Scarcity of Imagination

An incomplete series of thoughts about capitalism, violence, media, and creating radical futures.

Scarcity of Imagination
Photo by Folco Masi / Unsplash

Being an American is really weird.

Growing up, my family watched movies together every Friday night. My dad and I would go to Blockbuster, later replaced by Redbox then Netflix, to rent a movie and pick up a Detroit-style pizza on the way home.

Sometimes we’d watch a silly, kid-friendly movie, and other times we’d watch action/adventure films set in the future.

Those moments mean a lot to me, but they’re corrupted. Every time I watched one of these futuristic action/adventure films, I was learning to accept a reality created from the Capitalist’s Imagination.

These movies were often set in a post-apocalyptic world with extreme inequality, and our hero was often a youngish white boy with a chip on his shoulder, bravely overcoming hardship.

Similar to fantasy films, the viewer is invited to get lost in a make-believe world that’s so different from their own.

But the reality most of these movies depict isn’t all too different from ours, and they’re certainly possible if we cannot imagine an alternative to our current power structures.

When I first saw images and videos of blown-up buildings and bodies being pulled from rubble in Palestine, I was reminded of the futuristic films I grew up watching.

When I stumble across clips of the ultra-wealthy talking about the benefits genocide has for our economy, I am reminded of the futuristic films I grew up watching.

When I hear my friends talk about how they’re afraid to be themselves at work, I am reminded of the futuristic films I grew up watching.

Art forms like TV and film offer us the beautiful gift of seeing our reality reflected back to us - even when we don’t know that’s the reality we’re living in.

an aerial view of a city at night
Photo by Leyre / Unsplash
Everything we see on Earth today, all the systems that we're living under, were created by someone. ~ Tricia Hersey

I grew up watching movies where white men (and sometimes women) were brave and powerful. They could overcome just about anything with a little fortitude and a POC sidekick offering them sage advice.

There was no room to see myself or people like me in those make-believe worlds. And sometimes it feels like there’s no room for us in the real world either.

I don’t want to live in a world with such a scarcity of imagination.

The future I imagine is not one where people are oppressed, enslaved, murdered, and barely surviving.

What would happen if we saw ourselves as imaginative people with the power to create new worlds?

What would happen if we actively practiced creating a future grounded in the values, hopes, and dreams of everyday people?

As always, your feedback helps me become a better thinker. Consider leaving a comment with feedback on the following:

  • What was confusing or could benefit from elaboration?
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