Ten Grand

I was on the BBC this morning discussing, inter alia, the UK government’s decision to implement fines of up to £10,000 for people who fail to quarantine themselves when directed to do so.

It seemed to me that this is yet another example of the government attempting to be seen to be doing something while doing nothing at all. The overwhelmed police, already disgruntled from being told to check how far and for how long people had been walking or jogging last spring now find themselves ordered to snoop on whether people are conscientiously staying at home or not. They don’t have the manpower to solve the vast majority of muggings and burglaries, so how are they expected to achieve this?

Apparently the government want the public to start grassing up their neighbours. This is an intriguing suggestion predicated on a number of unlikelies, including: a) the idea that people know their neighbours; b) that they know where their neighbours have been holidaying or whether they received a message to quarantine; and c) their desire to grass up their neighbours.

Of those three, only the last seems remotely likely, and I still feel that most people are either disinclined or disinterested in reporting their neighbours’ activities. Furthermore, who spends their time twitching the curtains to monitor the rest of the street? Most of us have our own lives to live.

Anyhow, this kind of pointless nonsense is why the UK has suffered one of the worst COVID infection rates in the world. The government are too busy doing stupid shit badly to bother even attempting to do the right things (testing being the main one).

There’s more here, including what put me right out of my comfort zone this morning, if you’re interested. Archived programme available for the next month or so. UK listeners only, alas.

What is religious futurism?

Best perhaps to start with what it’s not. It’s not a form of futurology, or attempting to predict what has yet to take place. Few people during the tenure of Pope John Paul II would have predicted that his right-hand man would relinquish Peter’s throne in favour of an Argentinian Jesuit. Futurology is best left to those who make a living mugging companies by claiming to predict societal trends, and gamblers. It’s simply not academic.

Futurism, on the other hand, is an attempt to read the the present through how it depicts the future. This means looking at cultural outputs, such as art and literature which address future-related themes and analysing them.

alien-priest painting 1400 AD | ANCIENT ARCHIVES

Recently there has been a number of shifts in focus in this area, casting new light on how previously marginalised visions of the future, emerging primarily from non-caucasian communities, envisage the road ahead. Afrofuturism, or aesthetic depictions of the future from an African(-American) perspective(s), is the most prominent, but there have been many from a disparate range of sources, all now thankfully achieving academic scrutiny and consideration.

Religious faiths have not been excluded from this process, despite the predominance of atheist beliefs among those who produce Science Fiction and other futurisms. However, they have yet to attain similar levels of academic attention. I have an interest in how SF and cognate art modes consider the future of religion in general, and Catholicism and Buddhism in particular. Other scholars consider how the Hinduism, or Islam or other faiths are envisaged as developing (or dying) in the future.

Religious futurism can help us understand not only how art, but also how society is responding to evolutions in world theology in real-time. It can allow us to process better the role of religion in the world by understanding better how the world imagines religion will be in years to come.