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First published in The Tabloid No.1, Imagine The Future, Winter 1993

In a significant demonstration of support for what at the time was little more than a good idea, the Commission for Missions of the Uniting Church (Victorian Synod) has committed $50,000 to Imagine The Future from its Special Missions Fund.

"We made the grant in the hope that other groups would be captured by the vision Imagine The Future offered," explained the Church's Commissioner for Missions, Rev. Barry Prior. 

"It seemed to us that Imagine The Future was a very creative initiative that took us past the boundaries of environmental and technological concerns to look at the future in a much more integrated way that involved the whole of what life is about," he said. "It took up the issues of ecology and economics of course but also focussed on quality of life within the total community - including the sort of spiritual values that give people's lives meaning. 

"We were also attracted by the buzz and excitement of the thing and about the possibility that Imagine The Future presented for raising major issues of today that are quite clearly also going to be important in the next decade and the next century," he said. 

One of these issues of course, is unemployment and the personal trauma associated with it. 


"In Australia we have a whole generation of young people who have been scarred for life," Barry commented. "In part, because we as a community have been unable to deliver on the promise that if you worked hard, got yourself an education and did the right things, you'd get a job - which would then somehow move you into a nice bright future. 

"For hundreds of thousands of young people all over Australia, that has not proved to be true," he said. "Many of these young people have suffered the problems that come with rejection, with not finding an appropriate niche or a sense of purpose in life. Now they are totally disillusioned: they have nowhere to go and they are quite aimless.. 

"My feeling is that even if they find a job tomorrow or next month or next year - or even in the next decade P they will carry these scars for the rest of their lives. And I think we as a total community may in fact have to live with the implications of their scarring for the rest of our lives too. 


"In this post-Enlightenment society, some of the old shibboleths are at last being questioned," Barry reflected. "The notion that simply through the advance of capitalism and liberal democracy, through the advance of knowledge and technology, we are going to create a utopian Heavenly City here on Earth - that just isn't true" he said. 

But if those old shibboleths have failed us, what now? From what do we build a society that is, if not a Heavenly City on Earth, then at least qualitatively better than the present? 

"I can only answer from a personal point of view" Barry said. "I think that the 'small is beautiful' movement of the 1970s has a lot in it - and we could go back and mine that. I think a movement towards much more community life and espousing a community lifestyle is an important and positive step we can take. I think we've got to get away from the emphasis upon the individual and on privatised lives in very small family groups for example. I'd like to see people organising their lives around larger groups which you might like to call communities.

"Beyond that, I think there are some major justice issues we have to address and I'm quite despairing about that because I guess the thing I worry about most is the unequal distribution of power within the community. And the fact that there are powerful groups of people making major decisions which affect the lives of people almost everywhere, and we ordinary people have great difficulty in even accessing the decision makers. 

"Somehow or other, as a world community, we have to discover new ways of deciding our destiny together, rather than having those decisions taken for us by big companies and big government. That I think is one of the most significant things we need to address."


Democratising decision making, fostering a sense of community, mining 'small is beautiful', challenging powerful groups in our society, nurturing the spiritual values that give people's lives meaning - all 'significant things'. 

Too 'significant' for Imagine The Future to grapple with alone. But perhaps, as Barry Prior presaged, Imagine The Future can initiate some real conversations about these issues. And from such dialogue perhaps real change will come. So let's talk. About real things. About the future. About what kind of society we want.

Copyright Imagine The Future Inc 1993

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Content last updated February 2006.