1. The Pascalian bet: one chance in 100 (or 1000) for humanity to survive the 21 st century?
2. If that chance exists, we ought to be able to imagine it as sci-fi, no?
3. The power of utopias to awaken people to struggle is proven
4. Today more than every people need a credible positive vision
5. Looking backward from the future has many advantages.
6. Marx’s believe in a future socialist society enabled him to analyze the present capitalist society as temporary, part of a series of societies that rise and fall.
7. Looking backward simplifies complex situations as we “know” in what direction they are going.
8. Looking backward as future historians keeps us from quarrelling like rival sectarians as we have all been dead for at least 70 years.
9. Basic rules for Future Historians: No Gods, no Extraterrestrials, no infallible vanguard parties. Plurality of future societies and roads thereto.
Methods (evolving) of our International Study Group and Collective Writing Project
During its first year, the Study Group outlined some twenty Study Topics, including Economics, Energy, Women, Utopias etc. From week to week, we gathered materials on a specific topic, shared them through a Drop Box, and discussed them during our 2-hour videotaped seminars, all available on YouTube. We are continuously adding to this body of research, which we use as the basis of our Collective Writing efforts. We are now concentrating on Collective Writing, which is a more challenging process that we are struggling to master. Our results, such as they are, can be read on our WIKI at http://futurehistorians.org/doku.php?id=start The originality of our project is threefold:
1. Most previous utopian fictions don’t really tell us HOW people were about to get from capitalist barbarism to a better world
2. The future societies proposed by Thomas Moore and his successors are all to an extent monolithic, from Bellamy’s rigid socialism of Looking Backward to Morris’s enchanting nostalgia for an idealized Middle Ages in News From Nowhere. Ours will be plural, pluralistic and planetary, with plenty of room for variety and individual taste.
3. Often previous Utopias are not realistic, credible, in conformity with historical and scientific/technological knowns.
The solution to these problems we came up with is entitled: Then, Now, and How. It takes the form of a history book aimed at young people a century from today, which teaches them how their great-grandparents got from there to here. It takes the form of an encyclopedic anthology, where the reader can follow her personal interests, whether in a Topic like Agriculture or in a period of the past like capitalism Then or the revolutionary emergence of the new world How. Thus, the table of contents takes the form of a Grid. This ever growing patchwork allows for great diversity and avoids sectarian rigidity. (Show demonstration on line).
For THEN we patch together excerpts contemporary critical studies of capitalism into a coherent narrative and then change the very tenses into the past. We call this the power of the preterit. Read in the past tense, today’s hysterical, strident exposés of capitalist horrors which we radicals broadcast to mostly deaf ears, are transformed into irrefutable historical accounts in the reader’s mind. Their long-dead authors get referenced as “prescient.”
For NOW we borrow from every kind of predictive writing, fiction, authors advocating ideas like municipal socialism and solar communism. Only we change the verbs from the future or the hypothetical to the present tense, extolling the relative virtues of different 22 nd century solutions to 21 st century problems and making them seem reasonable and real. More creative plagiarism.
For HOW we study and record all evidence of the potential of ongoing social movements, like the Yellow Vests, to grow, deepen and converge with ongoing movements in other sphere and lands so as to become part of a planetary anti- capitalist emergence. Then we outline all the obstacles to be overcome by such movements to succeed. But again, we change the tenses, unleashing the power of the preterit. Instead of asking “how can the YV overcome French racism,” we ask and answer the question of 2119: “How did the Yellow Vests overcome French racism?” Our basic techniques for creating Then, Now and How are imagination and creative plagiarism. So, as a demonstration, let’s look at the proposed text book entry: “The Yellow Vests and the origins of today’s egalitarian society.” Let’s try it and see. Just change the verb tenses of the questions with which we began today’s seminar.