The terrific power of Imagination
A world without imagination is a desolate land, a forced scenography, and an undesirable, dreadful dream. Since the very beginning, human progress took advantage from imagination and used it; moreover, imagination is the central thread of the development of various disciplines not only technical or scientific, but also philosophical, social, and political.
The ability to imagine new sceneries and new perspectives led to historical turning points (“De revolutionibus orbium coelestium,” On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, by Nicolaus Copernicus, just for example, or “A new deal for the American people,” by Franklin Roosevelt, or “I have a dream,” by M. Luther King), and forged the very concept of culture.
What is, in fact, culture without imagination? I wonder whether only a barren capability to understand and connect, without a superior form of vision, without the motor of imagination and the courage to prophesize, to risk, is culture or only a part of it.
It is not casual that all the dictatorships fight imagination unless it is embedded, manipulated. It is not casual that the oppositions usually use the leverage of imagination to unhinge and break up the institutions or the establishment. Up to give imagination the responsibility to manage, to drive (from “The power of imagination” to “Imagination in Power,” by Herbert Marcuse). But power is not the purpose, the task of imagination. Being “in power,” imagination becomes only another form of the institution or politics, and so a constraint, losing its strength, its propulsive concept, and its superordinate meaning and value.
As usual, speaking about imagination people tend to think that it is only a gift, something transcendental that you can have or not. There are accountants and there are artists, under the sun. What a mistake. First of all, imagination is not only a personal attribute, but also a widespread, social feature. A society, a community can be more or less “imaginative, creative” according to the ambience, the social atmosphere, the laws, the traditions, the religion, the economic status, etc. Think for a moment about business companies. Innovation (which is the twin of imagination) of products, processes, or strategy is not a gift, but the outcome of a hard work, a top-down will and approach and standard, and of the right atmosphere.
Innovation in a company, believe me, is never casual.
And also in personal terms, imagination is an aptitude you have to feed and that you fully deserve only after a long process of study and refinement (otherwise, “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,” by Francisco Goya).
Imagination is power, and, at the same time, a source of power, of energy, or motive force. Imagination is a terrific motor that cannot create by itself, but require specific, favourable conditions, of which the first one, the most important is “education” in general terms.
Now, some rhetorical questions:
– If your goal (personal, or of your party, or your lobby) is only ‘The Power,’ would you strive for a good, widespread education and knowledge of the population you want to guide?
– If the general education were low, would you expect good proposals in terms of arts, culture, quality of politics, innovation, etc.? Do you think that you could count on good literature, music, theatre, music, schools, etc?
– If the general education and imagination were low, would you believe that hope would be high?
If a country doesn’t care about education, there is a reason. Thomas Hobbes wrote: “Auctoritas non veritas fecit legem, Authorithy, not truth, makes laws.” If a country doesn’t care about education, is stealing vital amount of hope (aspiration, wish, expectation, aim, optimism, confidence, faith, trust, belief, possibility, chance) from its people, and especially from the young generations.
Ps, by the way: in Italy just the 55% of the Italians between 25 and 64 years old owns a high school diploma (European average: 74%).