Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Visions Of The Future

Are we on the verge of total self-destruction?

It's not hard to get distressed about the state of the world and to feel despairing about the future. In fact I find it a bit strange when people don't have at least a tad of concern about our common future and the planet as a whole. But despair, distress and defeatism can really bring you down, just as every day (unless we live in some kind of insulated bubble) we see or hear of new atrocities, threats, injustices and new depths of personal, societal and planetary destruction.

How do we keep hold of positive visions in the face of relentless and brutal violence as has been happening in the last few weeks to the people in Turkey and in countries around the world wherever people rise against the tyranny of financial, political or religious abuse of power? How do we take steps towards peace when our governments and militaries are intent on leading us into ever worsening conditions of warfare, plans for Syria being the latest? When their cuts and their undemocratic policies lead to further inequality, alienation and social breakdown within our communities?

How do we not give up in the face of insidious, multinational industries such as that of pornography, the global arms trade, animal exploitation or of corporations such as Monsanto.
Of course the corporations and governments, the bankers, arms dealers, religious fundamentalists... have visions too. Visions that are driving their actions. Visions that can be traced back to original seedbeds (or test tubes!) and can be unearthed by such investigations as following the money or asking questions like 'In what ways do they benefit?' 'Who profits?' 'What do they need us to believe in order to keep us compliant?' 'How are we feeding their power?' These questions and more can help us discover their vulnerabilities, their stakeholders, their strategies, and the opportunities which may help to bring their structures down, to target their power bases. Their visions are for the control of our future, for the continued accumulation of profit and power into the hands of the few. But we are also increasingly seeing opportunities for ways to take the first step. With the Occupy movements and the immense diversity of protests around the world (often neglected by mainstream media); with the incredible courage of whistleblowers and activists bringing the hidden abuses into the light; with the countless people who dare to imagine and share visions for a different future.
I recently went to a workshop in Glastonbury run by Starhawk entitled 'Times of Hope and Chaos'.
We live at a pivotal moment in history, when the tides of hope are rising, but the systems that sustain us, environmental, social and financial, are crumbling all around. How do we navigate through the storm, and bring ourselves and our world to a place of harmony, balance and beauty? We need both the tools of spirit grounding, deep connection and celebration and the skills of organizing and mobilizing vision, passion, courage and commitment. And we need the ideas and principles that can help us shift our culture from an obsession with things to a focus on relationships. (From publicity text)
Over the weekend we discussed the difficulties we can come up against when we're trying to organise for change individually and amongst activist groups, and the strategies which we can use to creatively move through them. We worked on visioning the future. If we want to change the world we need a positive vision of what a different future can look like, rather than the predominant one being constructed by corporate capitalism and projected by mainstream media.

I was particularly struck by one exercise we did which was a visualised trance journey to experience our vision of the future we want to see. We journeyed far into the future where I stepped into my personal vision of a utopian world. I found this fairly easy to do. There were abundant images forming of harmonious living in the mental creation of my ideal world. A place where housing, education, water, food, transport, healthcare, cities, etc. were all designed and powered with respect for peoples, animals and the Earth. Simple eh! Not so surprisingly for me, the 'guide' who was waiting to meet me, turned out to be an old herbalist woman. She gave me the words 'patience', 'persistence', 'kindness'. This future was very like the positive society written about in Starhawk's book The Fifth Sacred Thing which profoundly inspired me when I first read it 20 years ago and of which I'm excited to know is currently being made into a film. Here's the latest trailer for it:

However, the next part of the visualised journey was very different and a lot more difficult. We were asked to step back halfway between this distant future vision and our current world, to experience our halfway-there future. To begin with I found it impossible. The current reality and the future possibility seemed completely disconnected. There seemed to be no path or bridge between them for me to follow and find a vision. They appeared such contrasting opposites that it felt hopeless to attempt to travel between the two on any kind of conceivable path. It felt like there was no ground on which to stand on. Then I remembered it's alright to feel that - to stay with that experience of groundlessness. (I've been helpfully influenced by the teachings of the Buddhist, Pema Chodron, in particular her book 'When Things Fall Apart').

So, once I stopped panicking about not knowing how to get from here to there, a vision of the halfway path began to emerge. It was indeed a place of both chaos and hope, like our current world but much more so. In many ways it looked like the present, but more broken with a stronger sense of confusion and fragmentation. The chaos of old structures breaking up and the hope inherent in new ones struggling into being. I felt lost, disorientated, unsure of my focus. There was a sense of distortion, of hectic pace, of disturbing disintegration and desperate innovation. It felt like many people were moving in different directions as if sped up in a film, almost robotic in their lack of connection with those they were passing. Then there were others who were like points of stillness and moving as in slow motion. There were strong community structures growing up like powerful green shoots through concrete, infused with a wild and passionate energy of freedom and determined resilience. In a nurturing community cafĂ© space I meet an old woman 'guide' who was silent. Although I couldn't hear any words from her she conveyed a message of 'just hold on', 'stand your ground'. She seemed to represent the need for an anchor point and the strength to remain.

Then in this exercise, we were asked to return to one step away from now. What is the very first step on our journey into the future we want to create?

On this workshop I met up with Marion, a woman who is creating a travelling exhibition of positive visions of the future. She showed me some inspiring bits of film she's been making around festivals asking people about what's important to them. She's collating some wonderful pieces of dreaming to help us take the steps we need towards the future we want to create. The Dream The Future project's website can be found here (although I believe Marion and the exhibition may already be on their travels). A very true quote from the website: "The best way to predict the future is to create it" -unknown.


Here's the result of a little brainstorming I did for this project.

I became quite interested in this whole positive visions idea... especially if it means opening a metaphorical window of possibility that we're not all doomed... if it means inspiring ourselves and each other into real meaningful direct action and relationships which could give us even a gnat's pee size chance of changing our current direction for the better... if it means providing a public platform for some voices of sanity... We all need to help to turn the tides of disillusion and despair, because this world, this life, is actually indescribably awesome and it's time we started loving it and daring to create the realities which are waiting to germinate from our wildest most fabulous visions!

So here are several more examples I came across of people expressing their positive visions of the future. I haven't checked them all out or who's behind them yet, but I reckon there could be some good ideas amongst them. We have to be aware of a lot of lovely words which nasty corporations and ineffective institutions like to use to give themselves a greenwash and pretend they're doing something good whilst spinning us a yarn, so doing our research amongst the information overload is an ongoing process! For example, most of us are probably aware of the way words such as 'sustainable' 'peacekeeping' and 'free range' can have hugely different meanings depending on who's using them! Next time the gloom descends, why not explore a few alternatives, or dream up our own. On the other hand, why wait until then?

Check out the following links for more visions of the future!

WHAT About the Future? (Lots of interesting short films asking the question, mainly in English or French):

Creative Visions Foundation:

We Dream The Future (Aimed at 12-22 yr olds):

Winners of BBC Competition of visual visions of the future:


And because I'm an 80s girl...

'...Whatever we do let's make a pledge to put it right
So we can end the rule of the division
Putting the dream into action..."


Monday, 3 June 2013

Stop The Badger Cull! Now!

On Saturday, I joined several thousand people in London marching against the badger cull which is planned to start any night now.

We can still stop the killing!

* Sign the petition:

* Contact your MP: This week on Wed 6th June,there is a full Parliamentary debate and vote on the cull. Please urge your MP to vote against the cull.

* Keep informed of the campaign:

* Support or join the non-violent direct action to sabotage the cull once it begins. Here are details of local groups who can help to put you in touch with activists:

* Use social media. There are plenty of Facebook groups to find out about actions and campaign developments - just search 'badger cull'. On Twitter, every Monday 11am-1pm voice your opposition to the cull using the hashtag #badgermonday. Every Tuesday is #PetitionTuesday to publicise the e-petition (share the petition link above)

* Join the next march or action!

* Donate money to the campaign or the saboteurs.

There are lots of different ways we can all participate and coming at it from every angle helps. Together we can make this cull unworkable and unaffordable. Save the badgers!