Photo credit: Quartier des Spectacles
Do you find something both appealing and appalling about surviving an apocalypse?
How many movies are there on the topic? Even more books, I bet. Have you ever dreamed (or nightmared) about the day you wake up and all of the stuff that seemed to matter so much is just gone. Eviscerated, vaporized, because in the reality of the (future) now, bills, work politics, career aspirations and family dramas no longer matter.
Unlike Eliott in the show Mr. Robot, you probably realize it's not going to be easy to weed out these problems at the root. Removing them, especially when they are large scale in nature, often has the troublesome effect of creating more problems. It's not so different from the famous hook in Notorious B.I.G's rap, "... the more money I come across, the more problems I see."
I think the increasing popularity in the post-apocalyptic genre comes - at least in part - from a feeling that the only way to weed out these materialistic and political nuisances takes nothing less than a full on zombie/nuclear attack. Except you'd probably agree that while it would be nice to not have to stress over basic bullshit anymore, stressing over basic survival is not an attractive alternative.
As a fan of science/speculative fiction, I ponder the purpose of imagining dystopian and utopian places. Although the genre is not usually considered to be serious literature (unless it's 1984, which everybody agrees is happening now) its purpose is serious. Not only does it question our present ideas of humanity, identity and so on, it also imagines our progression if we continue on our path of doing what we do.
But I've noticed that even the best science fiction writers have a hard time putting dystopian and utopian futures together in one. Their versions of the future prefers one and excludes the other.
But here in the now, Montreal is the perfect example of a utopia inside a dystopia, or vice versa.
If you originally come from a highly hospitable habitat that nurtures vegetation, and where life teems all around you all the time, you will inevitably be a little shell-shocked by this time of winter. You will feel that you now know what it is like AFTER THE FALL. Not the fall, as in autumn, but the Great Fall. After all other life has been congealed into ice and survival is the M.O.
You will find that it is dreary, sun deprived, barren. You will be perturbed by the lack of light and feel that the darkness outside is seeping into your skin and spreading within.
In short, you will be sure you have arrived on a post apocalyptic reality, minus the zombies or civil/world/alien war upheaval. This upheaval is all the work of mother nature, you'll think, and that could make you even more depressed, maybe, cause who do you blame for that (not even global warming)?
But come outside on Nuit Blanche and you will see utopia. In live action.
Last weekend was the annual "light festival" where activities roll on all night past the darkness of night into the light of morning. You can tango all night, do night museum tours with a flashlight, zipline over Ste. Catherine street while watching the fire throwers below, or do as I did and bounce from church to church.
Not for any religious purpose, this is not a Cartesian dystopia we are talking about, but more of a Nietzschean utopia, in line with his statements that, "without music life would be a mistake ... even God is a songster."
Inside these temples we listened to a brass band jamming out a lazy trombone-infused version of Hey Jude, and then a free opera concert ringing through the acoustic friendly institution playing nothing less than Mozart and Phillip Glass.
These streets ooze life. A buzz of excitement rings through. It's bloody cold and it could be the setting for a post apocalyptic scene, but with the heat of human ingenuity, the fire we bring to the cold winter nights, Nuit Blanche is a perfect example of a colourful utopia in the throes of this bleak dystopia.