As I am sure you are aware by now, I tend to agree with Jameson’s assertion that “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I find it difficult to hold on to hope even in the best of times, much less the first two decades of the 21st century, which have demonstrated just how dangerous capitalism is for the world and its inhabitants. Given the news that a major climate crisis looms on the horizon combined with the fact that greedy authoritarian oligarchs who care more about profits than people have seized power around the globe, I find that my hope is quickly waning (not that I had much to begin with). And while I agree with Streeby about the necessity of world-making as a way to cope with anxieties regarding the collapse of civilization, I wrestle with the idea of it as a revolutionary act, largely because I wonder about the efficacy of such an endeavor (a refrain that I am sure has become annoyingly familiar by this point in the semester).
My general state of mind since about November 7, 2000 (if not longer). Image credit:

I have spent much of my life consuming science fiction and fantasy stories, and took much solace in them during many of my darkest periods. I grew up loving Star Trek and Star Wars, and often lost myself in the fantastical worlds they created. At the same time, however, I also read and watched a great deal of dystopian science fiction, such as Blade Runner and Hardware, and while it often left me unsettled, I assured myself that such visions could never come true. I now see that as the wishful thinking of a child (though I consumed much of this media in my teens) who grew up never wanting for the essentials such as food or housing. Now, whenever I look at the news I despair that the world is becoming more like Blade Runner 2049 than Star Trek or any of its more utopian (at least in the conventional sense of the word) iterations. Hell, even Star Trek‘s perfect future proved to be a lie, as it revealed advanced alien civilizations were subject to the same sort of petty political squabbles, environmental disasters, and sociocultural injustices found on earth. Meanwhile, the Federation revealed itself as a somewhat fascist organization that perpetuated colonialism on a universal scale, often in clandestine ways (evidence that the mistrust of government kicked off by Watergate impacted even the most hopeful fiction).

Star Trek revealed the darker side of world-making, even as it posited a perfect society founded on equality and scientific inquiry.

These days, I really struggle to reconcile my love of fiction (especially sci-fi and fantasy) with my need to try and make the world a better place (which is one of my primary motivations to become an educator). More importantly, I contend with my own inner conflict about whether my actions make any kind of difference at all given the enormity of the various calamities that currently engulf the world. There are times when I feel the need to retreat into my favorite fantasy worlds, such as those that include larger-than-life superheroes who defend the world from all manner of issues (of course, even colorful comic book tales are not immune to charges of fascism or perpetuating gender imbalances), all in the name of self-care. At the same time, I feel that such privileged activities are frivolous in the face of climate change, the rise of authoritarianism, world hunger, and the other issues currently plaguing the world (many of which have been around for a long time). On the one hand I feel beaten down by everything humankind is facing, but on the other hand I feel that I must remain engaged or else I am not doing my part to enact change.

Ultimately, I’m not sure where we go from here, either in terms of our class or in terms of humanity as a species. I would love to think that we could get our shit together and explore the stars, but at the same time I’ve been disappointed by people during my 45 years on the planet. I still love fiction and enjoy visiting the worlds it creates (I mean, there is a reason I became a media scholar, after all), but they rarely bring me the joy they used to when I was less aware of the problems bearing down on civilization. Maybe its just my cynicism, but I believe I have reached the stage of mourning humanity rather than holding out hope that we can save ourselves from extinction (at best) or a long drawn out collapse (at worst). As with everything we have looked at this semester, I believe in the necessity of world-making, largely because people need an occasional respite from real life, but I fear that my feelings regarding its efficacy as a revolutionary act are low to non-existent.


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