Note by Richard Greeman
6 Nov 2017
In our weekly international online Future Historians seminars we pretend that we're historians putting together a centennial history book for the teenagers of 2117. We are constructing utopias, if you will, but we are also explaining how we got here (a peaceful, cooperative world society in 2117) from there (the catastrophes of 2017). We're a group from a wide variety of backgrounds, spread out from L.A. to Moscow, including a subway track worker, some students, a businessman, a few academics and various old radicals like me. Unlike so many Leftists, we don't argue or denounce each other, although we have many differing viewpoints. For this simple reason: viewed from 2117 we see the complimentarity of the different roads leading to the Emergence of the new society from the shell of the old (for example ‘reform’ and ‘revolution’).
Our method of building our ecotopian narrative on this WIKI is to take up the various topics we are exploring in the Study Group and then put on our Future Historians' hat, get into our role as historians of 2107, and look BACKWARDS at the declining old world of capitalism (THEN), describe what our better world of 2117 looks like (NOW) and account for how we got here from there (HOW?) One outcome of our efforts as historians of 2117 could be a kind of textbook for teens, organized by topic rather than by chronology. The results may also be presented in the form of a conceptual grid, as detailed in our Guide to the Grid.
This method brings out one of the two main functions of utopian fiction, which - along with proposing an alternative world - provides an ironic critique of the present state of affairs. Thus, Thomas More’s 1515 Utopia famously begins with a description of Tudor England as a “barbarous land where “sheep eat men” because, through enclosures by landlords, thousands of peasants were being driven off their farms to make room for the profitable grazing of sheep, only to be hanged as thieves and vagabonds if they steal food to survive.
Thus, under the heading of “THEN” and on the same topic as More (agriculture), we Future Historians can similarly,describe the world of 2017 as a place where peasants are driven off the land to graze cattle for McDonald's burgers, where peasants are legally deprived of the right to plant their own seeds and forced to buy them from global monopolies like Montsanto, where peasants routinely commit suicide to escape the overwhelming burden of debt, where traditional subsistance farmers are ruined by the dumping of huge amounts of cheap industrially-produced corn into local markets, where vast factory-farms, owned by banks and conglomerates, transform inputs of petroleum-based chemical fertilizers and pesticides into mega-tons of uniformly tasteless produce designed to attract the eye and to remain salable for weeks after harvesting, where agricultural products are transported thousands of miles to markets at a huge cost in carbon pollution, where monopolistic distribution chains pay farmers ridiculously low prices for their produce and suck up enormous profits overcharging customers, where nearly half of this excess produce goes to waste while famines rage across half the world, where food riots break out periodically, and where the extraction of petroleum for industrial agriculture and the clear-cutting of forests for profitable luxury crops like palm oil contribute massively to global warming and climate catastrophe. So much for THEN
Under the heading of “NOW” we Future Historians present the world of 2117 as a place where vast desert lands have been reclaimed through irrigation and the revival of long-dormant native seeds, where new forests have been planted to halt erosion, prevent desertification, and absorb CO2 while releasing oxygen, where animal and vegetable waste matter is recycled as nature fertilizer, where permaculture techniques have replaced chemical fertilizers and pesticides, where small farmers flourish and provide fresh, healthy, seasonal produce to local markets which also serve to unite communities, etc, etc. All this is not only possible, it is already actually happening in the interstices of capitalist society, visible elements of the new world growing within the old.
Under the heading “HOW?” we describe the processes of planetary emergence, the roads that lead from THEN (2017) to NOW (2117). Much of the material in “Histories of Revolutionary Emergence” can be recycled into the HOW? category and spread out over various different Topics, like “Energy” for example.
We also aim to cut up the “Histories of Revolutionary Emergence” narratives (including “Billions VS Billionnaires” the Computer Game that Saved the World) for putting some of the content into the relevant Topics (e.g., BvB would go under “Internet”) and developing some new Topics on the basis of episodes in the Histories (for example on Corruption, Drugs, Prisons and Crime).