When speaking about dismantling systems of oppression, I am often met with panic for the finer details of what will replace these systems. Apparently, anarchy, which is often misunderstood as chaos, is too scary a concept to entertain. The idea of not being lorded over by people with excessive power seems to rattle us so severely that we often reconcile ourselves with the current status quo as “just the way it is”. Why is it that an alternative we have not yet seen scares us so? It is because the very systems we lament have stolen our ability to dream, to imagine the worlds we want to live in, the worlds we saw in childhood.
Our imaginations were once vivid and robust, taking us out of the current world on command and transporting us to where it is safer, easier, more beautiful, freer. We did that because we had already encountered the suffocation of this world and all its nonsensical rules. We pursued joy not as a hobby, but as a way of life and knew instinctively that life was not meant to be suffered through. Where did we lose it?
Hedonism is deemed inappropriate and frivolous in a world characterised by constant labour by a disenfranchised majority, for the benefit of a powerful minority. We were once guided by intuition that told us what feels right. Perhaps collective efforts by those more experienced, taught us the principle of cause and effect to instil a sense of foresight, but for the most part, intuition was a powerful tool for guiding us towards the right thing. This intuition is often at odds with the demands of society that requires us to yield to what is polite and appropriate, often at the expense of our own comfort. We are socialised out of agreement with our intuition in favour reading prevailing social cues that dictate who should be pandered to and performed for. This is how we become complicit with the systems that oppress us.
This is by no means a call for us to abandon all forms of responsibility and live with abandon, but it is a call to imagine what the world could be like if we simply started taking small steps towards creating versions of what we see in our imagination. It is also a call to interrogate how oppressive systems distract and overburden us with survival and then constrain and even destroy our ability to dream of anything new. Our capacity for creativity that is not chasing conspicuous consumption is severely diminished under these current conditions, which leaves us with no interest in possibilities of a better world.
It is hard to interrogate and conceptualise the new, without being able to first imagine it. Freedom is not yet here and without the ability to imagine it, we are shackled to what is familiar and tangible. The more we become resigned to what is familiar, the more we have to justify and rationalise our oppression.
Imagination has the ability to show us what is possible beyond the here and now. As we begin to immerse ourselves in these possibilities, coming back to this current reality becomes less attractive. When we feel more uncomfortable with this reality, I hope that we will start taking the first steps to bring imagination to life and bring freedom to life.