True nostalgia, the deepest, has nothing to do with the past but with the future. I often feel nostalgic for the future (…) when everything lurked ahead and the future was still in place,” Luis García Montero wrote in a poem. What the hell happened to the future?
These verses, written in an intimate tone by the poet, could now be understood in a civilized manner. Not so long ago, the future was considered an appetizing place to travel, full of novelties and wonders. With multiple dystopian projections and variants of the end of the world being presented to us as if they were the menu of the day, the future appears as an inhospitable place where we have no choice but to travel. There is futurophobia. “The term refers not so much to fear of the future as to fear of not being able to imagine a better future than the present,” explains journalist Héctor García Barnés in the book of the same name, Futurofobia (Plaza & Janés). Disappointment, fits of longing, exhaustion, cynicism, lack of prospects. As the philosopher Fredric Jameson famously pointed out, “it is now easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”. take the test
We are constantly exposed to stories about the collapse of reality as we know it (climatic, technological, totalitarian, war, economy, pandemic, nuclear threats, migration threats, etc.), but politics does not offer alternative stories to get out of the swamp, imagination has reached a limit and society seems jaded and even resigned. “During the pandemic, I was surprised by the naturalness with which we accepted the situation after the first moment,” García Barnés recalls, “as if we were already used to living with a constant sense of shock.” But that wasn’t yet everything: slowing down the pandemic as things seemed to be returning to a (new) normal, the war breaking out in Ukraine, the nuclear brag, rampant inflation, the social unrest, and here it goes and we wait with half a smile the expose themselves to next and new existential risks, plug into the gatherings and spread new memes.
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ways of thinking about the future
Thinking about the future hasn’t always existed. In ages past, things changed so little in the lives of generations that time seemed static. People were born and died and everything stayed the same. Only in modern times, with the advent of scientific and technical developments and new political and social ideas, did civilization begin to develop noticeably for the individual and to give rise to visions of the future, especially utopian ones (Moro, Campanella, Bacon, Swift) or friendly ones Science fiction (HG Wells or Jules Verne).
The dystopias would arrive later. “Human history has known several crises, but the so-called ‘global civilization’ – an arrogant name for the capitalist economy based on fossil fuels – has never faced a threat like the present one,” write Danowski and Viveiros de Castro in Is there a world to come? ? (Black Box) in which they review the different versions of the idea of the end of the world. “The near future, on the scale of a few decades, becomes not only unpredictable but also unimaginable outside the framework of science fiction or messianic eschatologies,” say the above authors.
Now these dystopias are imposed as the canonical way of predicting the future (except for the techno-utopian visions born in Elon Musk’s Silicon Valley), reflected in numerous cultural products, novels, series and films. “In a way, never before in human history have we known so much about what the future will hold. And it’s completely dystopian and terrifying,” says Australian philosopher Roman Krznaric, author of The Good Ancestor (Captain Swing).
Not so long ago, social progress seemed guaranteed, something that, beyond pressure from the residents of the time, would gradually end sooner or later. Rather, it now gives the impression that in many respects the backlash is inevitable and that the task of the next generations will be more than moving forward and building their own future, it will be righting the wrongs left to them by their elders, if so , they are still on time.
“Our house is on fire, I want you to panic,” snapped young environmental activist Greta Thunberg in front of the European Parliament in 2019. For Krznaric, fear can be even more motivating than tender hope. “Historically, elites have been motivated by fear to change their actions. We need to harness that fear and use it for economic and political transformation, for example, to move beyond our growth-obsessed economies and create regenerative economies.”
A heroic mad rage
The Italian philosopher Franco Bifo Berardi, author of Futurability or Phenomenology of the End (Black Box), encodes the consequences of this lack of prospects, this impact against the wall, in the generalized depression that is recorded: “In a state of depression mass what can happen (what happened and is happening again in the 1920’s) is an explosion of violence and aggressiveness. Fascism is a cure for depression. War is a cure for depression. But it’s like taking amphetamines in a crisis of sadness. It works the first time, but the day after you can jump out of the tenth floor window.” A suicidal situation caused by a “heroic insane rage”, by financial hubris, the encroachment of exploitation and environmental destruction, by the determination of elites in the wild growth against the objective limits of the planet.
Scientists at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, founded 75 years ago by members of the Manhattan Project where the atomic bomb was built, maintain a metaphorical doomsday clock. In their last update last January, they placed the symbolic needle just 100 seconds past twelve o’clock at night before the apocalypse. Closer than ever to that future which is the ultimate suspension of the future itself. “I ask myself: Is there still a chance of a way out of self-destruction? I don’t see them at the moment,” says Berardi.
Thinker Krznaric is more hopeful about the idea of good ancestors, how future generations will judge us based on what we did or didn’t do when given the chance. For the long term in the moment. “A good ancestor is one who recognizes that we are colonizing the future, that we are treating it like a distant colonial outpost where we can throw ecological degradation and technological risk free as if no one were there, a good ancestor joins in the fight towards decolonization, we are part of the future by trying to incorporate the voices of future generations into the decisions we make today.” We are not and it is not clear that we will be.
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