How many of us ever stop to imagine the world we want to live in, or consider how our actions can help to create it?
In some ways many of the ideologies running our world systems have failed, but there is no other belief system that has enough strength behind it. Yet amongst us we have a plethora of solutions and ideas that could lead us to a brighter future.
This book began as an idea in the pub, a few months before the 2010 UK general election. I realised that, like most of the people I spoke to, I was not excited. This was a new feeling for me. Until this point I had found elections incredibly engaging. Democracy excited me, because it represented the principle that the ideas we each have can create a direct impact on our lives and our world.
Over the past twenty years, I have seen a shift in the way that we express our values and our politics. I have seen how the rise of consumerism has changed how we express our identities, and, at the same time, how our identification with traditional politics has declined. What is interesting is observing this growing over the past decade, and traditional politics almost disappearing from contemporary culture.
In the UK today, less than 1% of the electorate belongs to a political party. So how are the other 99% expressing their values and shaping their future lives and communities?
It is not just a question for the UK but in fact one that is shared globally. We live in a world that is inescapably interconnected and so what happens in one place affects people in another. I wanted to discover how people were expressing their values and what the world that they want to live in feels like.
So I created The Think Act Vote Futures Interviews, and this book. I wanted to create a space for people to express themselves politically in their own language. I wanted to know the songs that had shaped people, the places they found inspiration online, as well as how we could all help create the future they choose. I wanted to know their ‘future’ – their vision of the world that they wanted to live in, their ‘think’ – something that had inspired this vision, their ‘act’ – something that we could all do to help create it, and their ‘vote’ – something that we could all support that was creating it. I was interested in how culture, science and history influenced what we desire in the world.
It was important to me to create an open place where different types of people could answer the same questions, allowing us to listen better to one another. I wanted there to be a space for people to think globally, but answer individually. I tried to go beyond words, inviting people to visualise their futures in design competitions, photobooths, and the Futures Illustrations here in this book. Think Act Vote became a radical think tank, open to anyone no matter what age, background, ethnicity, religion, sex, nationality or occupation, to contribute ideas and share personal stories to shape a brighter future.
At first I wanted the contributors of this book to form an accurate representation of the UK electorate today. Later I wanted it to feature someone from every country in the world. What I discovered quite quickly though was that these questions can be difficult to answer. They are big, and deep, and require you to commit your values to paper and to select what you think is important from all the billions of ideas in the world and moments in history. So instead I decided to let the interviews grow organically, and that anyone who was brave enough to share themselves could be in the book. I reached out to people that I knew and I met, and let the online community and social media do the rest. The majority of the contributors are living in the UK, but some have come via the United States, Kenya, India, Brazil, China, Lebanon, Lithuania and many more countries. Care has also been taken to ensure that the contributors to this project are inter-generational. Of course, this is just the start. I realise that the people in this book are all those with easy access to the internet. None of the contributors in this edition are part of the near half of the world’s population living on less than $2 a day.
Rather than representing a particular group of people, this book has become an invitation to you to answer these questions in your own time, and to encourage the people that you respect to do it too. Through the process of taking part in our Futures Interviews, I invite you to reflect on what it is that you really believe in, and to articulate your core values.
Reading all the interviews together, what has become clear is that there is no meaningful way to compare our individual visions. Each one comes from a thoughtful and personal place. Whether the answers come from a young student, a well-known creative figure, or an unemployed refugee, each answer teaches us something new, and asks us to look at things differently. It is perhaps revealing though that in all the many suggestions for creating the future we choose, only one person suggested joining a political party.
If I had five minutes with every human being on this planet, these are the questions that I would ask them. We spend much of our waking lives limiting ourselves, our beliefs, our power, our dreams, our actions. But when we look through history and the present, we see that people only create change in their lives and in the world by believing that more is possible than meets the eye. We all make choices in our lives about how we spend our time, energy and money, and it is these decisions that collectively shape our world.
Let’s have the courage to live by our values and learn from each other, to create the future that we choose.
The Future Is Beautiful is available as an ebook or a limited edition paperback from the shop.
This was originally published on The Huffington Post.