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“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.” -Raymond Williams
Yesterday I learned a lesson about hope.
Usually we ask what gives each other hope. If we take Raymond Williams’ words above seriously, we should be asking instead, “how do we make hope possible?”
The goal is not to manufacture hollow hopes, blurry optimism, or manic action. We want “real grounds for hope.” Hope, just like any other social good, is a bond we construct.
Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now … to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries—realists of a larger reality. — Ursula K. LeGuinn
When we wear our masks, we’re hoping we don’t catch or transmit illness, especially those most at risk.
When we smile under our masks, using our eyes to delight, we hope we make a small difference in each other’s day.
When we reach out, online or in-person, to create Covid-safer relationships, gatherings, and protests, we create the real grounds for hope.
Hope is tiny and hope is huge. In Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life,writes:
“Our society is decadent and stagnant because it lacks hope. Hope is the desire for something that is (1) in the future, (2) good, (3) difficult to achieve, and (4) possible. The fourth point is critical. Without the conviction that the fulfillment of a desire is possible, there is no hope—and therefore no desire.”
A Covid-safer future is all these things: good, difficult — and possible. How?
By modeling it.
Burgis’ main point is our human desires — what we want and hope and strive for — always arises from others. Not exactly a newsflash, right? We see someone having brunch, we want to have brunch. But those kinds of desires are thin, unsatisfying.
Instead, we need to focus on wanting what we need — the innovations, infrastructure, and culture that protect health— and modeling the world we want. It’s by tapping into our thickest, deepest desires that we become anti-mimetic. That’s a term for the counter-cultural icons who create reality distortion effects, who bend the future towards what they want… just by wanting differently.
The Covid-safe world we want can become real. We just need to make it visible, using all the tools we have. Because people can’t desire what they can’t see.
As we tell our kids, you need to set a good example.
Can’t believe it yet? Remember that change happens when it’s least expected. And that hope is something made, not given.
No one expected it. In a world darkened by economic distress, political cynicism, cultural emptiness and personal hopelessness, it just happened…. People came together. They claimed their right to make history. — Manuel Castells
“Make love, not war,” the hippies used to chant. Today, as the horsemen of the apocalypse summon a whole cavalry, we need an updated slogan:
Make hope, not despair.
I hope you’ll share your favorite hope-making practice, quote, or resource below.
Movement News and Resources
I just want to highlight one: the Week of Action! Keep Masks in Healthcare. Be daring. Make hope. May 15-21, 2023.
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