In parts 1, 2, and 3 of Tomorrow’s Child, Rubem Alves claims that Western society is unsustainable, and people need to use their imaginations to create a positive future. In part 1, Alves compares Western civilization to dinosaurs. Like the dinosaurs, humans are on the cusp of a “holocaust.” He says the emphasis on growth and power has built an “irrational and structurally faulty” system. Alves distinguishes between a rationalized system and a society of rational subjects. He draws a line between intention and function. For example, scientists intend to serve humankind. Ultimately, Alves argues, science functions in the same harmful system.
Alves then delves into an analysis of “organization.” For Alves, the organization of countries and political entities is akin to repression; it's “power organizing life.” The low visibility of such structures helps the powerful remain in charge.
Next, Alves discusses the instability of the modern world. The emphasis on consumerism creates a “permanent restlessness.” In Alves’s view, the system has succeeded in monetizing pleasure. Alves wraps up part 1 by discussing how systems impact people’s emotions and perceptions of reality. Alves is particularly worried about the “abandonment of imagination.”
In part 2, Alves continues to express his bleak diagnosis of society. “We live in a sick society,” he declares. The world is organized so that the status quo can carry on even though people should be using their imaginations to try and come up with new, sustainable systems. Alves see the imagination and the concept of magic as a means to actively produce alternatives and not passively “accept fate.”
Alves segues from imagination and magic to play. All three concepts suggest a kind of creativity that can function outside of the “logic of production and consumption.” About “play” Alves writes, “It delivers pleasures, and that is enough.” In the following chapter, Alves explains the importance of pain in relation to one’s body and imagination (or visions). Alves says that utopias can be created once people realize their bodies are “doomed.” Suffering keeps people “in touch with the world.”
Alves then discusses the Vietnam War and the ideals that the “tragedy” produced. These visions never came to fruition. People discovered they were “trapped, powerless, and captive.” For Alves, the vacillation between hope and despair is central to the personality. Consciousness can lead a person to go from “action is no longer possible” to “action is no longer necessary.”
Alves then returns to the notion of repression. For Alves, the human and spiritual world starts with the body. The Western world alienates people from the natural rhythms of their bodies so that they operate according to the tempo of the system.
In part 3, Alves writes that civilization’s current predicament is not unique. He states that the “alienation of power” is civilization’s “original sin.” Quoting from the Bible, Alves encourages people to not give up hope and to create “the seed of a new future.”