Written by Farhad Ebrahimi
I’m obsessed with analogies. I feel like I can’t claim to understand a given issue unless I can describe it effectively using an analogy that’s both intuitive and provocative (and hopefully positively delightful to boot). I’m also obsessed with science fiction, and I don’t mind telling you that I cried the first time I saw the full trailer for Rogue One.
And so, inspired by Terry Marshall’s excellent piece on what progressives can learn from mixed martial arts and game theory, I thought I’d share a science fiction analogy that I’ve found to be quite useful when discussing the dynamics of “movement moments,” i.e. moments of exponentially increased political activity or re-alignment. My hope is that others might find this analogy useful — or at least amusing — both in terms of describing how we got into our current political situation, as well as what it will take to get ourselves out.
But first, my usual caveat: I want to make sure that, as a funder, I acknowledge some of the amazing folks who’ve influenced my thinking over the years, most especially the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, the Climate Justice Alliance, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, the Center for Story-based Strategy, and all of our place-based grantees doing just transition work across the country. My own social movement experience — and hence my own outlook — would not be what it is were it not for the profound influence that these folks have had on me. And so, without further ado…
WHEN THE ARTIFICIAL GRAVITY GOES OUT
The concept of artificial gravity is pretty standard fare in most “outer space” science fiction stories. Even when the technology hasn’t been named explicitly, if people are walking around like we do on Earth, then we know that it simply has to be there. We also know that, if the artificial gravity were to go out like a dead light bulb, then a crisis will be created. In fact, if enough attention is paid to the concept of artificial gravity in the first act of our story, then we can safely assume that, much like Chekhov’s gun, “it absolutely must go off” somewhere in the second or third act.
Let’s take a closer look at what happens during such a crisis. Most obviously, both objects and individuals (including our protagonists) become untethered from the floor. Everything and everyone is free to float about the cabin. It’s awkward, it’s distracting, and it can make even the most mundane actions much more difficult to perform — if not downright impossible.
But there’s also a flip side… [Continue reading]