Imagination: Always ‘lively.’ Be on guard against it. When lacking in oneself, attack it in others. To write a novel, all you need is imagination.

–Global crises are often posed like Warhol’s 1963 Lavender Disaster. Here in acrylic, silkscreen ink, and pencil on linen you see the same electric chair repeated, each in its mauve mist.

There’s a one-dimensionality to the block-on-block depiction, both in Lavender Disaster and in crisis narratives–and intentionally so. This is because the flatness invites viewers to fill in the rest with the worst they can imagine. And by “imagine” we should think in terms of the quote in this blog’s heading from Gustave Flaubert, novelist.

Indeed, what would global crisis narratives be without all this imagination! Yet, still: “What we have here is a failure of imagination,” intone the policy critiques of the day.

–Note how difficult it is for anyone, subject matter experts let alone others, to come up with plausible details about the crisis response structure to be in place after the losses incurred by said crises or to prevent said crises from happening. To do the latter requires deep knowledge and realism—that is, far far far far more than the touted imagination.

Absent knowledge and realism, we are asked to treat many crisis scenarios seriously until proven otherwise, when those offering the scenarios are unable to specify what it takes to disprove the scenarios or prevent their recurrence.

Consequently, whether or not the relevant literatures differentiate anything like conditions for “effective imagination” must be left to the readers to guess. Having to undertake that task may, of course, cure us of one or two of the crises.

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