Twitter – always a great source for material about which to gripe – provided another gem in the form of this tweet that was making the rounds. Here we see an idyllic “solarpunk” future featuring high technology interwoven with an unspoilt natural setting. I have to admit, as someone who is a localist and traditionalist while also having a positive attitude toward technology and scientific advancement, the world depicted really doesn’t look half bad. (Go to the tweet to see the video, since Substack currently doesn’t support embedding MP4s.)
The main problem with it is that it’s not realistic. Even aside from the question of just how much environmental damage would be done by all of the lithium mines needed to support a worldwide application of these technologies, this futuristic solarpunk world – at least as it’s depicted – appears to rest on social technologies and demographic wishful thinking that no amount of fancy holographic readouts could bring to fruition. In short, it suffers from Wakanda Syndrome.
Now, I am not a redditor and I do NOT watch, nor have I ever watched, any MCU movies. I want to be clear on this point so as to protect my professional reputation as a solid right wing gigachad. My knowledge of these movies comes from pop culture osmosis combined with an unfortunately overabundant curiosity that has access to TVTropes. As a result, I’m presuming that most of my readers know about Wakanda through largely the same way.
Wakanda, as we all know (through pop culture osmosis and TVTropes, remember) depicts a wonderfully advanced, technological and ethical society that somehow also exists right in the heart of deepest, darkest Africa. Despite absolutely nothing about sub-saharan Africa’s history, culture, or genetic legacy suggesting that such a thing should be remotely possible, nevertheless it’s there, fancy flashy futuristic buildings and all. Indeed, aside from a few cultural quirks, Wakanda would seem to basically represent the exact sort of cultural and material trajectory that European and American science fiction writers used to assume for Western civilisation. As such, Wakanda embodies the sort of “doing White things without needing White people” fantasising that I’ve written about earlier.
In many ways, the solarpunk video represents this same sort of thinking. It suggests a bucolic, pastoral world that seems to have also maximised “diversity” (seriously, the dinner scene seems to depict some kind of weird omniracial kibbutz). Unspoken but present throughout as represented in the person of the wise Latina witching woman (cannot she create weather merely by manhandling a machine, ooga booga?) is that our friendly omniracial harvesting crew epitomises the greater omniracial society that build all of the weather blimps and flying school buses and crystal spires seen throughout. I think it’s safe to assume this simply from knowing the mindset of progressives who would even make this type of video in the first place.
The obvious point against this is that nowhere in recorded history has this sort of multicultural, multiracial diversity ever created or sustained a high civilisation. Even ancient writers, who generally did not even make the same sort of racial distinctions that modern western societies have, recognised that when you made different groups of people live together in close proximity, that it created all sort of problems. It’s always been understood that giving different groups their own space leads to more overall peace and prosperity. Large multiethnic empires such as Rome’s and the Austro-Hungarian knew the value of letting people run their own affairs in their own ancestral lands as long as they obeyed the Emperor and paid their taxes. Mooshing them all together, on the other hand, is less likely to create the Shire and more likely to create Detroit.
The reality is that for Solarpunk world to exist, it would have to have been designed, built, and maintained by White people who are able to do White people things in an unhindered way. Of course, since that is currently the working definition of “White supremacy” and is being actively discouraged, we’re unlikely to have floating teapots or robotic fruit picking machines any time soon. Yet, highly advanced technical society only exists because of White westerners doing what comes naturally to them. Thinking that you can have White people society without significant input from White people themselves is basically just magical thinking, a form of cargo cult mentality that presumes that wise Latinas would even want to drink English tea in a Shropshire country home. Even in their deracinated-yet-White-free future, intersectional PoC chauvinists still envision themselves basically acting like White people, because even they can’t imagine a plausible avenue to advanced civilisation otherwise.
As such, while it presents an attractive pathway for the future (certainly better than many that I’ve seen), Solarpunk world just doesn’t seem like it would ever actually be a thing. Unless, western societies can break free from the self-imposed bonds of multiculturalism and critical theory and get back to doing what they do best.