A couple of weeks before confinement started we asked some of our collaborators to send us inspiring texts to offset the wave of bad news about the current state of the world. We wanted to publish a plural post to inspire hope and optimism, with essential questions, bright ideas and simple solutions. This is the result, in the midst of the global pandemic with consequences and lessons that will define the near future.
- 7 March 2020, by Víctor Recort
- Which would you prefer?, by Berta Gómez Santo Tomás
- The full and diverse Internet , by Albert Lloreta
- Failing side by side, by João França
- Tweets, by Joana Moll
- Living on music, by Tania Adam
- From below; upwards, by Lucas Ramada Prieto
- What is it that’s melting down?, by Toni Navarro
- Hope and optimism, by Míriam Hatibi
7 March 2020
“How do I maintain authority over my bodyguard after the event?” The event is environmental collapse. The question, asked of a select few, was posed by an anonymous multimillionaire to technology expert Douglas Rushkoff. The glass half empty: the world is going to hell in a handbasket faster than we would like. The glass half full: they’re afraid of us. To quote John Berger: “The future that they fear, will come. And in it, what will remain of us, is the confidence we maintained in the dark.” I’m writing this in the smallest room in the flat, which serves as our dressing room and our study. It’s nine o’clock, because something’s happening that always happens at nine o’clock: through the window, which overlooks a school playground, drifts the song Bon dia [Good morning] by Els Pets. Perhaps it is a good morning.
Which would you prefer?
Berta Gómez Santo Tomás
“The future is impossible but also mandatory.”
Kate Millet, Sita
“Which would you prefer: to travel to the past or to the future?” There were four of us in that van in the middle of Scotland when someone asked the question. I was the only one who chose the future: why choose the known—and generally rather unpleasant, I thought—when you could choose progress, the promise of the new, the marvels of technology.
And what if the future is non-existence? What if the forecasts come true? As always, there’s a right answer, and that is: travel to the past. Only in this way can we dodge the apocalyptic issues. But choosing it also confirms how essential as a human condition it is to have a future: only the past guarantees us a will be.
The future is the capacity to imagine. It operates in political terms. Like feminist science fiction. Like utopia and dystopia: the future is what we want and what we don’t want to be. The phrase “The future is female” on my T-shirt means that the present is female but the past wasn’t. When I was at university I adopted the slogan “They’re stealing our future”; now, I think they were just trying to narrow the margins of the possible—buy a house, have babies, get a job with a contract—but the possibilities of thinking (it) are ours. Because the future is impossible but also mandatory.
The full and diverse Internet
Alongside the homogenizing isolation and loneliness of the “social” (use your fingers) networks, there is still a basic feature of the digital world that reminds me of something my grandmother always says, and that generates warmth and hope for me: “There are people everywhere!” This idea of plenitude goes hand in hand with a diversity that tends to infinity: as though we all lived together in an huge, labyrinthine castle, the Internet is infected by microcommunities, directories and creators with hyperspecific interests, each in their own corner. The digital world continues to offer us doors to embark on journeys to the obsessions of others, to lives happening parallel to ours, and highlights and lowlights of the digitised past. And for me, this creates the peace of seeing humanity as a single, unlimited body, complex, living and indomitable.
Failing side by side
We often fail when we try to change the world. Sometimes, too, when we are just trying to live a decent life, like many people who took on a mortgage and lost everything in the crisis. The Plataforma d’Afectats per la Hipoteca has spent the last eleven years turning these failures into a “Yes, we can”. Yes, we can convince people of revolutionary ideas, and yes, you can fight for your home when you’ve lost everything, side by side with other people. “Perhaps it’s a privilege to be able to fail just enough to learn from your failures”, a friend criticised. Building collective projects is precisely about creating contexts in which, wherever we come from, we can fail better.
What if Trump’s tweets denying global warming were published upside down on Twitter? Would it be considered an attack of freedom of expression or an exercise in public health? Sometimes, the subtlest of movements, almost mute, have a thunderous capacity to transform, like a virus. This intervention brings together all the tweets about climate change published by Donald Trump from 2011 to 2019, and offers the possibility to turn them upside down, or not.
Living on music
It’s important to live off music. To practise it. It represents a kind of purge that allows us to step outside ourselves, far from reality. In Africa, people live off music. It is a collective heritage with spiritual qualities that are shared by all. An art, a way of cultivating life, because music is not for pleasing the ear or for expressing emotions; it’s for living. And life is not exotic. European musical tradition colonised the harmony, venerated the rhythm and categorised African musics as exotic, as “world musics”. But there is not much worldly about these musics—they come from outer space; they are alien. Hence, in the face of the social dystopia caused by the encounter with Europe, we Africans have used music to reach the “outer space” left to us by Sun Ra.
From below; upwards
Lucas Ramada Prieto
My ray of light shines small but bright. It slides from the bottom upwards, sudden and unexpected, but with the force of a lifetime to be written. It doesn’t just mark a path, it creates it.
The adult norm is beginning to crumble. The idea that lived and known experience prevails over the one that is beginning to understand has ceased to seem so obvious. For whatever reason—I prefer not to think about it—the childish look at the world is infiltrating collective knowledge, apparently with the entity and the identity it deserves. And I’m not talking about culture for them, I’m talking about what children say about their existence. About their world view. Without it, we are nothing. Because we never were, and they never will be.
Now, we only have to listen.
What is it that’s melting down?
“Meltdown: planetary china-syndrome […]. Ultravirus […]. It is poised to eat your TV, infect your bank account, and hack xenodata from your mitochondria” (Meltdown, 1994). Today, these words of Nick Land, to which I return obsessively since the quarantine for COVID-19 started, seem almost prophetic (he would say hyperstitious). What is it that’s melting down? “Bifo” says somewhere that the financial system won’t survive the pandemic; for Žižek, the only alternative is solidarity and global cooperation. Perhaps Land’s powers of divination failed on one point: techno-capitalist singularity is not conquering the Earth—it is being (or can be) dismantled.
Hope and optimism
Pizarnik ends one of her poems with the words: “we pluck the mirrors until the forgotten words ring magically.”
Somehow, we are always doing that. We seek in the mirrors of others. In the spaces that are home to us (debates, talks or workshops) we coincide with someone with whom everything clicks: we talk about what should be important and we know we have found someone to call a companion.
Frank Barat asks Angela Davis if it is possible to be optimist about the future, and she says that “it is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism”. Might these be the forgotten words?