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A still from the Message from 2040 video.
A still from the Message from 2040 video.

OPINIONPoliticsAugust 10, 2020

Making a message from 2040

A still from the Message from 2040 video.
A still from the Message from 2040 video.

We do not have to roll along with the status quo. We are asking New Zealanders to choose help over handcuffs, prevention over prisons, and healing over punishment, writes Laura O’Connell Rapira.

It is said that the first Pacific voyagers to sail to these lands visualised this place before they reached it. Wayfinders would imagine lands full of bountiful forests and rivers as the sun, sea and stars would guide them to pull their waka hourua toward their vision.

Our ability to live and love in this land today is owed to our ancestors’ prowess in celestial navigation and creative imagination. So what happens when the imaginings on offer from the two biggest political parties in election 2020 can be summed up as:

Roads. Roads. Roads. Scary debt.
Lower your expectations.

What happens is we must do as our tūpuna did and take it upon ourselves to sail our waka to a more bountiful future. He rangi tā matawhāiti, he rangi tā matawhānui. A people with a narrow vision have a restricted horizon, a people with wide vision have plentiful opportunities.

For the past 10 months, my colleague Madeleine Ashton-Martyn and I have been working with JustSpeak and OpenLabs to create A Message From 2040

Inspired by A Message from the Future by Naomi Klein and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Matike Mai by Moana Jackson and Margaret Mutu, the six-minute film tells the story of how we get from where we are now to becoming a society that gives everyone what they need while caring for each other and the planet. A society that builds communities, not prisons

To tell the story, we blurred the boundaries between fact, art, and fiction to depict a future that we don’t often see, hear or read about – one where we decide to collaborate to build a society that our tūpuna would be proud of.

If Covid-19 has shown us anything, it’s that the systems put in place to govern our lives can be changed for our collective wellbeing. We can provide people with decent income support and stop unfair evictions. We can work together to keep each other safe, healthy and well. 

But in these conditions of the unknown, fear can also take hold and people can be divided by those who seek to maintain an unjust and unfair status quo. Divided, and without a focus, we will snap back to the systems we already have that are damaging people and Papatūānuku.

The good news is we can counter this fear and division by uniting under a vision in which we shape a future where all whānau thrive. With a clear positive vision for what it is we want, not just what we do not want, and a movement of people with a wide range of experiences, knowledge and skills working together, we can change systems so they are better for all of us. 

The systems that shape our lives are ours to create.

We can work together to build a society where everyone has a roof over their head, food on the table, and time to spend with loved ones. We can transform the justice system by shifting our focus away from punishment and towards prevention, restoration and repair. 

We can close all of the prisons – for good.

At the last election, Labour promised to transform the justice system. The coalition government then held a nationwide conversation on justice which led to four reports outlining a plan of action. The reports contain all the ingredients the government needs to make positive change, but the justice minister, Andrew Little, has said they are only willing to move at the pace that communities are ready.

A Message From 2040 is us asking our communities to be ready. We are asking New Zealanders to choose help over handcuffs, prevention over prisons, and healing over punishment.

In her book Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown says, “Art is not neutral. It either upholds or disrupts the status quo, advancing or regressing justice. We are living now inside the imagination of people who thought economic disparity and environmental destruction were acceptable costs for their power. It is our right and responsibility to write ourselves into the future. All organising is science fiction. If you are shaping the future, you are a futurist. And visionary fiction is a way to practice the future in our minds, alone and together.”

A Message From 2040 is visionary fiction. What we choose to do next will determine whether it becomes our reality. 

Keep going!