Discover more from oldest wisest self
crying over a boat???
radical imagination in social justice, the power of the youth and choosing hope
For the last few months, I have been going to the beach every day. Even on the days where I’ve had to battle against the wind to make it up the beach and been pushed into a run on the way back down.
Recently on one of my walks, I noticed a dinghy turned upside down and deep in the sand, quite a distance from the water. A victim of a changing tide, I guess. And I almost laughed out loud. I took a video, posted it to my Instagram story and captioned it: I feel poetically, politically, and financially aligned with this boat.
This was just days after the New Zealand election results. After the Australian Indigenous Voice referendum results. Everything felt a bit hopeless, and I felt helpless. Many people around me did too.
At the same time, I’ve been thinking a lot about radical imagination. I’m in an upcoming Verb Writers Festival event (link to tickets here!) in which a panel of disabled writers will be using radical imagination to create worlds in which everyone flourishes and ableism doesn’t exist.
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Radical imagination sees a future built on a fundamentally transformed society where everyone enjoys equal rights on a healthy planet, no matter the circumstances into which they were born. Many believe that capitalism is incapable of producing a healthy, just, and equitable world. Therefore, radical imagination often includes a vision of a post-capitalist society. Where geopolitical-economic structures are used to end human suffering and regenerate the earth, not exacerbate inequality and propel us toward human annihilation.
Some might call this future a utopia. Thus, radical imagination is also the courage to be hopeful and optimistic about the future in the face of ongoing injustice and impending climate disaster.
I have found great comfort in radical imagination and the freedom to recognise and recreate everything that isn’t working. Can’t everything that is man-made be remade? It’s so easy to feel helpless and restricted when trying to think of how to make things better, close to home or far away, personally or worldwide. That state feels like my default recently. But when I think about radical imagination, I feel a small spark of hope. Not because I can imagine something that will fix everything but because I know that potential is there. And potential is a reason to still have hope. My radical imagination is different from everyone else’s and I have faith that other people can imagine something I can’t.
And when I think of social justice, I think often of the young people in my community. How their fight is new and enraged. Desperate. I think of the feeling I felt watching hundreds and hundreds of teenagers skip school to march to Parliament in the name of climate justice. In the name of their future.
The year after my book was published, it was a finalist in the New Zealand Children’s and Young Adult Book Awards. As part of the publicity for the awards, the young adult category finalists were asked what we learnt from writing young adult fiction and speaking in front of young adult audiences.
This is what I wrote …
Writing for young adults, especially about mental health, has taught me a lot about connection, communication and community, and about teenagers. It wasn't long ago that I was a teenager and I remember so vividly the strange and desperate world many teenagers inhabit. Being a teenager was difficult for me and for so many of my friends and classmates. It was difficult for a number of different reasons for a number of different people and it was difficult, mostly, in private.
We were, of course, encouraged to seek advice and guidance and support if and when we needed it. But there wasn't an open conversation. And sometimes it didn't feel okay to need that support. Writing my book has opened up a lot of conversations with the people around me, with the teenagers in my life and the lives of my community. Having my book in the world has been an exercise in relearning the worth and value of the youth's opinions. Teens today are affected by so many issues and they have ideas and questions and thoughts and sometimes solutions. We just have to give them the space to say it. We just have to ask.
I feel this more strongly now than ever. It has been reinforced in recent years by what I have witnessed from all over the world: youth fighting for equity and justice. This is not to say anything about people who aren’t The Youth; there are plenty of people from all generations fighting for the same things. Everything we have is thanks to the generations before us who demanded more. This is just to say that rather than dismissing young people (which as a society, we often do), I am inspired by them. They are creative and energised and engaged. Their radical imagination is different to mine and different to the generations before them and that is worth listening to.
A few days after I saw the dinghy at the beach, when I was walking there again, there were three young kids digging the boat out of the sand. I was at the beach for an hour and they worked the whole time. Non-stop. When I came back the next day, the whole dinghy was upright sitting on the sand and there were different kids playing in it. The metaphor was so overwhelming it felt embarrassing, but there it was all the same.
So I can keep having conversations with my community and the people around me, keep advocating and demanding more from our leaders, keep donating. And I can trust that other people are doing the same. I am not limited by my imagination. I trust there are people that can come up with solutions that I cannot come up with them. I feel energised by the young women of colour representing their communities in parliament after our election results. I feel energised by protests and advocacy. There is still energy. There is kindness and there is hope. I am choosing hope.
Thanks for being here. See you next week.