Utopian Visions, Dystopian Nightmares and Inclusion Riders – Week 1 – March 5th 2018

We start this blog together at a time of exciting possibilities with #metoo (Tarana Burke, 2006), #timesup (https://www.timesupnow.com/) and ‘inclusion riders‘ (Stacey Smith, 2016), yet I will be exploring the dystopic underbelly of our experiences. Let’s start with reality. Based on current statistics, only 6% of UK FTSE 100 CEOs, 22% of MPs and 24% of UK University Professors are women. These are stark figures that point to a fundamental imbalance in the seats of power and influence within our society. We may be told that things are changing and progress takes time, but when you review those figures and consider your workplace reality, you may begin to reevaluate the positivist narrative you are being fed. The question becomes, who is feeding me this narrative and why are they doing it?

Why is this dystopian exploration important and why does it matter?

Dystopia explores the worst in us, the nightmarish possibilities inspired by our contemporary experiences. To understand what we are capable of gives us insights into what we may be perpetrating today, perhaps less conspicuously than in famous dystopian canon, but often just as devastatingly effective in its oppressive and controlling influence on our lives. This blog will explore the question of what we can learn from fictional dystopian examples and apply these lessons to our reality. The purpose is to shock you and raise your awareness of what is happening under our very noses. In our hypernormalised reality (Alexei Yurchak, 2006; Adam Curtis, 2016) we conform to the gender normative systems that provide stability, traditions and purpose to our lives. We conform, mostly willingly, and often in the unconscious or conscious knowledge that what we experience is not fair or just or right, yet the scale of the problem is so vast and pervasive we struggle to conceive of a way out. We are waiting for the solution, the leader to show us the way, but perhaps the solution is within us.

The second area of exploration in this blog will consider and promote examples of dissidence, subversion and rebellion in Dystopia and contemporary working life. We see pockets of activism across all walks of society, but what can we learn from dystopian protagonists and their struggles against oppressive systems? How does subversion succeed and how does it fail? To start with, using #timesup as an example, we see that high-level buy-in of powerful voices in Hollywood has lended credence and power to this critical movement. You may have noticed that the ‘Inclusion Rider’ concept was coined in 2016, yet only gains wide recognition this week. Such a terrific concept deserved to be shared as soon as it was conceived, yet we rely so much on the voices of those with platforms. Here is the battle ground, the first allies have spoken, what we need now is momentum. Just look at the remarkable transformation in Jeremy Corbyn’s fortunes, from the brink of political extinction, derided and dismissed, to the spokesperson for the many, not the few. How was this possible, well Momentum (excuse the pun) and the collective power of thousands of people pulling in one direction was a vital ingredient. That story is not over yet and neither is ours, not by a long way.

I conclude this opening blog, which has been meant as an introduction and taster, with the horrific, iconic image created by George Orwell, ‘If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever’ (1984). To avoid this fate, we must fight for what we believe in and resist the tyranny of concentrated power.


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