Hope when things get dark

And no, this post was not, in fact, in response to the Supreme Court’s recent decision, but a discussion about Hopepunk online.

I quoted Vaclav Havel’s line to the effect that “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” One of the other participants argued (and linked to an essay to that effect) that Hope is indeed one of the evils of the world, hence being in Pandora’s box. Hope makes us think the system can work, that there’s something to be done that will fix it. He argued that believing in the system just gets in the way of radical change; his preference in fiction is to tear everything down in an apocalypse so we can start over and build something better. The essay argued likewise that Hope just tells us everything will work out; we have to accept that it won’t, then grit our teeth and do the work anyway.

I don’t think we’re really on opposite sides. We all agree the work has to be done. I define hope as the belief that it may pay off or that if not, that doing the work still makes sense. They associate hope with not doing the work. It’s a disagreement over definitions, nothing more.

And what is the work? For some reason I’m thinking of a quote from Goethe: “How can you come to know yourself? Never by thinking, always by doing. Try to do your duty and you’ll know right away what you amount to. And what is your duty? Whatever the day calls for.” Donating to political candidates and Planned Parenthood are definitely called for. Voting and encouraging people to vote. More than that, but I’m not sure what.

While I don’t want to think about how long the slog will be to get America back into being a decent country, this op-ed on Kavanaugh’s appointment makes a good point about the early 20th century efforts against Jim Crow: “All of these men and women were on the side of justice and lost. None of these people, who fought for full and equal public access as free citizens on trains and streetcars, stopped fighting. None abandoned what they knew was right. They all tried again. Most would not live to see things made right, but they continued.” And it was made right, and now Republicans are working to make it un-right. I hope it can be turned around in my lifetime, but if not, it’s still worth fighting.

Camestros Felapton points out that the “metric of success in the short term for resisting is not victories but the additional cost in time and effort and political capital that those in power need to spend to achieve anything. Resistance is friction, inertia and obstacles.”

An article at Daily Beast from the post-Kavanaugh period discusses Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus and finding merit in a futile struggle (unlike the essayist mentioned above, he doesn’t equate that to giving up on hope): “There is hope that arises in and of itself from the decision to wake, the decision to work, the decision to write, the decision to speak. With our hands pressed to the clay of duty— a citizen’s duty to shape their country, to fight back against the ways it errs, and to create small increments of justice through that work—we strain against the weight together and it lessens.

If the mass of the rock seems impossible, if its surface is pitted and scarred, there are other hands to press against its weight. And so hope is a cairn we build together, and it marks a path to the world we wish to see.”

And last but not least, Paul Campos reminds us that the present is still better than the past.

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