Every generation sees something unique in the times they are living through. Worship and scorn are directed towards that which distinguishes them from their previous generation and, in turn, is expressed as the suffix to the dreariest of phrases: “we live in a society that…”
History is a half-rhyme with the present. It offers us lessons about how patterns and events similar to today’s have played out under different conditions – maybe similar, maybe not. But, that there are lessons to learn does not mean history can explain our own times or answer our own questions. That is up to us.
In each of its previous incarnations, Foreword has aspired to “break down the times” without really knowing what that meant. All we knew was that it is important to interrogate what is happening, and that “breaking down the times we live in” is a pretty cool tagline to plaster across our homepage.
Three years on since our first blog post, we think we have landed on what it means.
It means examining the forces that are increasingly shaping our lives and our societies, to track the patterns and trends of power. To break down the times is to deconstruct events to their human meaning and to ponder, even predict, where we might be heading.
We will, naturally, end up covering a lot of ground, though everything we write about will follow this thread. Our writings will take in a broad range, from the debasement of political discourse to the coming climate catastrophe; from how our lives are represented online to Artificial Intelligence and automation; from culture and class to pondering the empires of the future. We will question what it means to live in a time when the language of oppression and erasure has returned to acceptability and when people are rendered stateless.
Foreword will not be a blog in the commonly understood sense: we do not want to be a site full of edgy hot takes, opinions and ideological positions dressed up as the truth. Instead, Foreword will base itself around a core set of writers below who will be carefully carving out their niches. We have by no means got everything covered, so if you think you have something to add and would like to try to submit once of every two weeks or so, please email or message us!
We don’t really understand the world: the motivation behind all this is as much about working it out ourselves as it is about producing. We all have day jobs, we are just amateurs giving it a go in order to play a small, constructive part, whatever that may be.
Theo Gregory – Morbid Symptoms
We inhabit a transformative period of the history of humanity. All that I write and read is an attempt to understand the implications of this to a greater extent: the contours of any systemic change, the interactions between falling imperial states and global environmental catastrophes, and the political expression of the morbid symptoms of the present.
There is a growing canon of utopian and dystopian speculative political theory drawing from these changes afoot. I intend to research and write about emancipatory foreign policy, depictions of the future, in political science, philosophy, and fiction, as well as history as a tool of liberation and oppression.
I hope that you find the pieces readable, and at the least provocatively asinine. But above all know that I was forced to write this brief bio by Dan Morrison, and you have him and yourself to blame if you’ve reached the end of it.
Berfin Aksoy – The Internet: Our Universal Language
The internet is a machine and it should kill (!)
The Internet is a beautiful language, speaking in abstractions, conjuring different images for each of us. The emotions we get from the online world are important in looking at how the web can be a pool of floating information about Snowden or Trump’s tweets, a girl dancing to a street musicians performance to a freedom fighter’s head being cut off by terrorists.
We choose to avoid our realities by looking at others and sometimes accepting that as ours. It can all happen at the same time and we can take in all of it at once because that’s how smart humans are! (or scared?)
I am here to write about how we feel in this chaos of information and to listen to your experiences, too.
Let’s make the internet a universal language.
Sharlene Gandhi – Neither Technophile nor Technophobe
It is impossible to attempt breaking down our times without talking about the impact of technology and the effect it has on the layperson. As a tech consultant who struggles to update her phone software at the right time, I am, like many others, constantly straddling the boundary between succumbing to technology and wanting to throw any internet-connected device into the nearest body of water.
I’ll be trying to pick apart the role that technology plays in our lives, going beyond the usual robot-based dialogue, and hopefully complementing some of Berfin’s work on the scary world of the Internet. I do not advocate being a technophobe, nor a technophile, but rather hope that these pieces will just help you make a more informed decision on which technology you choose to allow into your lives.
Olly Henderson – Climate Catastrophes
There are many signs, many of which are glaringly obvious, that our path to tackling climate change is reaching a crossroads. Decisions now, or lack thereof, can take us in very different directions. There is an overwhelming consensus establishing that the rapid acceleration in climate change is caused by human action, yet serious solutions are scarce.
I want us to take a step back for a second and try and understand the difficult mechanisms, hindrances, and technicalities that are causing us to stall in our task to seriously combating climate change. It may be a depressing scene being set, but only when we do this can we identify sustainable solutions and get to grips with our role in fighting climate change.
Having encouraged (nagged) folks to write their own briefs, it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to say that I am not entirely sure how to articulate my own.
I am concerned about a general feeling that value is bottoming out of everything, but our political discourse and political process mainly, contributing to our own crystallising state of fuzzy fascism. Fascism isn’t quite the right word and while I’d like to work towards new definitions and categories, it is the best for now. This bottoming out extends to other sectors of life, too, like labour, which is being stripped of its social or productive value. With reference to thinkers like Hannah Arendt, worrying about the future world of tech oligarchs like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, and reimagining new political processes, I will be writing about our political and productive life.