On August 28th 1963, Martin Luther King Jr delivered the I Have a Dream Speech. In 17 minutes, he spoke to an unjust present, from an imagined just future. In the darkest hours of racial prejudice, he illustrated a future which gave people a reason to endure. If only to see that day.
My motivation in writing this blog, in activism and in campaigning is motivated not simply by outrage at what is, but by this dream I have of the infinite possibilities for humankind if we thought and organised in a new way.
In my dream future I am giving a speech to the graduating class of my grandchildren’s generation.
I’ve never written the speech down. Today, I share it with you.
Our Dreams are Your Reality
I've also imagined myself as Whoopi Goldberg this time
Firstly, I’d like to thank the democratic student body of the school for inviting me to deliver this graduation speech in this year of 2043. I stand before you today, sixty two years old and almost overwhelmed with joy.
I first imagined giving this speech thirty years ago, in 2013; a world as different to the one you inhabit, as this planet and Mars. So, I’d like to begin by describing for you all the reality of the world we lived in then.
By the time I finish speaking, you will be left in no doubt why the reality you live in today, was the dream of my generation. It was the light we followed through one of the darkest periods of human history.
In 2013, 81% of all the wealth on the planet was owned by 0.1% of the population.
In 2013, we used a paper currency system, backed by nothingand based solely on debt. The debt was never repayable, and the average person didn’t even know what money was or that it was created in this way.
In 2013, 8 million people died because they were too poor to stay alive.
In 2013, in order to get some of this money to pay for sustaining your life, you would have had to take a job. You needed to dress a certain way and show up at least five days a week, generally Monday to Friday but people did their jobs at weekend and nights too. These jobs were just one thing: you could be a builder or a baker, a banker or a butler, a teacher or a train driver. The majority of your days would have been taken up by this one job. People had to pay other people to take care of their children, so that they could go to work and afford their children.
In 2013, our citizenship was tied solely to the idea of a country. Countries then went to war with each other to prevent some other country from going to war with them, or to gain resources (human and natural) from the territory of some other country.
In 2013, what was then the government of the United Kingdom collected taxes on the bedrooms of the poor, but didn’t collect taxes from the profits of the biggest corporations in the world.
In 2013, the government made people who couldn’t find work provide their labour to those same corporations for over 30 hours a week, for months at a time simply to collect a welfare payment from the government to cover basics like food, heating and housing.
In 2013, some people chose to blame the lack of money on other people who had no money either.
In 2013, this was encouraged by the government who told the working poor it was the fault of the non working poor; that told the poor people born here that the poor people who moved here were scroungers coming after the little they had.
In 2013, schools were encouraged to become companies. The school day was largely conducted in the same building, often in one or a few rooms and was divided into lessons. Each lesson was about an hour and taught in isolation, so you didn’t get the chance to put these disciplines together and see how they relate to each other.
In 2013, you would only have taken two hours of physical exercise classes each week, and these were largely spent playing sports.
In 2013, your intelligence was assessed by sitting you in a room with a list of questions which you had to answer correctly within a specified period of time. In three hours, you had to demonstrate everything you had learned over eleven years on a given subject and repeat for all of your ten or eleven subjects over the space of your final weeks in school. Your ability to proceed in education or find a job was based on the result of these tests when you were just sixteen years old.
In 2013, if you were sick then you could get treated free at the point of use for only certain illnesses. The choice of drug and physical therapies you were given access to was limited by the ability of the hospital to afford it. In most parts of the world, you had little or no access to any healthcare without being able to pay for it.
In 2013, much of the world was run by people who were unelected and representative only of some royal dynasty or dictatorship. Of the 193 member states of the United Nations (our primitive approach at global democracy) & various other self recognised states only 25 had a female head of state.
In 2013 people living here were represented by political parties, of which there were only two significant ones. You got to exercise your democratic voice in a vote to decide which party would make all of the decisions on all of the issues across the whole country once every four or five years. Even then, only just over half of the people eligible actually voted.
In 2013, in most places (including here) men could only marry women, and women could only marry men. In many parts of the world you could be put in prison or killed for wanting a relationship with someone the same gender as you.
In 2013, energy was created in a way that had been scientifically proven to damage the planet. We saw rises in floods, storms, hurricanes, and ice and snow storms. Areas of the planet became uninhabitable through pollution. We spilled oil into the seas and killed off plant, fish and animal life. We actually managed to start heating up the planet and thawing out the polar ice caps. Land began to sink beneath the sea. Some of us genuinely believed that human kind would destroy the planet.
But we didn’t.
I’m standing here with you today and you are stunned. You do not recognise this world that I am describing. It bears no relation to your own. You hear my words and they land on you like the words of some horror story.
Your value system is the only kind of progress I’m interested in, and the only kind of progress that ever made a difference: the progress of human values to create a more harmonious, equal planet of people. Our disaster; the end of our selfish, divided, generation – was the birth of yours.
Today, poverty of any kind no longer exists.
You earn your living wage of non debt currency through the broadest extent of your contributions to your society. You will be parents, musicians, food growers, builders, economists, politicians, carers, writers, and philosophers – all in the course of one life. You will have the privilege and the responsibility to express the wholeness of your capabilities in the world, wherever you are born in the world.
You use your Citizen Day each week to clean the streets, mow the grass, process the significantly lower amount of waste you produce, and the other important maintenance work required to live in this society.
Your formal education has taken place in classrooms, fields, factories, opera houses, theatres, historical sites and hospitals across the world. You will have access to education for the rest of your lives, and will be encouraged to learn, grow and develop.
You have been taught and encouraged to honour your physical and mental health.
Your body is not some vessel with which to carry around your mind, but an intrinsic part of the system which sustains you and is treated as such. You are given the time, space and encouragement to be physically active every day.
If you are sick, you will be treated. You will all, every last one of you, be treated to the highest possible standard gifted by science. You will not make a choice about your health based on the amount of wealth required to purchase it.
You are all duel citizens of your direct local community, and the world. The prosperity of one piece of land occurs to you as no more important than that of any other. You are in competition with no one based on the colour of their skin, the piece of land they were born on, or their views on how we all got here in the first place.
You will be free to fall in love and spend your life with whichever consenting adult you choose, and no one will judge you for it.
You are active citizens in your direct democracy. You contribute to discussions and consensus decisions every day about the development of your local community and the planet. You will draft sections of the constitution; you will be a leader and a constituent every day of your lives. You see it as your right and your responsibility to share resources, to set social and moral standards, to discuss and develop ideas, to ensure just and due process of law, to resolve conflicts. These are as much a part of your life as playing with your friends, or the enjoying of your wide and varied entertainments.
You live on a clean, healthy planet and your priority in all decisions is to keep it that way. You understand the fragility of the ecosystem which sustains you and you are wise enough to put the survival of all humankind, above any passing selfishness of your generation.
Your world is not perfect. Your lives will not be without sadness aswell as happiness, or without defeat aswell as triumph. But you have the foundations, you have the context, you have the framework of a world which wants you to win; that wants you to thrive; that sees you as an essential player in the team.
My generation took us to the brink of disaster and over the edge during and after 2013. But with every frustration, every outrage, every injustice, and every new and worse decision – I kept my own hope alive by seeing past it to this day, in this place, speaking to you.
The hard truth is this: my generation had to destroy their broken world before they were willing to build a new one that worked for everyone. There was conflict, there was chaos, there was terror and there was sadness.
But today, in this class, every effort by every human being to create a new world is realised in you. You are the new world. Our dreams are your reality.
The Dream Starts Here
This is my dream. You might have another, and that's no bad thing. But I reccomend if you don't have one, that you create one today.
Listen to the words of Harriet Tubman. Harriet was born into slavery, and grew into an abolitionist and freedom fighter. She helped create the Underground Railroad which liberated slaves during the US Civil War, and after the war she fought for women's suffrage. She is a great hero of mine.
"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."