Last night one of my favorite writers, Sarah Kendzior, posted a series of tweets that started with the statement, “I do not know what is more damaging to young people in this economy: fear, or hope.” I Storified some of the conversation here; my feelings are complicated.
There are so many different kinds of hope.
There’s the kind that keeps people passive, the kind Kendzior is talking about: the kind that says “maybe someday I’ll get a good job, so I’ll keep my head down, accept my exploitation, not criticize the system.” (Which is in its own way a survival strategy, and there’s a fine line between analyzing it at the societal level and looking down on the people who use it.)
But there’s also the kind of hope that keeps people alive and engaged, the kind that wards off paralyzing despair: the kind that says, “I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, because there’s a chance things will get better someday.” The kind that has seen the alternative, and isn’t willing to fall down that hole.
There’s the kind that goes hand-in-hand with compassion and resistance. The kind that says, “I believe the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. I know in my bones that we can make a difference, even if the odds are against us. I believe in the power of love, of community, of connection. We will rise up.”
There’s nothing inherently naive or passive about hope.
Hope isn’t necessarily dependent on fantasies of an external savior. It isn’t mutually exclusive with thinking critically, facing fear, and acting for justice.
Hope is just one tool in the human emotional/philosophical toolbox.
For some people it’s useful, even necessary.
Other people find that it holds them back–that they can only act effectively when they feel, deep down, that there’s nothing left to lose. That they need something more concrete than hope, more grounded in the present.
Both–all–reactions are ok.
It’s ok to feel however you feel.
What matters is how you act.
Hold onto whatever you need to.
Let go of whatever you need to.
Just keep your fire burning–whether that means fighting, surviving, or something in between.