Cultures are underpinned and shaped by the stories they tell. Not just the big obvious myths, but the day to day stories about how everything works. Our current cultural stories include capitalism, austerity, growth, consumerism, and dominion over the natural world. For Pagans, this life destroying, using story-set that leads to unsustainable living just isn’t tolerable. We need new stories.
Writing about perfect worlds is really awkward. It’s so easy to sound preachy, or ridiculous, and that which is set up as Utopian, in fiction and in real life alike, tends to go horribly wrong. Stories for a future world have to balance the better ideas with the emotional realism that lets us accept that this is believable. It’s not an easy balance to strike.
I recently read Anna McKerrow’s ‘Crow Moon’ – it’s a really interesting piece of eco-pagan literature, aimed at the YA market. It postulates a future society that’s living much closer to the land, and dealing with the restrictions, the inevitable hard work and limited options this creates. What makes it work as a story is that it isn’t a perfect vision. There is strife, and struggle, and hardship, but you have to balance that against the good things – one of which is the hope of a sustainable future. In the novel, the greenworld culture Pagans are likely to empathise with, contrasts with the redworld, where people are still killing each other over the last remaining fuel supplies. However imperfect a sustainable future is going to be, it’s bound to beat the hell out of the alternatives.
Of course one story doesn’t have to do it all, in fact it’s probably better that we don’t have one perfect story to try and live up to. Our Pagan ancestors had a lot of stories, and diversity makes us stronger. We need lots of ideas right now, lots of different visions of a future that help us remember that the current stories in our culture are not the only stories. The right wing domination of contemporary story making is a real issue and it discourages people from imagining alternative ways of living and being. We’re being hammered with austerity and growth as the only stories of how an economy can work right now, and we’ve got to change that and open it out into something more liveable, more human, more sane.