what is around the corner. The rapidity of the changes which have occurred since then will serve forever as a warning to those who comfort their conservative minds with assumptions about the grinding, dull, imperceptible slowness of historical change.

History can explode. And when it does it is ignited by those who have dared to dream, who have the courage to take on seemingly unbeatable odds, who are brave enough to demand the impossible.

© Stephen Coleman

An extract from the Introduction to ‘William Morris and News from Nowhere: a Vision for our Time’, edited by Stephen Coleman and Paddy O’Sullivan

Published by Green Books in 1990

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In an interview in Permaculture Magazine No 69 Polly Higgins the radical lawyer says:

Posted on February 28th, 2012 by Marion

“When you give voice to what you want to see happening in the world and when it comes from a place of caring, especially if you’re collaborating with other people, it creates a process of new future visioning. Once we start giving it language it makes it happen. Doors of opportunity open and the right people appear. We each have a role in creating the new world and giving voice to the world we want to see, literally getting back to Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’. He spoke about that dream and galvanised thousands and thousands of people around the world.

“Permaculture is about seeding the new world, quite literally as well as metaphorically,” Polly says. “It is vital that we raise enormous public awareness around closing the door to destruction so that the new world vision becomes the norm, not the exception. At the moment it’s the exception.

Giving voice is very empowering. It’s about getting connected in the community, engaging in the ideas and giving voice to the new. It is about dreaming the dream and then putting it into action. Something that a lot of indigenous people know and understand is that once we can find  language for the vision, we demystify it, we give it a name and the healing begins.”

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Jetse de Vries: Introduction to ‘’Shine’, an anthology of near-future optimistic science fiction

Posted on February 28th, 2012 by Marion

There’s a thing like a weed: it grows everywhere, despite the common wisdom that it can’t grow there. In the most barren, destitute and desperate places, it springs up. It flowers, against the grain. It raises its head at the most unexpected of times, even when – often especially when – most people think it’s dead and gone.

It’s hope. Hope fed by optimism.

Now optimism and an upbeat attitude have been given short shrift in written SF over the last few decades and especially the last one. Yes, there are novels and short stories with a positive outlook, but  these are few and far between. As an exercise, list five downbeat novels per year from 2000 to 2009. Then make a similar list for five upbeat novels per year (upbeat defined as a story where the future is a better place than today, not a story where over 90% of humanity is killed and  where the survivors eventually make do): I know which list will be the hardest to make.

It’s become so bad that Gardner Duzois remarked, in the July 2009 Locus:
“Although I like a well crafted dystopian story as well as anyone else, the balance has swung too far in that direction, and nihilism, gloom, and black despair about the future have become so standard in the genre that it’s almost become stylised, and almost the default setting, with few writers bothering to try to imagine viable human futures that somebody might actually want to live in.
Yet in the real world,  a study indicates people by nature are universally optimistic (Kansas University and Gallup world poll) This concurs with what I see in my day job: I train people who come literally from around the world in my company’s equipment and the vast majority of them are very optimistic. So in this matter, written SF is greatly out of step with the real-world. Which raises some doubt when SF claims that it is a mirror of today’s world.

Now I am not against dystopias, apocalyptic and downbeat SF per se: I have certainly enjoyed many such novels and short stories. However right now the balance is gone: I estimate at least 90% of written SF today is downbeat. ‘Shine’ is an attempt to redress that balance somewhat.

‘Shine’ is also my attempt to show the world that SF can do more than merely say: if this (horrible trend) goes on, we all go down the drain. Yes, it’s good to show people the consequences of their behaviour. However written SF almost exclusively shows the consequences of bad behaviour, and almost never the consequences of good behaviour. Dire warnings and doomsayings, being told over and over again ad nauseam, lose their effectiveness. With ‘Shine’ I hope to show the other side of the coin: SF that actively thinks about solutions to the problems plaguing humanity today. To show readers that written SF does something more than either provide escapism (which can be nice, once in a while) or wield the whip: that written SF can actively think in a constructive manner.

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