As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we commissioned 12 writers from Australia and the UK to write a letter to their past or future selves. In response to the question “Who are we now?”, these writers consider what conversations and stories need to be had and created for us to reimagine, rethink and rebuild the world around us.
Writer Mykaela Saunders writes to her future self:
“Dear future Mykaela,
I’ve been asked to write a letter to you, asking you ‘who are we now?’. But this isn’t something I ever want to know for myself; I’ve never been keen on knowing my future, maybe because I’ve watched too many sci-fi horror movies that deal with time travel, causation loops, and the tyranny of fate. So, I do not want you to tell me any personal news from the future because that means I’ll spend all my attention on the lookout for clues—and that’ll stop me enjoying my life in the meantime.
But still, I have to ask you—who are we now? And I am not asking about myself. I am asking about us, as a people.
There’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to know the future, for the reasons I’ve just touched on. But there’s another part of me that needs to know that the news is good.
This other, hopeful part wants to know that corporations and their neoliberal enablers have been stopped from ruining our countries, and indeed our entire planet. But can you tell me that in all honesty?
Because I want you to tell me that. I need you to tell me that.
Because, what if these corporations aren’t forced to a halt? I just don’t know how I could live with knowing that. I don’t know that I could hold that knowledge in my body and still look our young ones in the eyes.
In 2014, in her lecture at Southern Illinois University, Angela Davis said that “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time”.
And god only knows how I could live if I knew that it wasn’t possible.
My first impulse is to ask you to not tell me anything about how it goes either way, because if I only ask you to tell me the good news but hold off on the bad, then I’ll know it’s all bad news if you don’t tell me anything. And how could I find any joy in life then? How could I carry myself though life knowing nothing I do is good enough?
So instead, I am asking you to tell me the good news, whether it’s true or not. This is the only way I can proceed: by knowing if a well-loved planet and people is possible. Here are some things I want you to tell me—
That the fossil fuel conglomerates have either grown some ethics or else died of starvation, and that all their workers have safe and stable jobs in cleaner energy.
That our rivers are no longer bled dry but left to fill and swim back into their ancient memories.
That our oceans are clean again and teeming with all kinds of life.
That we’ll release the stranglehold of the prison-industrial complex and the welfare-to-prison pipeline, abolish all other carceral cultures, and inject all those billions into our health, art, education, culture, leisure, and especially pleasure.
That our laws and art and stories are valued by all communities, not just commodified and entombed by a handful of rich gatekeepers.
That the tired mentality of asking top-down governance to save us is dead, and that grassroots community care is what heals us.
I need to know that they are leaving our children the fuck alone.
And I need to know that our children will be growing up in a world knowing their rich histories and not having to worry about whether they’ll have a future or not.
So when you write back to me, make sure you tell me all this good news, and tell me more good things too, if you want—but make sure you tell me whether you mean it or not. Because, true god, absolutely everything depends on it.
Yours, in all sincerity,
Mykaela Saunders is an award-winning Koori writer, teacher and community researcher, and the editor of This All Come Back Now, the world’s first anthology of blackfella speculative fiction, forthcoming with University of Queensland Press in 2022.
Of Dharug and Lebanese descent, and working-class and queer, Mykaela belongs to the Tweed Goori community. Mykaela has worked in Aboriginal education in various capacities since 2003, and at the tertiary level since 2012. Her research explores trans-generational trauma and healing in her community.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves is a partnership between Spread the Word, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne, City of Literature. It is part of the UK/Australia Season; a joint initiative by the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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