Activity: Imagining a Liberated Future
And the Conflicts We'll Face
In the courses I share, I highlight the importance of imagining a better future—better in our relationships, in our conflicts, in our communities. It can be painful to think about what the world could be when we don’t have access to that world. But thinking about that future can also give us something to orient our lives around: how do we get even a little closer to that vision?
Toward exercising our imaginations, I’ve included an activity that can be done alone, with friends, or in workshops. Feel free to use it as you wish.
Want to download this activity as a PDF? Click here.
In the following activity, I provide four “characters” to stretch our imaginations around. I ask you to envision what a liberated (or more liberatory) community would look like for them. Once you’ve created your vision, I pose a few conflict scenarios and ask you to envision how those conflicts would be addressed in your world. Remember—conflict is a natural occurrence; in a liberated world we will still experience tension between our needs, desires, personalities, and perspectives. How we handle those conflicts is the stuff liberation (or oppression) are made of.
To do this activity with others (which I highly recommend):
Answer the prompts in the World Building section on your own.
When everyone has had a chance to finish, give each person a turn sharing their answers.
Talk about how your visions differ—not in an attempt to “solve” anything or come to an agreement, but to learn from each other about how you define “better” for the world.
Work together to answer the prompts in Conflict Scenarios—how would your different worlds solve problems differently?
Most corners of the world are liberated (or more liberatory) in 3022. Human society has transformed. Responding to impending climate catastrophe, societies of 2035 rebuilt infrastructure, social organization, and culture to be less destructive to each other and the planet. What was created as we solved those problems—and who we became—is up to you.
In one tiny corner of the world (wherever you choose), four groups of people live close to one another. They are:
Aaby + their 3 children under 10
Situation: A parent who lives with many other adults and their children. Their household is loud, busy, and often messy. New people are always coming and going. They also have several non-human animals living with them, who come and go.
Skills: Aaby is very skilled at creating furniture for all types of people, to their preferences. They love this work and see themself as an artisan. Aaby is also a skilled cook and highly values feeding people well.
Values/priorities: Aaby wants the children of the household to value compassion. They emphasize creativity—especially music—and adventurousness. They raise their children to make their own choices and have responsibilities for their community. They believe in generosity and new people to the community come and go all the time.
CeeDee + 2 other adults
Situation: Ceedee and two other young adults live together. Ceedee has a body-mind condition which sometimes results in crises where a specialist needs to urgently come to their home. Ceedee relies heavily on the other adults in the house for care.
Skills: Ceedee is very detail orientated and is heavily involved in helping the community bring in and ship out resources from nearby communities. They also help with community planning.
Values/priorities: As a group they value interdependence and care. They believe in reaching out to people from other communities as a way of building stronger connections. They’re very spiritual and believe strongly in nonmaterial existence; they prioritize actions that will bring about divine conditions here and in an afterlife. They often share their faith with others in the neighborhood.
Effigee + pup
Situation: Effigee lives on their own. In the past, Effigee was adventurous and a traveler, but they ventured into a community where they were seen as an “invader” and were taken prisoner, abused, and then released. Now they spend most of their time alone. Effigee lives with their dog, who tends to stay close to home.
Skills: Effigee is mechanically minded and can fix almost anything. They used to work on infrastructure projects, but lately people bring them smaller items to fix at home.
Values/priorities: Effigee believes in privacy and resilience. They are protective of their home and don’t invite people inside. Effigee prioritizes being connected to the natural world and never wasting food or other materials—they work hard to reuse everything they can. Effigee likes things to be quiet, clean, organized, and predictable. Sometimes Effigee will chastise others for wasting or misusing things.
You (Describe yourself as above) + the beings you’d live with OR your descendants (who would they be?)
How does it feel in your body, mind, spirit—to live in a liberated world on a day-to-day basis? What does it sound like? Look like?
In the descriptions above, the characters don’t have defined genders, races, religions, attractions, or relationships. In your vision of a liberated future,
How do people define and portray themselves based on their physical bodies?
How do they define and portray themselves based on their beliefs, cultures, and geographic origins?
How are kinships, love, relationships, families defined and organized?
How does this community learn from and prevent oppressions of the past?
How does this community provide, distribute, protect, or gather the following resources (don’t get overwhelmed with details—use the prompts as inspiration rather than a constraint or obligation—imagine the community, how does it work, move, thrive?):
Shelter and land shelter sits on (who gets to live where, how is housing built, etc., how is the land kept healthy)?
Water and air (how do households access clean water, how is clean air protected)?
Nutrition (what food sources are available, how do people access those foods)?
Safety (protection from violence, threats)?
Social participation (how are people involved in making decisions about the community)?
Social fulfillment (how do people bring their skills, values, and purpose to life)?
Learning/wisdom (how and what do people learn from a young age?)
How do people access fun, joy, care, thriving, art?
Consider the people and society shaped above. If the following situations came up, how would this community respond? How is this community organized to address conflict?
CeeDee has a body-mind crisis and they need to call for help/support from a specialist. The specialist takes a long time to arrive because they’re coming from another crisis. As a result, CeeDee suffers and will have a longer recovery. CeeDee needs more direct care than the people in their household can provide. CeeDee’s household advocate for changes to the response system and for the community to help them.
How does this community provide space for CeeDee’s people to advocate for them and initiate changes to how the community works?
What resources/responses are or could be made available to meet CeeDee’s needs?
Aaby wants to welcome new people into the community so they throw a celebration with food, drinks, and music. The whole community is invited. The party is loud and goes all day and late into the night. Effigee is overwhelmed by the noise and agitated by all the new people who are coming and going near their house. Effigee contacts several neighbors but no one responds because they are at the party. Effigee, in a highly agitated state, goes toward the party and yells at the first person they see to shut down the party.
How does this community respond to Effigee in their fear and agitated state?
What resources or response is available to address the conflict between Aaby’s priority of having these gatherings and Effigee’s need for quiet and safety?
One of Aaby’s children observed CeeDee during a public ceremony. Aaby’s child asked questions about the ceremony and CeeDee explained. When the child came home, they told the other children about the ceremony and they decided it was “weird.” Whenever they walked by the house, they would giggle and make jokes about it. CeeDee approached them to talk about it but the children ran away.
How does this community respond to harmful mistakes (teasing, bullying) made by children?
What resources, practices, or values are present to help Aaby and CeeDee address the conflict between Aaby’s children’s exploration and expression, and CeeDee’s comfort in practicing their faith without fear of shame?
The year has been dry and food resources are more limited than usual. While other communities have faired better, they are worried about ongoing drought and are sharing less than usual. CeeDee has a special diet that is essential to maintain good health, but the foods they need are in short supply. Aaby has plans for a gathering to welcome neighboring community members with whom they could build a better relationship—Aaby has some of the foods that CeeDee needs—these ingredients are for a particular dish that is valued by their guests and Aaby believes it would be rude and harm the relationship if it were not offered. Effigee always stocks a lot of food so as not to have to leave the house too often, but they say they don’t have the ingredients that either CeeDee or Aaby need.
Is there a difference between what you wish people would do in this situation, vs. what the community should actually enforce or require of its people?
Who or what decides how essential, limited resources are used?
If you were there, what would you do to help address this problem?
Think of a conflict you might have with one of these neighbors—what needs, desires, or values might conflict between you? How would you want to respond or address those conflicts? What structures or resources would you want to be available in this community?
How does this apply to conflict in my life right now?
In a conflict you’re in right now, think about the following:
Who is involved and what is their situation, their priorities or values, the skill or strengths they bring?
What would a better future look like for you? for others? (If you’re not sure, it’s better to ask than to assume.)
What could change in the situation or relationship to bring about that future?
What could change to be responsive to conflicts that come up in the future?
Opportunities to Learn + Act
Read We Can’t Stop Transphobia without Fighting for Abolition, an op-ed by Ashley Diamond’s freedom team and share with the hashtag #FreeAshleyNow
April 26th event: Organizing Transformative Justice Responses to Campus Sexual Violence, Xhercis Méndez in conversation with Dean Spade. Register Here.
Pre-order Mariame Kaba and Andrea Ritche’s new book No More Police. Pre-order link.