The always interesting Chris Nakashima-Brown at No Fear of the Future posted a link to an interesting Reason article about Science-Fiction as a playground for political ideas. But I found his subsequent discussion more interesting, especially since it touches on something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. In the post he says:
“[…] the persistence of post-apocalyptic scenarios (as well as many disaster movies) expresses a latent yearning for the destruction of the state apparatus and the abolition of private property. At a deeper psychological level, […] the idea of roaming a depopulated earth rummaging for useful artifacts articulates the extent of our individual alienation in a thoroughly commodified society.”
I think Chris is correct. I would add that the apocalyptic imagination is symptomatic of an inability to imagine a society different from ours. The Slavoj Zizek quote: “it is much easier for us to imagine the end of the world than a small change in the political system,” is particularly apt. The future event horizon is so saturated by commodities, markets and debt (think about it, every 30 year mortgage is a financial spore which ensures that capitalism keeps blooming in our future) that it becomes increasingly more difficult to imagine a future that is different from the present. It becomes easy to think that some kind of Apocalyptic Event (AE) maybe our only way out.
But, much of this is tied to the continued survival of the capitalist system. Recent events, such as the financial crisis, put that survival in some doubt (I’m not counting out capitalism just yet though). Add to that the boundless optimism sparked by Obama’s victory and all of a sudden you have a license to imagine a different future. I wonder what kind of Science-Fictions the current situation will spawn? Will the apocalyptic imagination be as prevalent? After all, an Apocalyptic Event (real or imagined) is often prerequisite for the dream of Utopia.