Saturday, August 5, 2017

Trending: the "New Optimism"

I just read this Guardian article about the New Optimism -- something that interests me as an artist.  It ties in with the material in my books, and the path I want to take with my writing.

[The New Optimists] argue that it says more about us than it does about how things really are – illustrating a certain tendency toward collective self-flagellation, and an unwillingness to believe in the power of human ingenuity. And that it is best explained as the result of various psychological biases that served a purpose on the prehistoric savannah – but now, in a media-saturated era, constantly mislead us.

The article mentions a few "controversial" aspects of being a new optimist, such as faith in progress and support for the status quo that brought us to this point.

I have to say, I'm guilty of both. While I'm a little leery of faith in progress due to its association with some kind of Hegellian upward spiral separating the "refined" from the "heathens" and "savages" and "barbarians", I decided years ago, for myself, that whatever rottenness lay at the foundation of this society where we live, I am in complete agreement with certain of its current values, such as universal rights, which arose out of centuries of sordid bloody misery and initiated the notion life didn't need to be that way. I think it benefits us to explore that rather than moaning and shrieking about tearing it all down.

My fictional future world gets along under a variety of socioeconomic constructs isolated by geography. One country has plantations with robotic slaves, another is inhabited by tech-shunning farmers, there's a tourist trap where capitalism is very much celebrated, and a futuristic city that is one of several "postcash" enclaves, while some people lead disembodied lives in virtual reality. Everyone realizes they need to band together to prevent nature from slapping the species out of existence, and everyone has the basic right to be fed and housed and given medical care as needed, although standards vary. That's my inclusive vision, which has space for conservatives, liberals, optimists, pessimists and sentient sea cows. I guess you can count me as one of the artists inspired by the New Optimism.

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