this is a message about practicing resistance, trying to imagine it as an ever evolving practice that will defy all attempts at pacification, repression, recuperation and sabotage. That will rise and combine all elements of our selves, lost and found again. Even though tactics are old, new, and forgotten they are our efforts and attempts, in temporary sustainability, losses and mistakes, and in failure to assimilate into the harmful structures we want to abolish. Even in how efforts are co-opted, infuriating and motivating us like no other, slowly taken from seed, from our fingers and dreams, and grown into mainstream sadness, reflected back at us almost as if they use our own organizing against us.
this is about rejecting success, losing faith, and choosing to try again. Sometimes because it is a choice, other times because we do not have choice, consent or consensus here. Sometimes because we have learned, and also because there are things we have yet to understand. Energies and experiences we do not know, cannot know, but must see transformed and supported.
this is about all those damn political labels, attached to ideologies, to rules and regulations of the political sphere, the sphere of governance and patriarchy and social war, a realm of hierarchy that we can reject. And the pain, the pain of learning, naming, recognizing how we have been produced- racism, anti-blackness, colonization, white supremacy, ableism, misogyny, transmisogyny, heteropatriarchy…The practice of self-criticism, which can benefit all including ourselves. The practice of self-care, which is so deeply personal, but also interpersonal, communal and collective.
i am living in a dystopia. A rotten filthy production they call fiction that reflects back the truth of the situation. parade protests escorted by cops. stolen land. oppressed people. settlers. migration. borders. rigid gender systems. rape culture. government. poverty. pain. production. everywhere i look, daily individual coping and reactions to a structure that thrives on this pain. and an endless display of shitty movies that somehow seem to take out efforts, recuperate them, and cheapen them into performance or spectacle.
the scenes play out and white amerika has always pretended to create fictions just to illuminate the present in the truths they do not want to address. These fictional representations meant to appear ridiculous and extreme, to contrast our present, mirror daily life. dystopia is no longer an exercise in imagining the worst version of our society. it is not simply a film or literary genre, but a way of looking at how our present and political reality has been crafted through the tolerance of oppression and foundational violence. is a western movie not dystopic? with its representation of racism and genocide, does it not consistently re-legitimize the false reality of colonial law and order? is that not terrifying?
dystopia is drones flying in darkwing duck, a 1991 children’s action comic adventure series that focuses on a duck acting like a vigilante working with the cops, now normalized for use by police, used to mass murder people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia with a 90% casualty rate of non-enemy-combatants or civilians and a 100% terror rate. the minority report, where thought crime and preemptive policing were romanticized as a Hollywood movie, has been used to describe LAPD technologies currently in development, in mutual collaboration with Israel in their occupation of Palestine. People have said that private industries and governments have co-opted methods of surveillance and control first modeled in dystopian series. In almost every film now we see justified torture, police centered narratives, military operations and CIA infiltration normalized as common entertainment. 1984, equilibrium, elysium, aeon flux, terminator, star wars, brave new world, snow piercer, divergent/insurgent, mockingjay, mostly white savior imaginings of resistance that keep it locked in and out of reach.
and some decent films, like Dreamsleepers which is about drone warfare, globalization, migration, racism and capitalism. Cloud Atlas, which tells us that resistance and the struggle against hierarchy is universal, the energy of it still whispers through us and perhaps, we have been here before. Born in Flames, which centers black queer women and imagines the limitations of a socialist revolution that addresses getting jobs but does not address hierarchy fully in society, and it’s sad. Women of color authors that are hard to find but they are there along with the other worlds they help create.
when discussing dystopia, other words come up in our limited commodified imagination. for example, utopia, which i think was more of a justification for the white colonial authoritarian project of states, borders and fascism (seeking the ultimate order) than a representation of an unattainable perfect world meant to keep us satisfied with what is. utopia cannot be the goal because in the search of that fiction, supremacy takes root.
i’ve written this with the hope that we can recognize how fictional-dystopia has minimized and at times erased lived oppression, especially as a white imaginary. It also has framed how we respond to living in oppressive conditions, by making extreme representations that possibly intentionally or unintentionally confuse our responsibility to address their lived counterparts (to those representations). Instead of creating a multitude of ways to respond to a problematized society, as we can, Hollywood has focused on saviors, heroes, leaders and top down structures that mimic the system of governance being fought in the first place. It has failed and filtered our creative response to imbalances of power by offering nothing different in return. #HollywoodIndustrialComplex
Dystopia (as fiction) may have been an outlet to imagine what resistance can be, but it can also be a way of avoiding taking concrete steps to prevent the outcome that fiction foresees.
don’t misunderstand, my curiosity is always caught when i hear of a new dystopic alter reality in film or fiction because I too hope it might convey an urgency that pulls some of us into the streets to care about the present. If I had to choose a favorite genre, this might be it. But time after time the representations presented lack honesty about white supremacy and hierarchy in general, whitewash struggle, romanticize resistance culture, or just plain pacify.
glorious alternatives exist, as people of color have been left wondering if they will ever survive some of these imagined dystopias or since they are left out of alternate realities completely. So we’ve begun to imagine and write and create them, and that is great because in these imaginings we can communicate methods and tactics of resistance that could have us imprisoned and killed without much needed intentional preparation and planning. Another example of alternatives includes afro futurism, described by a friend in the Invisible Future in Our Present as “both a practice of liberation and a means of discarding aspirations, possessions, and entitlements that encode the terms of our oppression in prescribed identities”.
now i consider dystopia a spectrum from fiction to fascism, the difference only being the learning curve, where we are in our process. it’s a helpful way of acknowledging that we are at war; it allows me to see the crisis and not turn my face from it in fear or in search of fiction (though I’m still on netflix).
dystopia is the present, this is how i cope with the constant gas lighting and dismissal of urgency for resistance, not reform, in this constantly self-stabilizing society that says conditions are not yet “extreme” enough to warrant direct intervention or destabalization. Too often resistance, the rejection of tolerance and/or pacifism resulting in defense or revolt, is actually represented as dystopia. But this society is the dystopia, the catalyst, the reason that resistance is necessary. And resistance has never been a fiction for oppressed people.