Friday, July 8, 2011

Muse of the Week: Vision

I found this great Frigidaire promotional film from the 1964 World's Fair on an American Historical Association blog (which I believe linked in turn to a podcast on the way we have envisioned the "future of food" over time): view film.

There are some seriously problematic elements in this film, from rampant ethnic stereotyping to blind faith in the possibilities of development (the section toward the beginning seemingly endorsing deforestation of rain forests is particularly alarming in this regard).

However: the blithe optimism and faith in technological progress that characterize this film have another dimension. It is arresting from a 21st century perspective to see Americans' mid-20th-century confidence in their capabilities to transform the world for the better. Yes, this is transformation within a specific frame of reference; Mother is still in the kitchen and dear old Dad is still carving the roast. Clearly the limits of imagination only extend so far. As well, the contemporary observer can point out unintended consequences right and left.

Despite all the problems, though, there's something to be said for trying. There's something to be said for an attempt toward a vision of the future that focuses upon possibilities.

One of the things I find most alarming about the current political climate is our persistent focus upon retrenchment and opposition. We are so busy assigning blame and talking about what we can't do that we forget to think about what we can. Some parts of the country are better at this than others. Oregon has actually managed to have a productive legislative session--a refreshing turn of events--but unfortunately other parts of the country have failed to follow this lead. The result? State government's ceased altogether to function in Minnesota, state representatives are running from each other in Wisconsin and the federal government is endlessly quibbling about how to avoid a default on the national debt without (at least until very recently... fingers crossed!) much willingness to compromise.

Is this the best we can do? I certainly hope not. What is our dream for the future?

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