To Be Hopeful in Bad Times

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.  What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.  And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” – Howard Zinn

 

Recently, I’ve been reading a few blog posts from those related in some form or another to the “environmental community” that appear to make a tiresome appeal for nihilism as a response to our dire collective condition. Some of them couch their apathy in the coded language of empathy, but it is really a thinly veiled sadism. In other words; “I feel your pain but I’m not going to do a damn thing about it. Even if I could it wouldn’t matter, and there is nothing you can do about it either.” There is also a sad kind of apologism for the world’s injustices laced in much of this nihilism, albeit in false, New Agey interpretations of Zen Buddhist principles.

One blog post I read recently said: “Whatever appears ‘wrong’ in this world, it is not the fault of evil or deranged people, or despots, or stupidity, or ‘the system’. Everyone is doing their best, the only thing they can apparently do given their conditioning and the circumstances of the moment, and no one has agency or control over what they apparently do. Because there is no one to do anything, no agency, no wrong or right, no ‘system’, no free will, no time in which anything can be done. Just appearances, for no reason. Just wondrous expressions of everything.”

In this line of “logic” the Holocaust, apartheid, war and war crimes, slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, Native American and indigenous genocide, mass graves, colonialism, imperialism, discrimination, economic oppression, willful destruction of ecological systems by corporations, animal cruelty, racism, misogyny, and other kinds of brutality are all just “wondrous expressions of everything.” And the leaders and benefactors of such atrocities were merely “doing their best.” In a time of resurgent and aggressive global fascism, this statement is beyond appalling. It is downright dangerous. Unsurprisingly, I have found that the vast majority of the people who espouse such viewpoints are generally white, male, hetero, with some economic stability, who comfortably reside in the West or global north.

The same blog lamented: “I am inspired by activists but acknowledge that all their courageous and dangerous work will ultimately be futile and fruitless.” So much for recognition of the valiant efforts of the resistance to the Nazis, or the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, or Nat Turner’s rebellion against slavers. So much for any recognition of the mass movements for women’s suffrage or LGBT rights, or that ended the Vietnam War, or Jim Crow, or segregation, or child labour. So much for solidarity with those fighting for their lives and the lives of their children and the living earth today.

Today’s brand of nihilism is married to the rise of global fascism. They feed off each other in an insidious way that neutralizes opposition and dissent. When a people are denuded of their inherent value through constant demoralizing language, dispossession from the commons, and alienation from one another they become atomized, and thus fodder for the powerful to use in whatever way they see fit. Donald Trump is emblematic of this use of language. His scapegoating of vulnerable populations, ridicule, threats, and seemingly endless mendacity have the power to reinforce a quality of nihilistic passivity. Other leaders around the world are employing similar tactics to chilling effect.

Humanity is facing enormous existential threats, from the convergence of climate change catastrophe, nuclear proliferation, militarism, the degeneration of democratic norms, entrenched economic inequity, and biospheric collapse. And we as a species are not impervious to extinction. We are, after all, simply another species on this planet. One which is responsible for its current collapsing state. But this should not indicate that we are any less important than any other species either, nor should it allow for apologism for barbarity. Nihilism reduces evil to some fictitious philosophical puzzle. It is not. Therefore we should call this kind of rebranded apathy what it is: a cop out born of privilege, apathy and complacency. And its resurgence in an age of ascendant fascism is no accident either. It explains why activists and whistleblowers are being ridiculed, harassed, persecuted, and murdered around the world in record numbers by powerful forces who feel emboldened and unrestrained.

It bears reminding that most people of conscience do not enter into activism because it’s fun or glamorous. They don’t do it because they are saintly or because they will win either. They do it because they are forced to. Because of the endless litany of injustices meted out to them or those they love. Because they are conscious of what matters. And because they have literal skin in the game. They do it when their homes are being demolished by an occupying army, or when a corporation is building a dam that threatens their way of life, or when police are gunning down their sons and daughters, or when they see animals being mercilessly slaughtered for greed or status, or  when a military is torturing or drone bombing their weddings or funerals, or when an oil company is drilling in their fishing waters, or when a forest or mountaintop they love is being denuded or removed, or when they are refused or charged for healthcare or decent housing or education, or when they are treated as less than human because of their gender, or skin colour, or religion, or physical ability, or sexuality, or when they are treated like slaves for the profit of a few.

We all feel nihilistic and misanthropic at times. Every day, in fact. I know I do. It is part of the human condition to feel that way. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming one does not know how to handle it. So we should express that frustration and despair, facing our grief honestly as a daily practice, crushing and demoralizing as it is. And we should take care of ourselves in that regard. But I remind myself that most of the world does not have the luxury to sit and pontificate on how “futile and fruitless” taking action is when their lives and the lives of those they love and the living biosphere are being threatened with immediate annihilation via organized systems of exploitation.

Those who suggest we make peace with some notion that everything, including our existence, is meaningless do not take into account that as human beings we are the ones responsible for adding meaning to it. Of course that meaning is relatively subjective in isolation. But collectively it has the agency to affect real change. Meaning is born of suffering and it can lead individuals and groups of people toward solidarity, resilience, and true transformation. It can alleviate unnecessary pain, provide a balm to the wounded, salvage sanctuaries where life can flourish, and stop imminent destruction, atrocity or even war.

Taking action is not “futile and fruitless” as those unaffected directly by injustice or oppression would suggest. And although it will not end injustice, brutality or suffering for all time, we should remember that it isn’t meant to. As Howard Zinn made clear, we possess an agency that transcends the brutality of our times. Indeed, “winning” is not essential to it, neither is achieving some fantastical notion of utopia. Our defiance to barbarism is the victory, and this is where nihilism fails on all counts.

Kenn Orphan   (2019)

 

Painting is Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya

6 thoughts on “To Be Hopeful in Bad Times

  1. Pingback: To Be Hopeful In Bad Times – O Society

  2. mike k

    Even if I was assured beyond any possibility of doubt that my dream of a better more loving world would never come to be – I would never the less continue to work for that better world, because it is the right thing to do, and gives my life the meaning I want it to have.

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  3. mike k

    It’s true, most people alive today don’t have a clue what’s going on in the world. They live in their little bubble of unexamined beliefs. Plato was right about that.

    It is a truly daunting challenge to throw one’s puny strength against the huge fire breathing dragon of an Evil Empire.

    And to be true to the truth one seeks to serve, one must acknowledge that terrible times are upon us, and worse are certain to be coming. To lie to ourselves or others about that would be a disservice to the truth we wish to prevail, and hamper us in dealing with what is surely to come. False promises will work against us, causing us to create a form of the denial which is such a powerful part of all that is insuring our doom.

    How to persist in the face of what is probably a lost cause is our problem. To do what is right and honor our ideals in spite of the near certainty of failure is the high destiny we are called to. I will not pretend the situation is other than what it is.

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  4. kollibriterre

    Quoting Gandalf in the Fellowship of the Ring (from the book, not the movie): “Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.”

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  5. Daniel Ferra

    We Wake Up Each Morning Walking in Lie’s

    We Go To Bed Each Night Sleeping In Lie’s

    Religion Feudalism Vatican Crusades Inquisition Britain

    Colonization US Federal Reserve Israel

    Have Bitch Slapped The Globe In Greed an Lie’s

    Enforced By Killings

    Kenndys Malcolm X Martin Luther King Kent State 4

    US Federal Reserve Military March To The Markets Spending

    Over 60 Cents Of Every Taxed Dollar On Globalization an Weapons Of Mass Destruction

    My Muslim Brothers an Sisters

    My Jewish Brothers an Sisters

    My Christian Brothers an Sisters

    All The Brothers an Sisters Of The World

    It Is Not The Way They Told Us When We Were Growing Up

    We Are Animals In Elements Of Star Dust, Electromagnetically Pulsating an Vibrating In The Same DNA Codes

    We Must All Come Together In Are Natural Vibration To Fight For Our Lives And The Life Systems Of Our Planet

    There Is No Atmospheric Budget For More Carbon, Methane which is Natural Gas, or Nuclear Radiation

    This is are Geological Reality

    Which One Will Collapse First ?

    Greenlands 20 Feet Of Sea Level Rise or

    Antarcticas Over 200 Feet Of Sea Level Rise

    All That Ice an Snow ( Water ) Coming Off Of Greenland, Antarctica, An The Glaciers Is Heavy, Causing Isostatic Rebounding Of Greenlands North American Plate

    As It Melts In To The Oceans, It Is Causing The Ocean Floors To Sink, Putting Pressure On The Mantle

    Moving Tetonic Plates an Venting Magma

    And We Still Have All This

    We Are Locked In To Over 220 Feet Of Sea Level Rise

    We Are Locked In To Record Heat

    We Are Locked In To Record Rain

    We Are Locked In To Record Winds

    “Early spring temperatures in the town of Deadhorse, on the north coast of Alaska, average -17°C.

    But with global warming affecting the Arctic more than anywhere, things are changing fast.

    At the end of March 2019, temperatures in Deadhorse hit 3°C, a whole 20°C warmer than the long-term seasonal average.” Dave Petley is Professor of Geography and Vice-President for Research and Innovation, University of Sheffield.

    We are at 1.8C Global Temp Rise Now

    Parts Per Million of Carbon in the Atmosphere is 414. 73 an Rising

    Blue Arctic, No Ice or Snow In the Arctic Sea, This Summer ?

    Nebraska, Puerto Rico, Australia, Africa, Central an South America, Ununited States of America, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Arctic, Antarctica Global Warming Abrupt Climate Changing Sea Level Rising Refugees in the Millions Now

    Arctic 30C Temp Rise Higher Than Normal

    Sea Level Rising Over 220 Feet, Faster Than They Say, Faster Than You Think

    Not in 5–10–15 Years, Now

    How Long Will It Take Greenlands 20 Feet of Sea Level to Collapses ?

    How Long Before Antarcticas 200 Feet of Sea Level Rise Collapses ?

    No Ice or Snow in the Arctic Sea ? A Blue Arctic

    How Far away are we from a Blue Arctic ?

    Could Sea Level Rise Accelerate Collapsing Greenland and Antarctica Today Tomorrow With in 4 Years ? YES

    How soon could 3°C warming be reached ?

    “The ‘Extreme Alert’ image below looks at data over the past decade, and a fifth-order polynomial trend (red) shows how warming could cross 3°C as early as next year.” Sam Carana, From the post ‘An infinite scream passing through nature’, at:

    https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/…/an-infinite-scream-passi…

    For Every 1C. Temp Rise There is 7% more moisture Added To the Atmosphere Creating Record Rains Each Year

    We Have Increased Temp to 1.8C since the 1700s,

    Do You Dare Imagine the Future ?

    Already at 10% more moisture it has Doubled Record Rain Fall, We are Accelerating to 3C. in Months by 2020 ?

    What will Record 21% more Moisture in the Atmosphere be in Record Rain ?

    In 2020 ? 4–10 feet of Record Rain Locked in to Global Weather

    Florence — Global Warming Abrupt Climate Change sea Level Rising over 220 Feet Way Faster Than They Say Way Faster Than You Think

    Sandy, Katrina, Irma, Maria, an Harvey had 19% to 49% more Record Rain, Record Winds, Record Sea Surges,

    Our New Normal Since 2000 Record Rain has been 29 percent — 60 percent Increase in Rain

    Record Rain, Record Snow,

    Record Highs Record Lows

    Record Winds, Record Waves

    Record Fires, Record Floods,

    Record Volcanic Eruptions

    Record Hurricanes, Record Tsunamis,

    Record Typhoons, Record Earthquakes,

    Record Mud-Slides,

    Record Sea Level Tides, Surges an Levels

    Glaciation kept the Mantle Cooler, Mantle is Heating up and Putting Pressure On The Mantle

    The Accelerated Melt is Going to Be Horrendous, Horrific, and Tsunamic 1,500 feet, Way Faster Than they are Saying, Way Faster Than You Think

    “Every 100-ppm CO2 increase in the atmosphere gives us 100 feet of sea level rise,” he told me. “This happened when we went in and out of the Ice Age.”

    As I knew, since the industrial revolution began, atmospheric CO2 has already increased from 280 to 410 ppm.

    “That’s 130 ppm in just the last 200 years,” I pointed out to him.

    “That’s 130 feet of sea level rise that’s already baked into Earth’s climate system.”

    He looked at me and nodded grimly. I couldn’t help thinking of that as a nod goodbye to coastal cities from Miami to Shanghai.” Dahr Jamail

    We Should Not Throw In The Towel, Now Is The Time To Act

    Campaign to Allow Californian Residents to Sell Electricity Obtained by Renewable Energy To the Utility aka Feed In Tariff

    We Need a National Feed in Tariff

    Will you read, sign, and share this petition?

    https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/let-california-home-owners

    Richest in Land an Money Queen of England, Vatican an US Federal Reserve Should Fund Decommissioning an Relocation Of All Nuclear Waste To Above 3,000 Feet

    444 Nuclear Reactors

    450 Nuclear Fuel Rod Facilities an over 1,300 Fuel Rod Pools

    Over 250,000 Toxic Tons Of Radiated Nuclear Waste

    Over 14,000 Nuclear Weapons

    There Is So Much Uranium In The Oceans They Will Be Mining It Soon

    We Are Already Locked in to 10C. Temp Rise Even If We Stopped Emitting Now

    Methane has a 10 year lag time an Carbon has 30–50 Year Lag time in Reaching its Full Molecule Potential in Holding Heat Mass

    Methane has 130 Times More Heat Mass in the Molecule in First Ten years

    Then 86 Times More Heat Mass per Molecule over 20 years

    Then 34 Times More Heat Mass per Molecule over next 80 Years Than Carbon

    What We Have Now, Is a Broken Up and New Jet Stream, Centered From Greenlands 20 feet of Sea Level Rise of Ice and Snow

    Moving Over 17 degrees from the Center of the Arctic. To Greenland, an Is Now Being Pierced, and Lobed

    Because of Mantle Methane, Methane Hydrates, Pingoes, Perma Frost, Fracking, all emitting Methane NOW ! and are Polluting an Emitting over 40–50 Billion Toxic Tons of Carbon each year Globally.

    All this Hot Gas has Melted the Arctic and Will Bring a Blue Arctic in 2019 an It Has Pierced the Jet Stream in to Lobes, Moving it Over 17 degrees from The Center of The Arctic.

    The Hot Gas Fueled with the Insane Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctic Ice Melts.

    Has Roared its Global Warming Frontal Lobes with Record Setting Temperatures and Record Setting Snow, and Record Setting Rain.

    These Methane, and Carbon Molecules Have Roared Their Increased Water Vapor and Global Warming Gases, That will Set Record Heat, Record Snow, Until Greenland is 1/2 melted.

    Then Just Record Rain, and Record Heat Year After Fossil Fuel Nuclear Sea Level Rising Radiated Year.

    Four Geological Formations Spewing and Venting Methane Now In The Arctic and one Venting Along The Washington Oregon Coast

    Perma Frost Melting

    Methane Hydrates

    Pingoes — Started in 2005 Finger Size Blow Holes, Now 300 Foot Wide Methane Blow Holes Increasing in Number and Size, in Siberia, Canada, an the Euro-Asian Plate Pingoes and Under Water Pingoes

    “Pingos preceded blow-outs

    Researchers have now examined satellite images of northern Siberian from a few years back and looked at the area where the explosions occurred. They found that the year before the huge crater appeared, there were large pingos in the same place.

    Pingos are found in the arctic and are usually raised hills, like a giant pimple, with a core of ice.

    In this case, however, the pingos must have been filled with gas in the form of ice, bound up with water in gas hydrates and permafrost.

    Russian scientists have now mapped 7,000 gas-filled pingos that are poking through the thawing permafrost, visible in satellite images that illustrate how the pingos form and grow, published in The Siberian Times.” Siw Ellen Jakobsen

    Mantle Methane From Isostatic Rebounding

    Isostatic Reboundings of Greenlands North American Plate

    Isostatic Rebounding of Greenlands Tectonic Plate, affecting (Gakkels Rift), causing Earthquakes in the Arctic, as well as Venting Mantle Methane

    Arctic News Sept. 15 2013

    “ As more ice melts away on Greenland and more water runs off in the Ocean and Sea, There is less weight on Greenlands Crust, the Crust Bouncing back from the lighter weight.

    The Crust bouncing back during Large Melts an effect called Isostatic Rebounding.

    This Rebounding can not Only Trigger Earthquakes and Landslides, it can also Suck Up the Magma from the Mantle.

    It Also Sucks Up Magma From The Mantle.

    It also Sucks Up Mantle Methane !

    Triggering Volcanic Eruptions and Venting Mantle Methane”. Sam Carana

    Methane Burp Or Pingoe Popping Pimple

    and at some point, like Natalia Shakhov, Guy McPherson, and Kevin Hester point out, we are going to experience a Methane blow out in the Arctic, from Mantle Methane, Perma-Frost, Methane Hydrates, Pingoes.

    The Methane has been telling us, it is going to blow since 2005 by Maria Shakhov, what was a finger size blow whole in 2005 is now a 200–300 ft. wide blow hole called Pingoes 2015

    And their increasing in number and size in Siberia, North American Plate, and on the Euro-Asian Plate

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