There is no easy roadmap to get from the troubled world we inhabit now to a sustainable, non-oppressive future because there are so many possible routes and no clearly defined destination—we seek freedom rather than a new prison.
Sometimes it seems like a lot of people aren’t on a road, but are instead content to stay where they are—accepting the established order, hierarchy, and short-term environmental practices. Part of building a new world is figuring out—personally and socially—how to get beyond the hopelessness that causes people to accept the status quo. It is hard to imagine a different world and even harder to see a way to get there. The most basic form of activism—underlying the concrete things people do like cooking Food Not Bombs or going to protests—is fighting the sense of hopelessness and apathy that makes an uprising and the construction of new structures possible.
Imagining a different world is crucial to getting beyond despair and an acceptance of the existing order, because in thinking about how a different society would look, things start seeming less permanent and pre-determined. We need to figure out why so many folks assume that centralized control by the few over the many, permanent poverty and inequality, structural violence and war, intolerance, ugly and soulless cities, and environmental destruction for every human function are “normal.”
The current social order assumes that everyone will behave selfishly, but our lives tell us that people are generous. A different world of freedom, cooperation, free time for play, and sustainability floats in our minds—community gardens, childcare collectives, free skools, cooperative communities, collective workplaces. Imagining new structures and forms of organization is a crucial activity for all of us who struggle for change.
But just imagining a different world is clearly not enough. A lot of people talk a good game about how they wish things could be, or what they will do after the revolution, which begs the question: Why the gap between our dieas and our daily lived practice?
Daily living forces everyone to make constant decisions: to decide whether you’ll compromise and conform with “the way things are” or do your best to live what’s in your heart and your imagination. Those individual daily decisions eventually add up to your lifetime. Each decision seems minor—each compromise and conformity can get rationalized as “necessary, realistic, or inevitable.” But if you imagine a different world—a world with cooperation, sharing, equitable distribution of resources and sustainable environmental choices—why do you think that some moment in the future will be the right moment to start living according to your vision?
What are you waiting for? If you think about it, the capitalist/industrial system requires participation, whether to “get ahead” or just to survive. Learning to live according to human values instead of economic imperatives means figuring out how to reduce your dependence on the capitalist infrastructure while increasing your social and physical wellbeing. This includes redefining property, transportation, food, entertainment, and family relationships—really all relationships. Each of us must escape from whatever imprisons us. While everyone’s obstacles and options are different—economic class and many other demographic factors that influence the roads of resistance people take—everyone has opportunities to envision a different existence and figure out ways to live that existence.
In finally living according to your vision instead of always living a compromise, you instantly have shifted to a new world: beyond an unrealized dream and into a new way of living that changes the only life you can ultimately determine—your own.