“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination” Mark Twain
To change anything, we have to be able to imagine that it could be different. One of the biggest problems with this planet destroying late stage capitalism is what a good job has been done persuading us that no other ways exist. We’re sold the market as a natural, inevitable force people are powerless to resist. We’re sold consumption as the peak of human progress. We’re told there’s no way to stop and that it would be pointless to try.
One of the things imaginative experiences can give us is the simple idea that alternatives exist. If our sense of alternatives first looks like a fantasy world, or Star Trek, or even a horror scenario, it’s still an alternative. If we can imagine the derranged outpourings of an ancient, mad god (with all due reference to Lovecraft) we can also imagine that the outpourings of our irresponsible politicians might also be deranged, and not representative of our only real choice.
People who benefit from us believing in their way of doing things will try to persuade us that no options even exist. People don’t fight back against things that seem inevitable. There is, after all, wisdom in not trying to fight things that cannot be changed. Except that anything humans have made can be changed, wasn’t inevitable and isn’t the only option.
So, while it calls for imagination to make change, any kind of imaginative thing we might share contributes to that. Being able to imagine is a necessary precursor for imagining the things that will make good change possible. To begin to imagine, it helps if we are exposed to imaginative things and if our minds are encouraged to imagine things that are beyond our experiences.
I think there’s a case to be made that art is a moral necessity – more so than ever at the moment. All art, and all art forms, simply by existing, show us that possibility exists. Alternatives exist. Without culture, without creativity, we are more easily persuaded that what we have is all there is. Arguably, the less realistic, more speculative and outlandish things are, the more they do to open us up to possibility. If we can imagine vampires in outer space, we might better be able to imagine being ok with human diversity. If we can imagine aliens with radically different ways of living, we might be able to imagine changing our own lives.
It’s not enough to beat the reality we have, when it doesn’t work for us, we have to be able to imagine something better.