Assembly for the Future is a series of participatory gatherings in which the public create new visions for futures that may be realistic, idealistic or utterly fanciful.
If you’re overwhelmed by the present because you feel the future is already here and you can’t imagine what’s next, then we invite you to assemble with us to collectively imagine better worlds. Working within an assembly of thinkers, artists and provocateurs, you are invited to become protagonists, to put your imagination at the service of creating other, better, futures.
Our most recent Assembly for the Future was commissioned by Uncharted Territory, Canberra’s new arts and innovation festival celebrating creativity, experimentation and ground-breaking ideas.
Below you will also find broadcasts from our previous Assemblies, at ANAT Spectra 2022: Multiplicity and BLEED 2020.
The world is changing at an accelerating rate; in some fields, change is exponential. We face multiple existential threats, of which climate change and AI currently demand our everyday attention. Transporting us to 2029 is First Speaker Bhiamie Williamson, a Euahlayi man from north-west New South Wales with family ties to north-west Queensland. He maps how we have faced the threats of climate change through Indigenous land justice and embedding caring-for-country within the national psyche while drawing from Indigenous masculinities to reshape social attitudes more broadly.
ANAT MULTIPLICITY: SPECTRAvision
How might diverse societies accommodate ten billion humans in one city so that Earth might begin to heal? How would we behave as a collective in a single hyper-dense city? Australian-born / Los Angeles-based speculative architect and filmmaker Liam Young explores these question with eminent respondents, Nyikina Warrwa Custodian, AP1957 (Professor Anne Poelina) a Guardian of Martuwarra, and Nobel Prize Laureate, Professor Peter Doherty.
My name is Liam Young, I am from Planetary logistics.
I am calling in with a progress report from the port of Los Angeles where I am watching The Hollywood sign and the stars of the walk of fame get loaded into the containers ready to be shipped to the shores of Planet City. The cinema district is coming together and these fragments of familiarity are important as we make the transition, souvenirs of a heady and distant time, monuments to a culture of decadence, excess, wonder and frustration. It is important that we remember who we were.
One by one we have been arriving, in a slow a multi generational retreat from the world we once knew. To build Planet City we have been mining our old cities rather than virgin ground. The world’s shipping fleet that used to scatter matter ripped from the earth into our malls and storefronts has been be reversed and repurposed, to bring all that material back together again into the geological strata of the new city.
We had urbanized the planet from the scale of the cell to the tectonic plate. We had engineered a continuous city that stretched across the entirety of the earth, an unevenly distributed mega structure hiding in plain sight. It wasn’t masterplanned by a single imperial power, or a cyber punk mega corporation. It was slowly stitched together from stolen lands by global infrastructure where landscapes have become resource fields, countries have become factory floors, the countryside has become industrialized agriculture, and the oceans have become conveyor belts.
The dystopias of science fiction that previously read as speculative cautionary tales began to form the stage sets of the everyday as in 2022 in the shadows of global pandemic, in the blinding flash of a new nuclear threat, we lived out our lives in a disaster film playing in real-time, waiting out the end of the end of the world.
In this moment, without a future, we began to imagine a different kind of planetary city. A single city for 10 billion people, the projected global population of 2050.12 years ago seminal biologist Edward O Wilson proposed a new world he called “Half Earth”, a plan to stave off mass extinction by devoting half the surface of the earth completely to nature and consolidating human development to the half that remains. Could we have imagined coming to a global consensus to retreat from our vast network of existing cities into this one hyper-dense metropolis? To surrender the rest of the globe to nature, to return stolen lands, to plant a new national park of the world and rewild in our wake. What would it take? What would it look like?
We are going to hear a creation story of this new city, told to us by a young climate activist, one its first citizens. Across the last decade we have witnessed the failure of nation states to commit to any meaningful action on climate change. In their absence, amongst the ruins of COP27, what was our last, last chance, we watched on as a younger generation began to take back the future that had been stolen away from them and today the most significant voices of this grand endeavor are not aging politicians or spokespeople of outmoded institutions but vibrant and engaged youth campaigners.
We will also hear from one of the Planet City farmers, a scientist who feeds us all, as she herds the harvest bots and follows the seasons up through the vertical orchards. It smells of soil, and hard drives, and sweet fruit.
She arrived first. Her yacht dropped anchor, the first foundations of what would soon be our new world. A deafening roar sometimes begins with just the softest whisper.
It was just an idea, a hashtag, a post, a status update drifting across the network. Waiting for people to listen, for the world to take notice.
A few others followed. First adopters had heard the call and paddled up in their kayaks. Some paid local fishermen, some chartered boats that were once used to tour what remained of nature.
The media soon arrived; the rest of the world wanted to know what we were doing. They didn’t know it yet but soon they would all be calling this place home. They lashed their boats together. They created a new ground on which to stand.
Some people came and built their home from flotsam that had washed up on their new shoreline. Some people arrived in a caravan of their worldly possessions. Some put their old houses on barges and floated them to us. They were willing to join us but they weren’t ready to give up the comforts they had grown to rely on.
For years we consumed our world at a rate that was never possible. No nation could decide what to do, no government could agree a way forward. People could no longer rely on these old systems to deliver the scale of change that would be required. We called for a planetary migration, a global retreat. It was a citizen consensus where we decided we just couldn’t keep on going as we had before.
There was no charter, no united nations master plan on how they would build this city. They just logged on, they came together across the network. Slowly the houses that were once drifting on the ocean settled into place. They stacked one on top of the other and the city grew. Rather than expanding, extracting, consuming and constructing they all would stop, and come here. Consolidating human development to a single point on earth.
The world started to take notice. China saw us. They would be the first country to declare its citizens a part of planet city. They had manufactured the world, and now they were putting it all back together again. Billions arrived; they made a city not with a Chinatown but with China itself.
China celebrated lunar new year with the city. It was now a global celebration, not just for a nation but a gathering for a new planetary community.
Champagne corks popped alongside strings of red firecrackers, lion dancers wove between revelers in tuxedos. The air of the city is thick with fireworks and gunpowder smoke.
Planet City Farmer:
I’m a modern farmer.
I remember how we used to dance for rain or conjure creatures that would drag the sun across the sky. How we would drench the soil in poison and send herds of meat trampling through our forests.
Today as our crops flourish under rows of artificial sky and the city cycles to new seasons, we once again dance the land, this time for another harvest festival parading its way through our neighbourhood farm stacks. The community joins us in the fields, reimagining the seasonal rituals to once shaped our lives has been one way we have learned to grow in this new world.
People packed up their homes, their precious possessions, the raw fabric of their lives. What they deemed precious came with them but many of the desires of the old cities were left behind.
They carefully dismantled the places they once lived, reclaiming what could be used again. They mined our old cities rather than virgin ground. The world’s cities were packed up in boxes, Manhattan neatly stacked in 6 million containers. They were recombining our resources in a new constellation that would be more efficient, more compact, more home.
Planet City Farmer:
I follow the grow trays up through the towers as the bots stack them precisely where they need to be to catch the perfect climate. The vertical orchards weave through the city’s 160 floors, no longer forgotten out on some distant industrial periphery but now an intimate part of our lives. Between them birds migrate, through the climate zones, while shepherds herd the harvest bots and nomadic neighborhoods follow the patterns of the fruit blooms. We wander the fields in a continual choreography of 100,000 seasons.
Nature hums and crackles with flickering blue and red LED’s that illuminate the lower reaches of the cities farm fields. The city dances to new rhythms and cycles. a continuous festival procession dancing across a 365 day loop, endlessly cycling through new colours, costumes and cacophonies. Each day, amongst the flittering confetti, the harvest festival bring us together, it reminds us of our connection to where our food comes from. A purple sunrise over a new kind of wild.
Our new dawn breaks and thousands of autonomous cleaning blades squeak along the solar fields. Waves of mirrors ripple as they rotate to chase the changing light. A billion glistening panels layering our homes, charging the city farm fields and fueling another kind of natural.
The endless wastelands of industrial corn and wheat, blasted with poisons that were once our staples have given way to the Algae canals that now snake through the cracks of the city. We dance along their banks, soak in the cool air and fall in love amongst the pink blooms before harvest. Our festival celebrates these new natures, glowing with electricity, fertile and abundant, supporting a wilderness beyond that is filled with life not live stock.
In our festival we re-enact the animals that used to work for us, performing the herds of meat and the creatures that once dragged us through the field before we gave them their landscapes back. Robots have now replaced beasts of burden and we animate our relationship to the landscapes and the creatures we now share it with.
In today’s festival the high altitude bot herders enact the animals they once corralled through the field. The drone shepherds charge their flock and solder boards. The beekeepers collect honey from behind their veils and the code walkers fine tune the cycles and seasons.
The harvest festival helps us to remember the weight of the dirt in our hands.
We revive our connection to the land
We remember the way we were disconnected from our food. The industrial slaughterhouses and monocrops hidden beyond the horizon
We remember the way we used to cook and eat alone
The way we used to exhaust our soil and pull up tress from their roots
The way we would drag nets across the ocean and dose the land in poison
We have to remember all these things because today we have designed another way
Today as we feast and fill our bellies, we perform new stories and myths of care, connection and re-creation.
Across time the animals would return to the old cities. The earth would remake itself, while we are here building together, a sacrificial city with all the complexities of continents and countries collapsed together. A city beyond geography, a city outside of place, a city of everywhere and everything. A city for 10 billion people, a new planet city.
Closing words -Liam Young
Planet city in the end is not a proposal, it is a provocation, a thought experiment that shows us that we don’t have to trample so hard across the earth. If we can imagine these systems working at the scale of 10billion, then the only thing standing in the way of rewiring and consolidating our existing cities is ourselves, our own biases, blindspots, politics and prejudices.
Each of us has always been living in a Planetary City. Planet City is both entirely imaginary and already here. Simultaneously a challenging image of a possible tomorrow and an urgent illumination of the environmental challenges that are facing us today.
Beyond the edges of the city some will stay behind, stubborn holdouts refusing to leave, others will remain as stewards of the land. One day, when the carbon is tucked away and the soil is black, we all might return again. In the meantime we will keep imagining this city for as long as it is necessary. Amidst the chorus of 10 billion, our wanderings through the planetary city will finally return us to where we started, to look back on our old cities again but with new eyes. Somewhere, after the end of the end of the world, we will find our future again.
ANAT MULTIPLICITY: SPECTRAlive
Professor Zena Cumpston delivers The 2029 Moreton-Robinson annual address, celebrating the first five years of the BLAKFULLAS University and reflecting on the past decade and the incredible transformations taking place as First Nations leadership and Country are given overdue authority and resources.
Today, in 2029, belonging is increasingly a fraught business, and so I choose to introduce myself using the protocols of my Aboriginal community. My name is Zena Cumpston, I am a Barkandji woman, my people are from western New South Wales. I am descended from my great granny Mary Eileen Payne, known as Lala, who was born in Wilcannia, on her Barkandji homelands in 1886. My mother brought me up to be proud and strong and I am honoured to be a part of my Aboriginal community, both on my ancestral homelands but also here in Narrm, on Wurundjeri Woiwurrung Country, the place I now call home.
In the not so distant past, we would always begin with an acknowledgement of Country, a declaration that is now, happily (in my opinion) defunct. As we are all aware, acknowledgements of Country, whilst sometimes heartfelt were also most often shallow, and just like Reconciliation Action Plans, now in the bin where they belong, acknowledgements of Country have largely been exposed as mechanisms through which those with power may enact claims to innocence, without diverging at all from business as usual. Both acknowledgements of Country and Reconciliation Action Plans allowed those with all the power to keep it, carefully manoeuvring within goal posts that they themselves set, using deeply flawed mechanisms, such as employment body counts in dead end positions to ‘prove’ their commitment and to divert attention from the continuation of highly damaging, colonial structures and extractive rules of engagement.
So, as is the new way, whilst I do not begin with an acknowledgement of Country, I instead meaningfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Country I live on in all aspects of my work, my everyday, and I encourage you to look at the publicly accessible Wurundjeri register of working allies which outlines the many approved projects I have been a part of that support and work to empower Wurundjeri Traditional Owner community and Country.
It is strange to find myself here in 2029, being asked to look back and to communicate my experience as an academic for the annual Moreton-Robinson lecture celebrating Blak excellence in the tertiary system. I am so proud to stand before you today as Professor in the Sky Rangers program at an all-Indigenous University, the BLAKFULLAS University, which stands for – Blak Lives And Knowledge Fundamentals University for Living knowledge Living culture And Solidarity.
I will start today by very briefly unpacking one of my early experiences in the mainstream tertiary system as I hope this will help to illuminate the bulk of what I wish to share with you all today – just how important the emergence of the BLAKFULLAS University has been for thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
A formative undertaking early in my academic career saw me at the head of a supposedly ‘Indigenous led’ project. Unfortunately, I hadn’t understood the Indigenous-led part was just on paper, and my ‘leadership’ of the project was experienced not as an empowerment but as a burden, as I was forced to continuously argue with non-Indigenous peoples who apparently knew better than me how to represent Indigenous people and culture. I was condescended, overridden and cast as ‘difficult’ when I was merely ensuring the cultural protocols were carried out in a way that was respectful and correct. Several months after the research project came to an end, I opened an online book written by my collaborators to find that they had erased my name from the project, and, worst of all, had erased the Traditional Owner community who we worked with, entirely. The fact it was an ‘Indigenous led’ project only when it suited them was now plain for all to see. I was horrified most especially at the disrespect shown to my Aboriginal community and quickly wrote to the research team to express my upset and to ask that they immediately adjust the chapter to include these omitted details and ensure community would not be disrespected or erased from the project. Despite being an online publication that they themselves had authored and had ultimate authority over, they explained to me, through their research assistant, that the oversight was regrettable, but that they wouldn’t be able to change anything. My supervisor then began calling and emailing them, and they refused all attempts to engage. Finally, in light of their refusal to communicate or to make the necessary corrections to the published chapter, and in dread of the hurt and anger of my Aboriginal community should this not be rectified, I decided to go to the research integrity unit and to lay a formal complaint. When they found this out through a third party, they started returning phone calls and wanted a meeting to ‘talk’. I noted their refusal to engage with me at all, except through their assistant, I noted their inability to return calls and emails, I noted that they had categorically stated that the chapter could not be changed when we all knew this was not true, and I highlighted the complete loss of any trust I had in them to rectify the matter. They then told anyone who would listen that I was vicious and unhinged, that I was trying to ruin their careers. Best of all they began to produce a textbook ‘white tears brown scars’ approach, where they literally crocodile cried and professed their innocence , denouncing me, the angry Blak, telling people how much they’d done for me, how they’d never meant for any of this to happen, it was all just a terrible mistake. All the while knowing that they had erased me, erased Aboriginal community and completely refused my simple request to adjust the text. There was no mistake.
After almost a year of exhausting deliberations, they were found to have breached their responsibilities to research integrity, and were forced to change the chapter online, whilst also being asked to send a letter of apology to both myself and the Traditional Owner community who they had erased from the project in their publication. I never got my letter and when I checked with the TO mob they never got theirs either. I wrote to the research integrity unit to find out why, and the innocent white academics were asked to explain. Apparently, they couldn’t write the letter to the TO group as they didn’t know who to write to. This from someone who attained a shiny new academic position, largely (by their own admission) on the strength of their Indigenous engagement on the offending project. Despite claiming to have successfully worked closely with this Traditional Owner group to produce a highly successful research project, they had no idea how to ‘contact them’, and therefore couldn’t apologise for forgetting to mention them at all in a published research output.
This is just one story from too many I could have told you today. I hope it helps you to consider the power imbalances in academia, and lack of true respect for Indigenous peoples and communities that is too often a feature of mainstream universities. We have always only been welcome on their terms, and whilst there are many wonderful people in academia, both Blak and white, who have worked hard to empower Indigenous peoples, the odds have always been stacked far too heavily against us, for it does not benefit universities to empower us meaningfully, for that would mean changing systems and structures, it would mean making powerful people uncomfortable, it would mean a complete re-configuring of the way knowledge is understood, held and transmitted. It would mean really handing power and authority over.
As we all know, throughout the start of this decade, the cumulative effects of ongoing pressures, particularly the disruptions caused by COVID, began to properly unravel tertiary education as we knew it. Our governments had steadily withdrawn support in the tertiary sector despite the increasing pressures faced by universities as a result of severe limitations in the cash cow that had been overseas student numbers, neoliberalist movements found a welcome audience. As our economy took a long-anticipated nosedive, universities spasmodically contracted, and tens of thousands of jobs were lost almost overnight. Amongst the first to go were Aboriginal academics and staff members, the victims of predominantly insincere schemes to create a smokescreen of parity. In the absence of government funding, universities began to rebuild largely through the ‘benevolent patronage’ of mining companies, the same companies which had persistently shown a wilful disrespect for Country, for Aboriginal communities and cultural sites. The government pushed through laws to support multibillion dollar mining and extraction ventures, which were now almost entirely underpinning all aspects of the increasingly crippled Australian economy. Aboriginal academics found themselves not only NOT being offered work in these now (again) openly elitist, morally bereft and racist institutions, the very few who were offered work could not accept it on moral, political and cultural grounds. Those who were invited to stay were those who were happy to shake a leg and to ‘perform reconciliation’ within institutions which were now much more openly doing harm. They were those who had always benefitted from their allegiance to white systems, often on huge pay packets, who saw no problem in the slow but marked dismantling of identified positions, which increasingly saw non-Indigenous people employed at the head of Indigenous entities, designing and teaching Indigenous subjects, a heartbreaking backwards step that deeply hurt our collective efforts at self-determination, deeply hurt our communities, but most especially our Elders, who had worked so hard and so long for these identified positions and our empowerment within tertiary education.
As with all successful Aboriginal services, the BLAKFULLUS University, the first all Indigenous university in Australia, began with a small group of people who identified the need to empower our communities, and importantly, to empower Country as an active participant in knowledge production and exchange. Working together to specifically mobilise the vast network of incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics, researchers and support staff, now discarded by the tertiary system, in January of 2024 the first classes began in Collingwood in a disused former hotel. Largely through crowd-funding, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics began to teach courses in areas identified as potential boom industries. For example, Cultural Land Management/Fire has, since inception, had a 100% success rate in employment. It is a booming industry, sadly as a direct result of the atomic bomb-like bushfires of 2019/20 and 2023/24.
Biodiversity management has also produced highly desirable and skilled First Nations graduates. These graduates have almost unlimited work opportunities, especially due to the surge in rooftop gardens necessitated by urgent efforts to mitigate catastrophic urban thermal mass, and the continual failure of electricity grids across every major city. Our Urban Indigenous Rangers have proven themselves far superior in their knowledge and capabilities in this field. They are highly adept in managing this new ‘Country in the Sky’ which has seen more than 600 hectares of roof space in the urban areas of Narrm converted to green roof spaces between 2024 and 2028. The demand for our Urban Indigenous Rangers was also bolstered greatly by the inability of introduced crops and established agricultural systems to cope with increasingly dramatic climate fluctuations. Widespread food shortages, particularly those caused by COVID and consequently the La Nina floods and then the droughts that followed, highlighted the need to look to climate-stable indigenous plants and sustainable Aboriginal cultural food practices. Rooftops across the city now grow indigenous grain and tuber crops and these small-scale farms, now operating in large numbers, have been incredibly successful. The courses provided at BLAKFULLAS, such as the sky ranger program, produced far superior graduates due largely to the on-Country intergenerational learning facilitated by Elders fundamental to the structure of all BLAKFULLAS courses.
By the start of 2025, BLAKFULLAS had more Indigenous students than could now be accommodated. With the establishment of a universal wage for all BLAKFULLAS employees, it became possible for BLAKFULLAS to employ many more academics and therefore offer more courses. The Campus needed to expand.
Concurrently, driven by the wishes of the wider Australian society to harness the opportunities which come with rebuilding, to finally confront our highly problematic shared past, the government was forced to enact the National Truth Telling Commission. The scope of the Commission also extended to reparations for stolen wages. Companies and wealthy families, including many whose massive wealth came from the pastoral industry, were called to account for their historic participation in theft and slavery. Forensic accountants worked with historians and lawyers to meticulously pore over financial records dating back more than 200 years. Landholdings were sold to meet reparation orders, and it was through one such sale in Victoria that the Wurundjeri mob received a significant payout. The Wurundjeri community, acknowledging the work of BLAKFULLAS in providing employment and training for a huge number of Aboriginal community members, which was, and is, resulting in dramatically better health and equity outcomes and better outcomes for Country, gifted $80 million of their reparation monies to BLAKFULLAS. This money was used to buy a large tract of land along the Merri Creek at Coburg. Starting in a shed as the new campus was built, classes continued and many more faculties were added.
Central to the new campus is an extensive Aboriginal garden which provides on-Country learning for many of the emerging faculties. Perhaps the most impressive of these is the Healing Centre devoted to training a new generation of doctors, nurses, researchers and health-care professionals. This cohort bring new hope in efforts to Close the Gap, especially given there are more than 1500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students currently enrolled in more than 20 specialist courses in this faculty devoted to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The garden has also proved a valuable resource for the on- Country learning across all emerging faculties including the Agriculture Faculty, opened in 2027, and the Law Faculty, also opened in 2027. The Law Faculty has a particular focus on the Intellectual Property rights of communities in relation to the pharmaceutical and food industries.
As well as the industries which have boomed and been serendipitous to the strengths, interest and skills of Aboriginal communities, another huge aspect of the success and continual growth of the BLAKFULLAS University has been the strength of the mandate on which it was founded. The mandate can be described as nuanced, extensive and reflexive. It can be best understood through its foundational principle: ‘When we look after Country, Country looks after us’. The principle of looking after Country reflects our essential role as custodians.
The mandate of the BLAKFULLAS University, also, importantly, embodies structural systems which reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, doing and being. Decisions are made as a community, through our council of Elders, with the needs of Country at the forefront. Our teaching and research practice is embedded in positionality and works to decolonise knowledge production through empowering and resourcing our pedagogies. We attract the best and the brightest in our teaching staff, perhaps because we do not offer huge wages, but we do offer a culturally safe and empowering environment in which to work, an environment that works hardest for our people and for Country. We have, in a relatively short timeframe, proven that when we are placed in the driver’s seat we are more than capable of producing outcomes that powerfully benefit both people and Country.
Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to believe the journey of this all-Indigenous institution and the empowerment it has enabled for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We still have many challenges, but more horizontal systems of governance in line with our traditional systems mean these problems are often easier to manage than they have historically been when we have been forced to work in western hierarchies. The systems within our university reflect the systems within our communities, and this has never been the case in the mainstream tertiary sector. With our financial position underpinned by the outright ownership of our extensive campus all courses are currently free and it is hoped this will remain the case. We have attracted much philanthropic interest, with many choosing to divert monies they once gifted to what are now now breathtakingly compromised mainstream universities.
And now, as part of this annual lecture delivered to both Blak and white audiences, I leave you to reflexive contemplation as part of your tutorial breakout groups. To combat the death-by-inclusion many of our Elders and community members have faced in being entirely burnt out by non-Indigenous groups wishing to continuously engage, whilst we acknowledge this comes for a very good place, we ask you to consider the work you can do without us in educating yourselves, in dismantling damaging systems. In line with our mandate at BLAKFULLAS to encourage non-Indigenous peoples to be proactive in their role as change makers, to allow us to tend to our own communities and aspirations, to not rely on Indigenous peoples to teach, to offer solutions, to lead and to guide, I leave you now to the tutorial and I wish you all well on your journey with us in making Australia a safer and more equitable place in which to be an Indigenous person. Thank you to the Moreton-Robinson Lecture Committee for this opportunity to share with you today.
Always Was, Always Will Be.
Welcome to Assembly for the Future, with our host Alex K and First Speaker Claire G Coleman. After rapid demographic shifts worldwide and the global uprisings in the early 2020s, the world began to spin on a different axis. Claire G Coleman’s address from 2029, shows us the power of revealing the truth and remembers how we won the battles against colonial injustice and white supremacy in the 2020s.
Assembly for the Future: Beyond Whiteness – The Rise of New Power
By Claire G. Coleman
I would like to acknowledge I am speaking to you remotely from the hills near Naarm in the lands of the sovereign Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. The Kulin nation has been good enough to welcome me here, their council of Elders, in the Kulin parliament are keeping their stories and wisdom alive for the future of this country and the continent as a whole. I am visiting here, from the distant Noongar nation, my homeland, the people of Kulin are our allies and friends.
Knowledge sharing between the many nations of this continent keeps us strong.
I am going to tell you how white supremacy, systemic racism and the hegemony those failings of society supported came to an end; how humanity finally realised that white supremacy was real and how it ended. I was there, and this is how I remember it.
People had been attempting to unpack, question and dismantle white supremacy in the Anglosphere for generations; since the days of European empires, colonisation and the racism created to uphold it. 2020 was when it began to unravel, when people who had never been the victim of racism started to understand that it is real, that true privilege is having the opportunity to learn about racism rather than living it.
The problem was, often, that people who had never experienced systemic racism did not believe in it; or could not see it. They had to learn about racism, and sometimes refused to learn; while the victims of racism never had to learn.
But here’s when we back up a bit.
Racism in its current form, a belief in inherent difference between people of different skin colours, did not always exist. It was after the beginning of colonisation, when the colonial powers needed a way to determine who deserved power and money and who deserved, in their minds, to be enslaved, that superficial differences between people took on a greater importance. The concept of race, as we know it, did not exist until the late 17th century.
Race, as we knew it, and racism, which needed the concept of race to even work, were always about power and money, about land and jobs and money, about slavery and colonisation and money and, when we thought clearly and honestly, about white supremacy. This is perhaps why the countries in the world with the worst race problems, with the highest tendency to white supremacy, the countries where white supremacists seem to lack the understanding of what a homeland is, were all colonisers or colonised nations.
It was a feature of 2020 racial discourse that people called for white homelands on land stolen from people of colour.
Racism was used to uphold the power of the wealthy and powerful; racism was a tool of white supremacy.
An analogy was provided by the BBC TV show the Goodies, in the episode first aired in the UK on my first birthday on the 21st of April 1975 called “South Africa” the black South Africans leave the country and apartheid falls. Having no simple way to decide who gets power and who does not the government institutes “apart height” where position in society is decided by one’s height.
Just like in the real world where status was once decided by class, and then by race, in that Goodies episode it was decided by physicality. It could be said that the powerful find it easier to determine class using a physical shorthand; rather than a system where the powerless can masquerade as powerful.
Race used to operate that way, it existed to give a simple way to decide who is the owner and who is the slave.
The People of Colour of the world – the descendants of slaves, the children of those whose lands had been colonised – had been aware of white supremacy for a long time; for centuries even… even if there was not yet a word for it, while the white people; supported, protected and privileged by the hegemony refused to believe or understand that it even existed.
The people who denied systemic racism and white supremacy had a desire to do so. They had too much to gain, they benefitted too much from a system that defined their successes as merit despite the leg up the system gave them.
2020 was when it all started to fall down, when centuries of racism and white supremacy started its long slow march to collapse. At the end what changed everything was understanding; was the privileged asking as William Foster (Played by Michael Douglas) did the end of the movie falling down “I’m the bad guy”?
Like many cultural changes a lot of people were harmed in the process; many lives were lost before society found a new equilibrium. The times from 2020 were terrible; we must not forget the people endangered by the war and unrest that led to the end of white supremacy.
It started in the USA, the cradle of the worst of white nationalism; although it might be argued that the worst place was Australia, where people could not even understand that white supremacy existed; where people were as aware of white supremacy as a fish is of water.
It was impossible to be certain which police shooting, which iPhone video of a police officer killing a black man was the last straw in the USA but Black Lives Matter protests exploded onto the streets in fire and anger; the police, fearing the loss of power, perhaps fearing suffering the consequences of their actions, fought back.
The police were not keeping the peace, they became the counter-protestors, it was not long before the police and human rights protestors were on opposite sides of an undeclared civil war.
Australia, whose racism was unique and home grown, borrowed their white nationalist rhetoric from the darkest places in the internet, from Americans who evangelised their form of white supremacy. With the far right racists having assimilated American white supremacy, with some of them showing signs of having difficulty understanding what country they lived in, the need for a responsive Black Lives Matter movement in Australia was strong; in Australia however, with the most endangered group being Aboriginal people you will remember the movement morphed in to Aboriginal Lives Matter over time.
I was there, in the front lines. I was a witness.
It was impossible to determine which was the last straw Aboriginal death in custody; at which point the dam broke and the wailing of the Aboriginal people became the horror of everybody. The protests, particularly in Melbourne, grew into the hundreds of thousands, uncountable numbers overwhelming the streets.
In the end the Cities fell; the Black Lives Matter and Aboriginal Lives Matter protestors fought the fascists, the police stood between them when they could and business in the inner city stopped.
The United States of America descended into civil war, police and much of the Federal government against a loose alliance of private citizens and the state governments of some states; who had decided that police powers had gone too far. Cities fell under control of the BLM protestors and other cities became fortified enclaves with police arresting everybody they saw. The Black Lives Matter cities at first struggled to restructure without police and control, but in the end they developed a path of peace, where communities protected and aided each other; where consensus and egalitarian decision making kept the peace.
The far-right militias however continued to shoot Black Lives Matter protestors in the street. The boogaloo boys shot both sides.
Hang on, I need to back up and explain the boogaloo boys.
In the USA there were actually people trying to foment a civil war, particularly a race war. They formed a movement called the boogaloo bois after the joke title “civil war two electric boogaloo”, referencing the idea of naming a terrible sequel to anything after “Breakin 2, Electric Boogaloo”, known as Breakdance 2 in Australia.
History is not sure what they were trying to achieve; what a race war or a civil war would bring them; what they thought to gain. Perhaps they assumed they would come out on top; perhaps they just wanted an excuse to shoot people.
During the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests boogaloo boys attacked both sides in a form of false flag attack; shooting police so they will blame the attacks on Black Lives Matter protestors, shooting Black Lives Matter activists in the hope they will blame the police. Torching police cars and building to blame rioters.
To an extent they succeeded, despite some members of the Boogaloo movement being arrested they managed to hammer the wedge between BLM and the police deeper.
By 2022, the USA was embroiled in a vicious war. Australia’s government, being the only government who shared much ideology with the government of the United States, offered police and military forces to help the US federal government to regain control.
By the middle of 2023 the violence came close to open urban war in the USA, becoming an embarrassment for the USA and her only staunch ally, Australia.
At the beginning of 2024 the European Union had no choice but to enforce economic sanctions on the USA citing their human rights abuses. Demands by the United Nations that the US accept peacekeepers from Europe were met with disdain by a government more interested in law and order and control than peace. What was left of the US economy was threatened with collapse; the money that had helped maintain power began to disappear.
People already threatened by war started to starve.
Thousands of refugees flooded into Canada, a country that has always kept its borders open for refugees.
Only the United Kingdom, of all the countries in Europe, traded with the USA.
By 2024 it was only the USA’s veto within the UN security council that put them in a position to avoid censure by the UN. The USA, from it’s grandfathered position of strength as a permanent member of the UN security council threatened Europe with war.
The US government, under president for life Ivanka Trump, was a war zone. The war between Black Lives Matter and heavily armed police and government forces, aided by far right militias, was bloody and personal with families split along ideological lines. Most cities were divided street by street, house by house; although some states were “white states” and others were “BLM states” it was not always that simple. Deaths from sniper fire, knifings in the street, riots, lynchings, bombings and running gun battles in the streets were common.
Running battles were in fact constant and sporadic.
Eventually US democracy collapsed completely, rampaging gangs of what once were members of the police and military fought each other for supremacy and warlords took control of streets, blocks or cities.
In Australia there was nowhere free of racial violence. In the inner cities, hipsters, hippies and people of colour fought the police in the streets. Some small towns quickly became fortified enclaves, as the people tried desperately to keep the “wrong people” out. The populations of small remote Aboriginal communities exploded as the residents received firstly Aboriginal refugees from other regions and then later refugees from the wider community.
Roaming armed patrols from those communities were needed to keep the white supremacists out.
Melbourne, the most population dense city in Australia became the largest by population by 2025 as projected. The people in the city, vastly overpopulating the people in the state outside of the city, horrified by the race hate elsewhere voted in an anti-racist, socialist government.
I was there, in Melbourne, speaking and writing for the resistance, defying the death threats from the racist and fascist terrorists. I came close to death multiple times, but I thought it important, I think it’s important now, to bear witness, to speak for the resistance.
The Australian civil war disrupted what was left of Australia’s democracy; the toll on lives was unimaginable; thousands of refugees fled into Victoria and particularly; mostly people of colour who believed they were endangered by the racist policies in other states, cities and towns.
I was there, bearing witness, when the troops rolled over the Murray and down the Hume highway into Melbourne; when countless members of the resistance died. It was those deaths that ended the war, the United Nations would no longer sit back and watch.
In 2027 the peacekeepers arrived; soldiers from Europe, Asia and Africa arrived in Australia to stop the ethnic violence. The governments of Australia fell, the warlords were besieged and bloody running battles between UN peacekeepers and far-right, identarian, white nationalist militias continued for many months.
Eventually cracks began to form in the forces themselves, police and army foot soldiers despaired at fighting their own friends and family. The Police Union had been evicted from the union movement after their heavy-handed handling of the 2021 Flemington riots and were left with no support when they claimed that the police were “just doing their job”. In 2026 hundreds of members of the police and army changed sides and the violence continued with armed, force trained activists on both sides.
Understanding dawned soon after in the minds of the police forces that they had been used to oppress the people and uphold white supremacy. Teary confessions were televised and social media exploded with admissions of culpability. In the end it was those expressions, of the understanding that people had not before seen their white supremacy; that taught us that white supremacy was real and dangerous.
Meanwhile the USA fell completely into chaos, a new civil war, encouraged by police gangs and boogaloo militants who were causing a war because they thought it would be fun to fight in one. The war reached that feverish place where even war-mongers thought things were going too far.
In the end peacekeepers took and held the USA until elections could be held; elections won by an anti-racist coalition.
Racism and white supremacy had become too obvious, nobody could hide from it, nobody could pretend it didn’t exist anymore. Like at the end of world war 2, where the anti-Semitism that had existed for countless years became associated with evil and could no longer be tolerated; after the US and Australian civil wars racism became intolerable.
It was at the end, when the world watched the USA and Australia being torn apart by racism, when Australia watched the damage racism was doing to USA that everybody discovered, ignoring or denying the existence of systemic racism is itself racism.
By 2028 white supremacy had become a fringe belief, the world could finally heal from the ideologies that had ruined so many lives. We owe a debt to the Black Lives Matter and Aboriginal Lives Matter protestors who held the ground, found for their ideology no matter how much danger they were in.
Now in 2029 we can no longer even imagine the racism we once accepted as a fundamental part of the human experience. Racism was a disease, hate was viral. What we discovered after the pain, violence and despair of the twenty twenties, with twenty-twenty hindsight (sorry bad pun) is that love and anti-racism too can be viral.
The racists and fascists, the white supremacists are still out there although now they are quiet. They went quiet after World War II as well, and they came back. We must remain vigilant lest they return to power once again.
Welcome to Assembly for the Future, with our host Alex K and First Speaker Scott Ludlam. Scott Ludlam traverses the processes that transformed the previous decade. When the old world began to splinter and smash in 2020, what grew in the open ground was genuinely new: with boldness and care, insight and compassion, we found a way home by 2029.
a love letter to 2020
Thank you for joining us for this one-of a kind event.
I know you’ve travelled a long, strange way to be here and you must be so ready for a break from 2020.
I’m speaking to you from the Sovereign Yuin nation on the south coast of what you’d have called New South Wales. Since the treaty handbacks started we don’t use that name much anymore, and I can’t say anyone misses it.
So, you’ve been shifted nine years forward; it’s July 2029; which is not such a huge traverse when you think about it; 3285 days and nights. And the reason each of you have been brought here will become clearer as we go, but for me it’s really simple: it’s so I can say thank you, deeply, for all of the things you did during those three thousand days and nights.
Because we’re not so far down the timeline, a lot about 2029 will seem very familiar to you. The NBN is still absolutely shit, Fremantle still haven’t won a flag and the weather is a real mess. But you already know that the 2020s are going to be an impossibly turbulent decade so there’s a lot for us to cover.
To get the big picture stuff out of the way early, I want you to know; we did it.
It looks like we turned the ship. I know it’s hard to believe. But here we are: the last coal-burner got turned off three years ago; this is a renewable continent now; we’re even exporting clean energy to the north.
Emissions are back to where they were in about 1994 and trending slowly down thanks to a global replanting programme that I believe some people here today had a bit to do with.
So, the collapse scenarios that the doomers insisted were inevitable; turns out they weren’t, because nothing is. We’re not living in some rosy utopia here obviously, but something much more messy, and interesting, between these imaginary extremes.
Now in the time-zone you’ve just arrived from, I know it feels like you have more urgent problems than gas balances in the atmosphere. A world in the grip of the most dangerous pandemic in a century, the United States descending into fascism, and a locust economy going into cardiac arrest. In our own colonial corner of the world the white supremacist mask is slipping. It’s a big time. What I want to say is: hold on to each other. It gets weirder and harder yet, but you have to hold on; on the other side of the white water there’s the possibility of a more even flow.
That thing of history coming in lurches and lulls and stops and starts; that’s an old pattern, maybe one of the oldest there is. It never repeats, because nothing is ever the same, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t rhythms and symmetries that show up over and over. That’s one of the things the pandemic taught us; tiny causes can have massive consequences if they line up with stress fractures and larger weaknesses in structures that seem outwardly solid.
So how’s this for a tiny cause: a virus particle 0.1 micron in diameter is about to wipe $25 trillion off the expected profits of the most powerful fossil fuel companies in the world; they’re going to fall like dominos, taking down exposed banks and insurance companies until finally the whole structure caves in. The corona depression breaks the spine of capitalism and opens a fleeting moment of space for something new.
A friend of mine used to say that in a crisis the first person with a plan on the table wins. For the first time in memory, the first people with a plan didn’t look or sound anything like the people whose plans we’d been following since colonisation.
This was something different; a post-capitalist uprising, leaderless and somehow everywhere, bigger and richer than our brittle nationalisms could contain. A global grassroots network called the Progressive International serving as a mediator, clearinghouse and organising lattice for social movements all over the world to link arms in common cause. This new freedom is not given willingly, it is ceded reluctantly, with spite and violence, and because we are organised for the first time, we are equal to it.
Try and imagine what happens when the media oligarchs that drenched us in race hate, disinformation and division for our whole lives hit the wall and are placed in the hands of receivers, some of them in the hands of prosecutors. You don’t realise how loud the consumerist shriek is inside your head until it’s suddenly gone, and now we can hear ourselves think for the first time. The quiet is delicious. We can hear each other’s common humanity. We can hear music and voices raised from parts of the world we’d been drowning out.
I know it sounds like a small thing but when it happens it changes everything: seamless online translation of voice and text between the world’s languages. One of the most enduring barriers to the arising of a truly global civil society is gracefully transformed into a strength almost overnight; the mass extinction of language and song is brought back from the brink at the same time as our hands in the soil are holding back the other mass extinction. Finally, we can hear each other, and that, in combination with the sudden absence of amplified hate speech swamping the airwaves, breaks the white supremacist spell.
We close the internment camps. Not by asking nicely; in a few places we show up and physically push the fences down with borrowed earthmoving equipment, but they are closed and staying closed.
It’s kind of weird that this is all unfolding almost exactly a hundred years after the 20th century Great Depression, but some form of deeply embedded collective memory held us back from making the same mistakes twice. Instead of using the tools of central planning and socialism to save capitalism and unleash it in an even stronger form, we’re using them to dismantle its predatory architectures and provide a dignified life for everyone. All the ideas that had been subsisting at the margins – universal income support alongside universal healthcare, education and housing – those were the first plans on the table in a crisis, and so they prevailed. Not by asking nicely; this takes hundreds of millions of us; by far the largest civil society mobilisations in history, globally networked and with a blissful absence of white saviour leader figures to attack and co-opt, it’s unstoppable.
I don’t know if anything I’m telling you sounds implausible or unlikely; but if you don’t believe me there are a couple of things I’d ask you to look for when you get home to 2020.
First thing is, notice emboldened voices from the margins; people the mainstream has been stepping on and silencing since forever; notice how they’ve been finding their voices and linking arms and not taking shit; it’s not that they haven’t been doing that all along, but that widening cracks in the neoliberal armour mean others can hear them more clearly. These voices are in the process of moving from the periphery to the centre, needing only that moment of historical slippage.
Second – this one’s an easy one – a mass movement of children organising their way toward a global strike. I mean it’s kind of obvious when you think about it; the movement leaders of the 2020s and 2030s had already brought six million people out onto the streets before they’d left high school. They weren’t on holiday during the pandemic, it turns out they were studying movement theory, strategy and history. They have learned a thing or two from organised labour about the power of the strike, and my favourite thing is what happens when organised labour learns it back from these kids, and rolls it out in every time-zone at once.
Third thing is, try to imagine the power you get when the world’s largest, youngest and newest social movement joins its strength with some of the world’s oldest and most storied; the original rebels against extinction who have been resisting dispossession and genocide in some places for five hundred years. Look for signs that middle class environmental and social justice organisers are hearing the Sovereignty message clearly for the first time. That’s a clue that what’s about to unfold is going to be deeper and more enduring than what’s come before it, because it’s going to be carrying the generational memory of our whole species with it this time.
When it starts to unfold that’s how you’ll know it’s the real thing; because it will wear this lineage so proudly. A movement for justice and peace, ecology and democracy, grounded in the oldest living cultures on earth. Hundreds of years in the making, carried forward now by a generation of children determined to seize their own century.
My time with you is nearly done. The reason I feel so honoured to be able to speak with you today is to be able to say to each of you, thank you, for everything you’ve done, and everything you’re about to do, to make this sliver of possibility a reality.
Whatever it is, whatever crazy project or collaboration, whatever is that thing that scares you in just the right way, when you get home, do it. You have to do it.
You’ll find the others making their own way, make common cause with them. It’s 2029. Our human family is eight decades into the anthropocene. It feels like the centre is holding.
Because of you, and what you’re about to do, it finally feels like we’re home.
Welcome to Assembly for the Future, with our host Alex K and First Speaker Alice Wong. Disabled oracles have existed throughout time. What will they say in 2029, when some disabilities have disappeared due to technology and cures? Listen to the tale from Alice Wong, the Last Disabled Oracle, and the wisdom she shares from her ancestors.
The Last Disabled Oracle
Welcome everyone! It’s 4:15 pm Pacific time in California and I’d like to call to order the December meeting of the Disabled Oracles Society, North American chapter.
While people are joining both online and in person, please help yourselves to some drinks and snacks in the back. Louise brought some Tim Tams back from her visit to Melbourne attending the Australian chapter’s annual meeting last month. Please remember we have people participating online, on the phone, and through an all new platform, beep boop beep. Be sure to follow the various streams from your device throughout our meeting today.
Since it’s December and we’re about to embark upon another decade in the 21st century, let’s take some time to review the major issues and challenges we faced as disabled oracles. Established in December 2020, these nine years have been difficult with the coronavirus, the phage in 2024, and the increasing changes in weather patterns and global migration in the last five years. All of these crises have disproportionately impacted marginalized people, especially communities of color and indigenous, poor, older, and disabled people.
The planet is literally more hostile to people like us and yet the greatest existential threat we face is from other humans who believe congenital disabilities are something to be fixed and eliminated through gene therapy and human gene editing, also known as HGE.
Eugenics has always been with us but in the next 10-15 years we know HGE will be commercially available since the press conference this past August by McEdit, a multinational corporation planning to provide high-end boutique services for people who want to give their future generations the best chance at life. They didn’t announce the date of their launch but reports say it’s likely to take place 2030 or 2031 at the very latest. The fact that there was such fanfare and little opposition to McEdit means we have a lot of work ahead of us as disabled oracles.
What does the advent of McEdit mean for us? How do we, imperfectly perfect creatures, argue against these seductive narratives about being better, stronger, healthier? How do we address the very real ethical implications behind this technology?
Before we have a discussion on what to do next, let’s go back and review some basics. This may be useful for some of the newer members.
Many years ago the Center for Genetics and Society described human genetic modification as “…the direct manipulation of the genome using molecular engineering techniques.” This is often referred to as human gene editing, or HGE.
There are two types of modification: somatic and germline. We are focused on germline modification because it would change the genes in eggs, sperm, or early embryos. This means subsequent generations would also carry those changes.
CRISPR-Cas9 is one gene editing tool that became popular because it’s fast, cheap, and accurate. CRISPR was used in 2018 by He Jiankui, a researcher who announced at an international conference that he produced genetically edited babies in an attempt to make them resistant to HIV. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison for illegal medical practices in 2019.
At that time germline modification was a red flag for ethical reasons but it wasn’t banned or regulated in every country. Over the years tools such as CRISPR became more sophisticated, and slowly opposition to the unknown consequences died down. Excitement around the science and possibilities of eliminating disease outweighed any questions about the underlying assumptions about health, disability, and difference. The idea of giving babies an advantage, whether it’s less likelihood of developing a disease or enhancing other traits, was irresistible to people with the means to give their kids, ‘the best’. The best, meaning a life without a disability. And this is why McEdit and its other competitors are on the horizon for commercial and undoubtedly militaristic purposes.
The Disabled Oracle Society began in 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic when sick and disabled people sounded the alarm about the importance of wearing masks, the value of accessibility, and the interdependence of all communities. It became very clear who was considered disposable and who was not as institutions and governments developed medical triage guidelines. The casual ableism, racism, and ageism went unchecked in debates around restarting the economy with the terms such as ‘acceptable losses’ and ‘high risk’ as if those lives weren’t worth living or saving.
I know Twitter doesn’t exist anymore, but here’s an antique Tweet from March 18, 2020 where I said disabled people are modern day oracles in response to a Tweet by Emily Johnson, who wrote, “We need to talk about how US states have legalized murdering disabled and chronically ill people by taking them off critical equipment they already had or denying care should they be moved outside their home or facility care situations. And how providers justify this.”
The actual catalyst to the formation of the Disabled Oracle Society came from an article in July of that year from the New York Times as part of a series of stories marking the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law for disabled people. An article by Katie Hafner titled, “Once Science Fiction, Gene Editing Is Now a Looming Reality”, featured several parents of disabled children, scientists, and bioethicists. And only ONE person with a disability.
My friend and fellow oracle Rebecca Cokely Tweeted: “Hey ?@nytimes? how DARE you have a writer who doesn’t identify as DISABLED write about what CRISPR means for OUR community as part of your #ADA30 spread?!?! Your ableism really knows NO bounds.”
When I saw that, something in me snapped. Here we are, disabled oracles since the beginning of time warning society and telling our truths, and being completely sidelined once again. This is nothing new or unique. Throughout history marginalized, troublesome, undesirable people have not been believed or taken seriously. We elicit discomfort and disrupt people’s binary ideas of normalcy. Our warnings have been silenced in order to uphold the status quo. Even when we make persuasive arguments, we are not at the center, despite our extensive scholarship and wisdom. For instance, I interviewed Dr. Jaipreet Virdi in August 2020 about her book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History, and she said this about the future of cures such as human gene editing.
“There is no guarantee that genetic engineering will eradicate hereditary deafness nor any certainty that it will not cause any further complications. Moreover, this is essentially at the core, a form of cultural genocide… to argue that this needs to be ‘avoided’ at the level of genetics is an affront to generations of Deaf people who do not perceive themselves to be genetic defects.”
That was a brief overview of our origins and I share this because the mission remains constant:
We tell our stories and truths in our own words. We define who we are and our place in the world. We fight to be seen and heard. We live in defiance with joy and radical acceptance.
You voted me as the President of the Disabled Oracle Society this year and I take this responsibility seriously. Friends, I too am tired of defending my worth everyday to people obsessed with having everything faster, shinier, newer. We try to reach people where they are, engaging in a number of creative ways. We assert the danger and uncertainty to future generations with altered genomes and how it will impact the entire human race. We repeat our main talking points all the time – that all people have worth, that no person should be left behind, that technology is never neutral. We also try to point out how technology reinforces white supremacy, ableism, and all forms of structural inequality. This is not new with too many tragic examples to list.
What else can we do? How do we love and hold each other up so we keep on going as a community? How can we harness our imagination to create the world we want to live in right now and in the future?
At this time, I’d like to open it up for discussion and questions. Let me see, [Alice plays audio] “Hi, I’m Emily from New York City. What is the role of a disabled oracle?
Thanks, Emily. It’s totally up to you. What are you comfortable talking about? Just living your best life is a form of resistance. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have the answers or even a strategy yet on how to engage with McEdit and the millions who will become their customers. But I’m good at asking questions. I’m good at telling my personal story within a larger political context. In asking questions, I want people to consider other perspectives and why germline human gene editing is incredibly troubling and problematic for so many communities, not just disabled people.
Since we’re almost out of time, here’s one final question: [Alice plays audio] “Hi, I’m Grace from Tempe, Arizona, longtime disabled oracle. I’m scared. What is the point of doing all of this if we’re going to become extinct?
Thanks, Grace. I’m really scared too. Things feel overwhelming and impossible everyday. Just know that you have a choice on how much you want to do. I believe everyone has the capacity to change the world while we are still alive in big and small ways.
I’m reminded of this Tweet from 2017 by Dr. Ruha Benjamin, a sociologist and author of Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, “remember to imagine and craft the worlds you cannot live without, just as you dismantle the ones you cannot live within.”
As disabled oracles, we continue to build and create on the knowledge and dreams of our ancestors. They left their mark on the planet as will we. After we’re long gone, we will show up in other ways. Someone will see and discover us and we’ll be speaking with them from the past.
I don’t know if this helps, but think about the ancestors that mean something to you. Connect with the people close to you right now and the stories passed down by your elders. Know that we are in this together collectively and that our brilliance as oracles will not be denied. I call upon the power and wisdom of my disabled ancestors such as Stella Young, Carrie Ann Lucas, Ki‘tay Davidson, Ing Wong-Ward, Harriet McBryde Johnson and Stacey Park Milbern. I have my memories and their words to guide me. And I hope this bit of advice brings you comfort because we should embrace every single moment while we can.
In closing, let’s read the motto of the Disabled Oracle Society: We are the past. We are the present. We are the future. We are forever.
See you all in 2030, meeting adjourned.
Assembly for the Future had its World Premiere at BLEED Festival 2020, involving over 250 future-building participants, and 40 artists, thinkers, provocateurs and cultural operators who generated a body of work from 2029 as Dispatches from the Future, Future Archive, and First Speaker’s provocations here above.
Assembly for the Future was developed in response to the material conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, and draws upon a presentation mode and sensibility embedded in 2970° Practising Democracy, the signature event dramaturgy developed by not yet it’s difficult.
The first edition of Assembly for the Future was commissioned, developed and supported by the City of Melbourne through Arts House as part of BLEED 2020.
The second edition was supported by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and the Australian Network for Art & Technology (ANAT), as part of ANAT SPECTRA 2022 : Multiplicity, an artistic and discursive platform inspired by the intersection of art, science and technology, presented in partnership with the Science Gallery Melbourne, University of Melbourne.
Wukan dhelkek Dja Dja Wurrung djayi ba marti guli ba duroyi.
I give my respect to Dja Dja Wurrung Country and their Ancestors.
– Alex K, Keeper of Time