Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Living Without Hope is Freedom

In my forthcoming book I discuss how having hope is not as empowering as we might think, particularly on issues of climate change and social justice for all species. I quote a little Derrick Jensen in that book, but I'm quoting more below. I think it's important to understand that living without hope is not hopelessness; that the condition of not having hope is liberating, not stifling or depressing. Once we are free of depending upon systems of oppression, profit, and exploitation, we become free and powerful. In making sustainable gardens that favor diversity and honor natural processes, while providing life for other species, we eschew hope and instead embrace action. Tell me what you think of Jensen's thoughts.

"A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you, nor did it make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems—you ceased hoping your problems somehow get solved, through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself—and you just began doing what’s necessary to solve your problems yourself.

Because of industrial civilization, human sperm counts have been cut in half over the last fifty years. At the same time, girls have begun to enter puberty earlier: 1 percent of three-year-old girls have begun to develop breasts or pubic hair, and in only the last six years, the percentage of girls under eight with swollen breasts or pubic hair has gone from 1 percent to 6.7 percent for white girls, and 27.2 percent for black girls. What are you going to do about this? Are you going to hope this problem somehow goes away? Will you hope someone magically solves it? Will you hope someone—anyone—will stop the chemical industry from killing us all? Or will you do something about it?

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that it kills you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that once you’re dead they—those in power—cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence
itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell—you can still live because you are still alive, in fact more alive than ever before—but those in power no longer have a hold on you. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died
with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who depended on and believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed
you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died....

When you give up on hope, you lose a lot of fear. And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to just protect those you love, you become dangerous indeed to those in power. In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing."


Ian Graham said...

excellent display of the hopelessness of hope. Guy McPherson has the same message from the perspective of Near Term Human Extinction due to climate disruption. Look for Suzanne Moser's essay Hope in the Face of Climate Change: deconstructs hope into four categories.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Those sound fascinating, thank you! I 'll surely be looking into them.

Ian Graham said...

Hi Ben, did you have a chance to read Moser's essay yet?