Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back to the Future: modern-day utopian strivings for tomorrow

by some forward-thinking anarchists

[We were recently asked to describe our vision for the year 2021, ten years into the future. Here’s our best-case scenario. We're not saying that this is this future is likely. We're presuming there will be no technological singularity, no disclosure about extraterrestrials, and neither a New Age mystical ascension nor doomsday in 2012. This may not be the best nor last such piece we write. It’s not everything we would like, but it’s headed in that direction. If you think you could do better, please write your own and post it.]

A general paradigm shift has emerged over time regarding how people view the nature of humanity itself. People increasingly have moved away from relating based on static labels and moralistic judgements towards instead seeing all human beings as having the same basic and fundamental needs. Increasingly there is also more open acknowledgement that each person is responsible for the choices that they make, that the choices each person makes affects others, and that healthy social relationships are necessary in order to survive. Subsequently there is more of a generalized respect for the autonomy of each person, and for the sake of healthy relationships there is less reliance on coercion, intimidation or manipulation. Because of this, new forms of group facilitation are created and gaining new interest, facilitation that can be said to be more "person-centered", as opposed to the old more "agenda-centered" ways of having conversations and meetings.

With this form of group facilitation gaining popularity as the preferred approach for running formal meetings as well as informal gatherings of people, both the character of organizations as well as for the culture at large begins to change as well. More and more people try to relate with each-other in ways that prioritize empathic understanding, honest self-expression and valuing everyone's well-being. This change is having it's effect on how people address conflict towards more restorative justice and mediation as opposed to the traditional punitive justice. Romantic relationships gradually shift towards becoming more free-form and focused on open and direct dialogue. Parent-child relationships become more non-coercive, creative and cooperative. Family structures become more open, pluralistic and affinity-based. Overall, voluntary cooperation and mutual partnerships are becoming more of the favored mode for social relationships.

Government as we had known it is clearly on the way out. A large majority of people have realized that they were not served by the left/right split which was largely concocted by the rich and powerful to keep the masses divided and fighting among themselves. Dialog and deliberation methods have become popular and Citizens’ Deliberative Councils with randomly selected members are temporarily convened to arrive at consensus about all the contentious issues of the day, producing breakthrough solutions that divisive party politics was never able to achieve. Politicians who once pandered to corporate special interests are now bending over backwards to rubber-stamp the proposals of the Citizens’ Deliberative Councils, lest they lose what little public credibility they have left. A large, growing minority is loudly questioning what we need these politicians for at all, and it looks like the era of representative democracy is drawing to a close, in favor of something much more participatory that works for everybody.

A Truth-and-Reconciliation Commission has been formed in which members of the intelligence establishment, military-industrial complex, Wall Street, and the corporatocracy confess their crimes and publicly discuss their impact on others in exchange for immunity from prosecution. People who've been involved in running corporate and political structures are beginning to talk about their pain, and listen to affected people talk about their pain as well. In awkward fits and jumps, the crypto-fascist regime that has ruled since World War 2 and before is seriously in the process of unraveling in the face of an informed and determined public unwilling to tolerate its continuance. The wars have ended, the foreign military bases have closed down, and returning soldiers have been deprogrammed, rehabilitated, and reintegrated into supportive communities.

Much more food is grown cooperatively and locally where people live. Nowadays pretty much everyone agrees about the importance of local food independence, organic methods, and composting. All genetically engineered seeds have been safely destroyed and replaced with heirloom varieties.

Most people have come to understand the value of unplugging from the mass media and corporate culture. TV, movies, video games, glossy magazines, and pop music only have a shred of their former audience and big mass media companies are going bankrupt. Grass-roots autonomous culture has risen up to replace it, and people who were once made to feel isolated, inadequate, and powerless by the onslaught of advertising and corporate and government propaganda, are now enjoying a new depth of meaning and thrill of empowerment as they begin symbolically representing their own lives and struggles in art and music.

Traditional models of education (both childhood and higher education) are seen are irrelevant and not worth the resources that people used to put towards them. For learning people form informal small groups to study, discuss and experiment together. Occasionally skilled facilitators are sought out to stimulate and guide the interest of these groups to get past problems or stuck spots. Mentorship relationships also flourish between people with more knowledge and experience in given areas and those whom have an interest in learning in that area. When wanting to work in a certain area, people openly talk about what their own personal strengths, weaknesses and interests are without shame, and what they would need to learn in order to effectively carry out the necessary tasks.

Petroleum has begun phasing out of our lives and we’ve risen to the challenge of coping with this shift gracefully. We’ve relocalized our production and drastically simplified our consumption patterns. Fuel rationing is being handled by neighborhood committees, reserving gasoline for the most vital transportation, such as ambulances and moving food. We’re clustering into fewer homes in the winter in order to burn less heating oil. All the nuclear plants have been shut down for the sake of public safety. Wind and solar has made up for some of the shortfall, but mostly we’re making due with less and creatively stretching out what’s left.

The economy has taken an unexpected twist as the GDP and average per capita income has taken a nose dive while surveys of subjective life satisfaction are soaring. Widespread unemployment combined with massive shocks of inflation and deflation has lead the market to distrust money in general, so monetary exchange as a means to get what one wants is falling into disuse, replaced by decentralized volunteer groups coordinating labor and food distribution on an ad-hoc basis. New intentional communities are springing up everywhere as it becomes common knowledge that we need to come together in a spirit of cooperation if we are to survive. Few people have real jobs or income any more, but willing workers voluntarily contribute their talents to the greater good, guided by needs-and-wants bulletin boards and consensus town meetings to set priorities. Consumerism has fallen into ill repute as many have realized that once basic needs are met, materialism produces diminishing returns, and that nothing is more satisfying than pitching in to make one’s community a better place to live for everyone.


Susan L said...

May it be so.

I facilitated visioning for three different gatherings of Transition folks, only we were using the year 2030 as our focus. What strikes me is how similar all of these visions are with regard to the way people live together and treat each other. Without exception, people noticed that relocalization leads to people having more time for one another. For me, that similarity gives substance to our interdependence and credence to the idea that people all want basically the same things, and above all, to know that their needs matter.

I was especially delighted with your Citizens’ Deliberative Councils with their self-identified membership. I was reminded of the Councils in Starhawk's Fifth Sacred Thing where there are additionally four citizens who speak for the natural world - Water, Earth, Air, and Fire. I believe that would go a long way towards keeping humanity in "right relation" with the environment. Yes, citizens - not experts, but ordinary people who will be impacted by the outcome of the deliberations.

In the Transition model, the next step is back-casting - creating a timeline from that future perspective that illustrates what has to have happened on a year-by-year basis in order to manifest the vision, and then using the time line to guide our actions.

Nexus X Humectress said...

The Citizens’ Deliberative Councils I had in mind do not have a self-identified membership, but rather their membership is chosen through a random selection process, with the idea that this microcosm might represent many of the concerns and opinions in macro society without having to get every single person into a meeting. I was taking an idea from Jim Rough, originator of Dynamic Facilitation.

Rachel said...

I very much enjoyed reading this vision - it gives me hope that we could live in a way that is more life-affirming that the current dominant culture.

Thank you, Susan, for mentioning back-casting! While reading the vision i had that question: How do we get there from here? Some of it is already happening but there are also forces that are working against this shift (maybe not consciously but they'd rather keep their current power!). So developing a blueprint, a timeline might help actually get us there.

Anonymous said...

It is comforting to read your vision, Ian, and feels like it's based on reality and logic.

What keeps me skeptical is the fact that even though much, if not most, of your vision truly speaks to basic, universal human much strife and suffering itself has long since stood in the way brutally, and not left most people with the energy and willingness to 'stick with it' and persist in the hoped-for direction.

Fear and isolation, disbelief and suspicion, have been blocking the channels to the open and capable sources and resources of our minds and hearts.

To me, that is the challenge of today, and carries with it the mystery of: "how to usefully and cooperatively work together toward our goal"??

Susan L said...

Nexus, I stand corrected and join you in the preference for random selection. If there's one thing I've learned from my experience of Occupy Anywhere General Assemblies, it's that unacknowledged power presents as oppression - unacknowledged because still in the thrall of the myth of equality. My preference for random selection is because it just fosters competition to insist on having the "best" person for the job. I want to live in a world where there's room for the un-best, too! Still, I would like to have the option to decline if selected; otherwise, it's conscription!