What kind of world would you like to live in? In this post, a few people from different countries provide fragments of theirs. Please add your own to this mix.
In September 2014, Antu Sorainen asked a handful of academics from different countries for their “queer vision” for a talk she was giving at the Turku Queer Conference in Finland on 27 September 2014.
Antu’s talk posed questions about visions and directions for social justice struggles within the context of global corporate power on the one hand, and the growing institutionalisation of formal equality, for sexual minorities, in many – though far from all – countries of the global north, on the other.
Writing this from Britain, where the idea that a new, better world can be rationally planned and delivered has lost much of its persuasive power; and where optimism that the world could be significantly more just has waned, what visions and hopes endure? Beliefs about the future may not constitute a road map; they may not remain as aspirations within that future – as earlier utopian novels, such as HG Wells’s A modern utopia and Thomas More’s Utopia, only too clearly reveal. But that doesn’t mean imagining how our societies, communities or worlds could be otherwise is a waste of time.
Even if visions tell us more about the present than about the dreams of those still to come, exploring what could be is vital. It reminds us that what is, the world we inhabit, doesn’t have to be the way it is. Our world could function otherwise; and in different places, present day commitments to greater social justice have inspired and helped bring about tremendous change. Elsewhere, social dreaming keeps alive the will to change and the creative exploration of how social life could be organised (and perhaps disorganised too), even if such dreams lack the necessary force to become reality.
At times, the left spends too much time and energy fighting over visions of what another world could be like. But if this world isn’t based on a blue-print, and if it doesn’t take one single form, current ideas of the changes we’d like to experience can sit next to each other, abutting, supplementing and interacting in ways that don’t depend on mortal combat – the crushing of one dream by another.
Below are some fragments, from those who contributed to Antu’s quest for “queer visions” plus one from Antu herself.
We invite you to add a piece. It doesn’t need to be about a specifically queer world or queer future. What kind of world would you like to live in?
My utopia is a place with no shunning. Where a friend is a person who helps you make peace. Where families help each other, and are kind to people who are not in their family. Where we intervene when people ask for help. Housing, education, food and health care are free (where housing is a human right). The individual voice has room to breathe and yet responsibility is shared. It’s a place of accountability, opportunity, and recognition of complexity. Some of the most destructive people on earth have rights. Rights are not the key to justice. They close one arena of conflict and open another. But in reality, I have no hope for “queer” itself as long as it continues on the trajectory of rights instead of substantive change.
Under the British colonial penal code introduced in India from 1861, homosexuality was a criminal activity; the vision of decriminalized LGBT lives has been a wondrous dream and a concrete struggle from the late 1990s. A Delhi High Court ruling decriminalised homosexuality in 2009; and the community and its supporters were ecstatic; it was a dream come true.
But the vision crumbled in December 2013, when the Supreme Court of India upheld the heinous section 377 of the IPC. So the battles have begun afresh, new strategies for legal freedom and new visions for another ‘after’ are being harnessed. The movement is seeking to reinvent itself and strengthen its reserves for a long hard fight ahead.
Given that the Hindu Right Wing has in the meanwhile swept to political power in the country, it seems like an even greater challenge. It is particularly difficult to be shown hope and promise and then suffer the kind of disillusionment that the legal see-sawing of the anti-377 case has produced in the country. It is not, of course, that the vision of queer futures turns on legal sanction; it has often been argued that the idea of queering may itself find new life and possibilities in transgressing the law where the law is oppressive.
But for a community whose identity has in fact found a sense of being in its visibilisation through the anti-377 struggles, and a sense of power in the possibility of gaining legal legitimacy, the question then becomes ‘’What happens to a dream deferred?’
The Indian LGBT community hopes that the dream will come back with greater resolve to push toward a brighter horizon, and is re-building its vision of a citizenry where there is no proscription for the way one can be, intellectually, socially, politically, sexually.
A law that criminalises the community will deter no one from loving and living the way they want and must but, as a politics, each and every queer-thinking person believes that people of every orientation must be equal citizens. And so the queer vision in India appropriates this battle and makes it everyone’s, straight or not.
It is both empowering and ironical that in some ways a repressive law has perhaps brought some queer people and some straight people together in a fight that transcends sexual identities for a politically-charged idea of freedom and equality.
Looking at this situation from the inside, I dream of a permanent revolution that has no objectives, nor goals, and yet transforms the world we inhabit by destruction of foundations of repressions: gender norms, capital flows and prejudices. My dream comes true in the simple everyday revolutionary acts of people who relate to each other with pleasure, responsibility, ease, care, and without violence. These relations may not be visible to the outside world but they constitute the ground for failure of political and social institutions that exhausted themselves and must give way to the queer utopia.
Housing for all. A universal right to day care and public health care, including dental care – good teeth is more important for equality, sexual freedom, diversity and democracy than one would think. Basic income but also an active social policy: one which will look after those who need support and protection in the private sphere. We need state statistics and more bureaucracy to ensure diversity. More teachers! More schools! Societal conditioning that supports all care relations, not just those based on marriage or couple norms. Legal and tax support for trade unions; a really high tax for those who want to eat meat; tax benefits for manual labourers, especially for those working in care and community infrastructure sectors. More support for critical research; an independent media to guarantee high level discussions in party politics and in public. And maybe better wages for politicians so we would get better politicians and better laws?
I have just described the society in which I was brought up (with some additional issues). Why it created children, our politicians, who want to eat their own “mother” is beyond me – it is also a very queer concern.
I want a place for scepticism, dry wit and a continuing sense of the absurd in a social world whose resources are shared, land un-owned, and cultural differences of ethnicity and gender not defined by what you are born into, though you can be born into difference, but power should not rest upon it, and differences can change.
Where the shit work is shared (for there is likely always to be unsatisfying tasks that need doing), and other work is challenging or fun; where profits don’t accrue, and animals aren’t exploited; where there is time for contemplation and space for ambivalence. Where staying put is to embark on change, and moving doesn’t cause environmental damage. Where politics is vibrant, and the administration of things is done by those who enjoy managing in a democratic context where governing is creative and sometimes dramatic, and people engage and drop out, according to need and as the mood takes them.
Queerly, sex here is not an activity or gendered status; maybe not even a word… Physical intensities come in different forms and flourish in different places. Relationships are evolving networks that may or may not seek shared housing; and children attach to many people, with different kinds of responsibility. Free, across streets and public spaces, films show that demand thought and action and play; art is made and theatre happens; as the streets fill with music that is varied and sometimes dissonant, and its corners fill with dancing.
What kind of world would you like to live in?