There’s no perfect way to describe the situation we are in with ordinary language, but perhaps one could say that it has become easier to imagine a collapse than a reform.
It is no news that we are on a trajectory about to end. The world we will inhabit in 10-20 years will be very different than the one we live in now. Halfing emissions by 2030 alone are such a transformative mission, especially in the age of technological disruptions, growing wealth gaps, and the rise of totalitarian political power throughout the world.
Different but how? Here’s where our imagination has a blind spot.
We often fail to imagine anything but two options. incremental and explosive. On the one hand, we can envision the (all too slow and increasingly contested) political development through voting and negotiations. And the other hand we can quite easily depict a harsh change in the future: collapse, revolution, coup, or, simply a war. It is hard to see anything between more of the same and crisis.
This blind spot of social imagination manifests perhaps most dramatically in how even the most progressive social agendas and political programs fail to inspire change. They describe incrementalism and, at best, avoiding a collapse.
We at Untitled think there are some reasons why there are so sensible and therefore radical social agendas around. At least three.
- Most agendas are actually collections of best practices. An agenda of the 21st century can no longer be just a wishlist of policies that have worked somewhere (typically things that Nordic Countries have excelled in). The current welfare model protects us poorly from the ecological crisis, technological disruptions, or racism. Sometimes quite the opposite is true with strong institutions resisting necessary transformation into a society that co-exists and develops in harmony with the rest of the environment.
- Many agendas fail to inspire collective and political action as they lack a good narrative or theory to back them up. An agenda of the 21st century can’t be a narrative about ”a green growth” version of the world we live in. Neither can be about solutions to problems, no matter how grand or wicked those may be or how great the missions can combat them. None of these give any qualities to the world we want to create, other than one that simply “works”.
- We think that the same way of doing things leads to similar outcomes. Most social agendas are based on very similar mental models. They are outcomes of world leaders and thinkers (currently also young and other diversity leaders, non-fiction bestsellers, some climate, and neuroscientists) meeting on a mountain top. These agendas we all know. They rarely work for anyone but the status quo.
From this standpoint, Untitled Festival aims to become a space for building an agenda by doing these three things differently: having genuinely new and untested ideas of what is needed, creating better stories of how things can change, and using artistic, novel, and weird ways of working with the world
How does that sound to you?