Vox Populi

Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry

Rebecca Solnit: Hope in Dark Times

This has been a truly remarkable decade for movement-building, social change, and deep, profound shifts in ideas, perspective, and frameworks for broad parts of the population (and, of course, backlashes against all those things).

It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.

For a time people liked to announce that feminism had failed, as though the project of overturning millennia of social arrangements should achieve its final victories in a few decades, or as though it had stopped. Feminism is just starting, and its manifestations matter in rural Himalayan villages, not just first-world cities.

You can tell the genesis story of the Arab Spring [in many] ways. The quiet organizing going on in the shadows beforehand matters. So does the comic book about Martin Luther King and civil disobedience that was translated into Arabic and widely distributed in Egypt shortly before the Arab Spring. You can tell of King’s civil disobedience tactics being inspired by Gandhi’s tactics, and Gandhi’s inspired by Tolstoy and the radical acts of noncooperation and sabotage of British women suffragists. So the threads of ideas weave around the world and through the decades and centuries.

After a rain mushrooms appear on the surface of the earth as if from nowhere. Many do so from a sometimes vast underground fungus that remains invisible and largely unknown. What we call mushrooms mycologists call the fruiting body of the larger, less visible fungus. Uprisings and revolutions are often considered to be spontaneous, but less visible long-term organizing and groundwork — or underground work — often laid the foundation. Changes in ideas and values also result from work done by writers, scholars, public intellectuals, social activists, and participants in social media. It seems insignificant or peripheral until very different outcomes emerge from transformed assumptions about who and what matters, who should be heard and believed, who has rights.

Ideas at first considered outrageous or ridiculous or extreme gradually become what people think they’ve always believed. How the transformation happened is rarely remembered, in part because it’s compromising: it recalls the mainstream when the mainstream was, say, rabidly homophobic or racist in a way it no longer is; and it recalls that power comes from the shadows and the margins, that our hope is in the dark around the edges, not the limelight of center stage. Our hope and often our power.

Change is rarely straightforward… Sometimes it’s as complex as chaos theory and as slow as evolution. Even things that seem to happen suddenly arise from deep roots in the past or from long-dormant seeds.

A victory doesn’t mean that everything is now going to be nice forever and we can therefore all go lounge around until the end of time. Some activists are afraid that if we acknowledge victory, people will give up the struggle. I’ve long been more afraid that people will give up and go home or never get started in the first place if they think no victory is possible or fail to recognize the victories already achieved. Marriage equality is not the end of homophobia, but it’s something to celebrate. A victory is a milestone on the road, evidence that sometimes we win, and encouragement to keep going, not to stop.

It’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it.

 


From Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Haymarket Books. Updated edition, copyright 2016 Rebecca Solnit. Quoted in BrainPickings.

 

2 comments on “Rebecca Solnit: Hope in Dark Times

  1. elishagabriel
    December 17, 2016

    Reblogged this on Elisha Gabriel.

    Like

  2. elizabethjacobson822
    December 11, 2016

    Hi Sawnie! Great to see you and Brian yesterday. I am sorry about choosing the restaurant with the food being so drab, but your company made up for it!

    Here is the Vox Populi — you can go on their home page and sign up for the daily email if you want.

    Here is the link to the reading/ talk with Sharon O. and Tony

    http://inprinthouston.org/tony-hoagland-sharon-olds-reading/

    Here is the link to Books and Books Coral Gables, Mitchell Kaplan is the owner

    http://www.booksandbooks.com/coralgables

    Like

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This entry was posted on December 5, 2016 by in Environmentalism, Opinion Leaders, Social Justice, War and Peace and tagged , .
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