Why we need thrutopias
Imagine waking up in the morning to that fuzzy ‘not-quite-awake’ sense, where you know the day is going to be completely inspiring. You have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen, but whatever it is, you’ll hit the mattress in 14 hours or so feeling that life is amazing and you’re utterly, heart-explodingly grateful to be alive.
Is that hard? For many of us, it’s not only hard, it feels impossible. We live in a system where scarcity, separation and powerlessness are baked into everything to the point where they feel like the only way life could be. And because we think this, we’re right on the edge of existential chaos.
I spend my life immersed in what we might call the regenerative movement and there are some immensely bright people reckon we have 8 years to turn things around.
Eight. Count them. Eight.
And that was before the old white men decided it was fun to start a war so they could burn mega-tonnes of carbon over and above all that already burning.
Which leads anyone sane to stick their head right back in the sand because what can we possibly do in eight years? And anyway, what is it we’d want to do if we could? Because even if it’s twenty eight, we’re stuck in a political and economic system that’s designed to strip-mine our ingenuity, crush our creativity and make sure we’re suitably frightened wage slaves, working our fingers to the bone to keep feeding the endless ‘growth’ that keeps the people at the top happy.
Because from a certain perspective, unlike the beautiful forest-meme that floats round on Facebook once in a while, in this system, we are born to just to pay bills and then die.
Except, obviously, we’re not. The last mass extinction was sixty four million years ago and it’s taken us till the last couple of thousand years to create a system that annihilates our spirits. And even then, the really radical thought is that… for thousands of years, thousands of people in other communities managed to structure their ways of living so that they *didn’t* end up with psychopathic kleptomaniacs at the top of a linear hierarchy, siphoning out everything that is good and right and beautiful from the ninety nine percent beneath them: that’s pretty much our creation, it’s just we’ve told ourselves stories for millennia about how clever we are, and until recently, we didn’t look at the ways other people did things with any kind of lucid assessment.
The recent book by Davids Graeber and Wengrow has changed all that. If you want your world view overturned, I heartily recommend The Dawn of Everything as a fascinating, inspiring, life-changing read.
The realisation that other cultures have gone out of their way to avoid exactly the idiocy that we’ve embraced is like a breath of fresh air. It’s not that – say – the Wendot of north America, didn’t have the occasional despot arise and try to take over, it’s that they saw the danger and structured things to make sure said despots didn’t gain any traction.
All of which leads me full circle back to the power of story.
I’m a novelist and stories are the air I breathe and the sea within which I swim. And I am realising that we need a whole load of new stories if we’re going to make it through whatever window we still have left.
We need stories that tell us about the thousands of people within our system who are striving to change it for something that works much, much better. We need stories of ways we could shift our political and economic structures to ones that are regenerative by design: where the economy is based on values that ensure people and planet thrive whether or not the baseline numbers grow – as opposed to the current one, where the number has to grow even though people and planet are manifestly not thriving. We need loads of these. We need them on Netflix, on TV Soaps, in theatres and in poems, in songs and blogs and articles in the local Parish magazine. They need to give everyone, whatever their current political shade, a sense of a future we could reach if we all worked together.
And then we need to get on and head for it.
Imagine a future where our great grandchildren look back and say, ‘Yes, it was hard. Yes, they made mistakes. Yes, they left it way, way too late, but that was because they didn’t know what to do. And my goodness, when they had the visions, they threw themselves into making them happen. And we’re here now, living lives we love, because they took the risk to change the way things worked.’
That’s the world we’re aiming for. If you’re a writer, actual or aspiring – in fact any kind of creative person – then figuring out clear road maps that inspire people to a new future has to be, I think, the single most important thing we can be doing. However long we have between now and the tipping points, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will thank us for starting on the road to thriving sooner rather than later.
That’s why we’ve set up Thrutopia Masterclass – to create the space where the broadest possible range of writers can come together over six months to listen to some of the people who are at the leading edge of change: people who are living in worlds that are already regenerative, and planning ways forward. If we’re going to write futures that will inspire everyone across the globe to strive for something better, then we have to understand how we get from here to there. We have to walk the maps in our heads, plan out the routes, finds the moments of challenge and uncertainty that are at the heart of every good story whether it’s a novel, or a film script, a Netflix binge-watched 10 season set, or a haiku; a stage play or a blog, or a TikTok video; a song or an Instagram post… whatever our format, we need to get to grips with the potential, road-test our ideas in a safe space with other writers and then support each other in getting the resulting work out into the world.
This is what we plan – so that we can create the stories that will be the bedrock of a future we’d be proud to leave to our children, and our children’s children down all the generations. Come and join us – we still have places left!
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