Living thinking that at any moment a tragedy is going to happen, a serious accident, the destruction of the world as you know it. Maintain constant anxiety for fear of a future that will always be worse. That is futurophobia, a concept on which Héctor García Barnés plans in his essay (published by Plaza & Janés) to recount the disappointment and immobility of a generation that was run over by what it believed was the desired future, and now oscillates between giving in to nostalgia or embracing the apocalypse.
"We are the generation that has taken refuge in its own complacency and its victimhood. We have believed too much that theory that we live jumping from one crisis to another, but deep down they all have been. We have found in that a justification for immobility political, cultural, social or sentimental", points out García Barnés. Pessimism and resignation have created mountains of cynicism: "There is a disbelief towards people who try to change things, they are seen with mistrust, as if behind that there was a later benefit. It is very easy to ridicule Greta Thunberg or other activists and it is also very comfortable, because it allows you to wash your hands and not assume your share of responsibility before society. That cynicism is very dangerous and I think it is accentuated as the generations go by, "explains the author.
Popular culture pays tribute to the childhood of those born in the eighties: the odes to the EGB, the Dragon Ball t-shirts or the vindication of Estopa. "It is enough to take a look at a festival poster, the television grid or the movie listings, to see that we live in the world of nostalgia, which grips us with the possibility of imagining a different future. We are told that the future is going to be terrible and that any attempt to change things is going to cause something worse," he says.
The House of Cards or Breaking Bad series, the movies by Michael Haneke or Joker, show a world of extreme competition, where only the manipulators or the geniuses survive. Or the grim narrative, where life is a terrible nightmare with no room for hope. "The episode The Red Wedding of Game of Thrones talks about that feeling that I have had for years, and also many of my friends, that something is going to go wrong from one moment to the next. In a celebratory environment, a tragedy can happen in the one that is going to put the whole world to death. It reflects that anxiety that we all have before tomorrow: that a crisis is going to come, that they are going to kick you out, that something is going to happen to your family, that it is going to happen a terrible accident. The tomorrow that at other times in history was a horizon of possibility, is now a horizon of destruction", analyzes the author.
The Black Mirror series, which at first was seen as "visionary" and which anticipated "the evils of society", little by little "was seeing the trap": "The vision it offers of the world is totally future-phobic, the episodes start from the idea that there is something dark in the human being, that is going to make the worst use of technologies. It continually reminds us how bad we are as a species, and it has ended up tiring people because it is so monolithic".
García Barnés began to think about the book during confinement, when walking was a luxury and the safest thing was to stagger. He realized the naturalness with which the exceptional had been accepted: "I saw that people said that something like this had to happen, that we could not continue as we were, that the logical thing is that there would be more apocalypses, one after another" .
From there, he looks back and reviews the events that have marked his perception of a world that is too complex and on which it is very difficult to act. "On September 11 I was 16 years old, until then I had the feeling that nothing was happening, not even the effect 2000 had brought about the apocalypse that they told us. Suddenly, the very spectacular nature of seeing the attack on television made that you had the feeling of seeing history live", he recalls. Later, "the economic crisis of 2008 brought about a change that led to a rethinking of the very structure of society and politics. It crashed the false optimistic narrative that had been developing since the 1990s, which was inscribed in the real estate bubble. That kind of irrational euphoria. There was a readjustment of expectations, a disappointment, which continues to be the framework in which we understand reality today," explains the journalist.
The economic crisis, a pandemic, the explosion of a volcano or a war in Europe mean living in a continuous exceptional situation, as Naomi Klein developed in The shock doctrine. The system takes advantage of moments of trauma to reduce rights without civil society reacting. "Klein counts the shocks that serve to introduce the neoliberal system as the only possible alternative. What I count is that these continuous shocks serve to reinforce the status quo. These critical periods in which it seems that everything can change, end up causing a great deal of In most cases, nothing changes. Because people cling to what they know, to their material and psychological stability, and just want to get things back to how they were. Those crises that could be moments of progress end up causing social differences to sharpen: we already know that with the pandemic the richest people on the planet have become richer and the poor, poorer", recalls García Barnés.
Society has accepted that life is a competition, like living in John Hillcoat's movie The Road. "I think that the ultimate consequence of futurophobia and the neoliberal system is individualism," he analyzes. "It's the feeling that if you want to work in what you like, you're going to have to compete with the one next door. That if I don't retrain myself, and I don't constantly change jobs, I'm going to be left behind."
And he warns of the danger that this state of continuous crisis will neutralize social changes. "In this state of permanent crisis, we postpone many decisions and we have the feeling of living in a state of pause. For example, when a feminist policy is proposed, someone immediately appears saying, 'with the one that is falling, this cannot be done '. All the changes of progress want to be postponed. My logic is the opposite: it is precisely with what we have on us, when we have to implement these types of policies to end up creating a fairer world for all". We must abandon that future-phobic framework, that fear of the future, reflects García Barnés, who acknowledges that he does not have formulas, but he does have a compass to bring about change: "Being more aware of why we believe what we believe, and why we think what we think , starting to think about why we have these preconceived ideas, where they come from and who they serve is a good step to get rid of that immobility, navel-gazing, cynicism and individualism".