In his unique way, philosopher Bertrand Russell rejected a categorical definition of utopia when he said, “It is not a finished utopia that we ought to desire, but a world where imagination and hope are alive and active.”28 After the collapse of the grand narrative of modern utopia, the great potential of the utopian goal lies not so much in realizing and describing a closed reality that is to come, but in making it possible for the world to be necessarily populated by multiple worlds, as the neo-Zapatista movement has been insisting for decades. A world that can be inhabited by hope. Perhaps that explains why Ernst Bloch focused so much on studying the hope that persists even in horrific situations, thanks to what he calls “wishful images”. Images that serve as prototypes to cross borders. Images charged with emotions. Positive emotions that,2 while they may not lead to actions as urgent as those prompted by negative emotions, eventually open up and broaden the repertoire of thoughts and actions.
“Wishful images” are what emanates from the Atlas of Utopias initiatives, images that, in a way, make a new world desirable. Whether it is children participating in a river cleanup in Cochabamba or a group of cigar workers taking a public bus to work in their Solapur factory, these “wishful images” push the horizon of the possible. They excite. And they expand, connecting the networked micro utopias set in motion by the most diverse communities. Naomi Klein’s yes is not viable if it is merely a theoretical model. The no is not enough. But neither is a yes that springs from theory. The yes has to be inhabited by political and civic practices, by narratives, by imaginaries, by new symbols, by shared values, by emotions, by new shared meanings, by world visions, by alternative economic systems. The welcoming spaces for a coming together, an open we (the jiwasa of the Aymaras), the unifying slogans (the “We are the 99%” of Occupy Wall Street), and the shared positive emotions, these all exceed Bloch’s principle of hope. Collective action multiplies hope toward a future that can be inhabited in common. And because it is controlled by communities, there is less uncertainty about that future.
Which is why—Andrea de la Serna writes in her article Un común por venir29—we should no longer pin our hopes for the revolution on a future horizon; we should instead concentrate on generating the conditions that can give us the horizon we want. In order to climb over the wall of the end of history and catch a glimmer of hope, humanity must restore its confidence in the strengths of the present. When a detour, however small, appears, we need to seize and boost it, feed it, make it breath. We need to organize gatherings, take care of ourselves as a community, create “wishful images” everywhere.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a poet and founder of the Icelandic Pirate Party, highlights the importance of enunciating a future populated by images and visions of hope: “When people are forced to choose between fear and hope, they usually choose hope. The future is not going to be a single vision, but a collage of visions. We need to think inclusively about the future.”31