The world is currently a dumpster fire. There is no doubt about that.
It’s not surprising that most of the #bookstagrams I saw pop up were created at the start of the pandemic: people were turning to books to escape the nightmare that was (still is) real life. And with delicious dark irony, reading a lot of dystopian books.
When we were kids
Think back to when you were a kid. Why did you enjoy reading? I assumed one reason was because you felt transported into different worlds. Using your imagination to watch the scenes unfold was (and still is) magical.
I had a strong imagination when I was a child. Probably because I was an only child for six years before my little sister was born. What little kid do you know who created this elaborate story about why her best imaginary friend moved away to Florida?
I say all this about imagination to say that it is a powerful tool. I bet you didn’t think about using it to strengthen your activism.
I used to listen to the podcast Pod Save the People all the time. Something that gave me so much hope was when the host Deray Mickissick said (quoting VERY loosely) people built the current system and people can build something new.
This is where our imagination comes into play
I complain about the evils of capitalism at least three times a day. It literally seeps into EVERYTHING we do (that, and patriarchy and white supremacy). It seems impossible to dismantle something so old and pervasive.
We don’t have to completely destroy something to create something new. If we exert some of those imagination muscles, we can do some amazing things (just look at Feminist Book Club doing their part of throwing the middle finger up to capitalism). Imagination allows us to take what we have and repurpose it into something better.
The more we use our imagination, the more we can keep building new systems that create a more equitable world.
Speculative fiction is great for doom and gloom to send us a warning about what our world could look like if we don’t get our act together (thanks Parable of the Sower). But speculative fiction is also great to use our imagination about what our world could be for the better. Recognizing and naming the things that are wrong with our society is one step. For actionable solutions, we need the power of imagination to figure out what an equitable world looks like to begin with.
While I wish we could just burn the whole system down, we need to imagine a world that can effectively replace this one before we go run and get our matches.