Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities [Rebecca Solnit] on Amazon .com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. When the first edition of Hope in. A book as powerful and influential as Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me , her Hope in the Dark was written to counter the despair of radicals at a. HOPE IN THE DARK: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Rebecca Solnit, Author . Thunder’s Mouth/ Nation $ (p) ISBN
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In this book Solnit gives us a timeless vision of cause and effect that will light our way through the dark, and lead us to profound and effective political engagement.
But there are good reasons. I wrote this book in and early to make the case for hope. That moment passed long ago, but despair, defeatism, cynicism, and the amnesia and assumptions from which they often arise have not dispersed, even as the most wildly, unimaginably magnificent things came to pass. There is a lot of evidence for the defense. Coming back to the text more than a dozen tumultuous years later, I believe its premises hold up.
Progressive, populist, and grassroots constituencies have had many victories. Popular power has continued to be a profound force for change. The world of has been swept away. Its damage lingers, but its arrangements and many of its ideologies have given way to new ones—and, more than that, to a sea change in who we are and how we imagine ourselves, the world, and so many things in it. This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen.
Hope in the Dark
Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both. The twenty-first century has seen the rise of hideous economic inequality, perhaps due to amnesia both of the working people who countenance declines in wages, working conditions, and social services, and the elites who forgot that they conceded to some of these things in the hope of avoiding revolution. The rise of Silicon Valley as a global power center has eliminated and automated count- less jobs, enhancing economic inequality; it has produced new elites and monstrous corporations from Amazon, with its attack on publishing, authors, and working conditions, to Google, which is attempting to build a global information monopoly in myriad arenas and in the process amassing terrifying powers, including the power that comes with sophisticated profiles of most computer users.
The major tech companies have created and deployed surveillance capacities that the Kremlin and FBI at the height of the Cold War could not have dreamed of—in collaboration with the government that should be regulating them.
The attack on civil liberties, including the right to privacy, continues long after its Global War on Terror justifications have faded away. Worse than these is the arrival of climate change, faster, harder, and more devastating than scientists anticipated. It means facing them and addressing them by remembering what else the twenty-first century has brought, including the movements, heroes, and shifts in consciousness that address these things now. Occupy Wall Street; Black Lives Matter; Idle No More; the Dreamers addressing the Dream Act and immigration rights; Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and the movement for corporate and government transparency; the push for marriage equality; a resurgent feminist movement; economic justice movements addressing and in many cases raising minimum wage and fighting debt peonage and the student-loan racket; and a dynamic climate and climate justice movement—and the intersections between them all.
This has hoep a truly remarkable decade for movement-building, social change, and deep, profound shifts in ideas, perspective, and frameworks for broad parts of the population and, of course, backlashes against all those things. Hope in the Dark began as an essay that I published online about six weeks after the United States launched its war on Iraq.
It immediately went, as they say, viral—it was widely circulated by email, picked up by a mainstream newspaper and many news websites, pirated by some alternative newspapers, even printed out and distributed by hand by someone who liked it. It was my first adventure in online publishing, as well as in speaking directly to the inner life of the politics of the moment, to the emotions and perceptions that underlie our political positions and engagements.
Foreword to ‘Hope in the Dark’ by Rebecca Solnit | Blog | London Review Bookshop
Amazed by the ravenous appetite for another way of telling who and where we were, I decided to write this slender book. Updating the book would have meant writing an entirely new book, so we chose to reissue the second edition with this additional material instead.
After the book was published, I spent years on the road talking about hope and activism, the historical record and the possibilities, and my arguments grew, perhaps, more polished or more precise or at least more case-hardened.
The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings. The tremendous human rights achievements—not only in gaining rights but in redefining race, gender, sexuality, embodiment, spirituality, and the idea of the good life—of the past half century have flowered during a time of unprecedented ecological destruction and the rise of innovative new means of exploitation.
And the rise of new forms of resistance, including resistance enabled by an elegant understanding of that ecology and new ways for people to communicate and organize, and new and exhilarating alliances across distance and difference.
When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to infuence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting.
We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone. There are major movements that failed to achieve their goals; there are also comparatively small gestures that mushroomed into successful revolutions. The self-immolation of impoverished, police-harassed produce-seller Mohamed Bouazizi on December 17,in Tunisia was the spark that lit a revolution in his country and then across northern Africa and other parts of the Arab world in You can tell the genesis story of the Arab Spring other ways.
The quiet organizing going on in the shadows beforehand matters. So does the comic book about Martin Luther King and civil disobedience that was translated into Arabic and widely distributed in Egypt shortly before the Arab Spring. So the threads of ideas weave around the world and through the decades and centuries. Many do so from a sometimes vast underground fungus that remains invisible and largely unknown.
What we call mushrooms mycologists call the fruiting body of the larger, less visible fungus. Uprisings and revolutions are often considered to be spontaneous, but less visible long-term organizing and groundwork— or underground work—often laid the foundation.
Changes in ideas and values also result from work done by writers, scholars, public intellectuals, social activists, and participants in social media.
It seems insignificant or peripheral until very different outcomes emerge from transformed assumptions about who and what matters, who should be heard and believed, who has rights. Our hope and often our power. Making an injury visible and public is often the first step in remedying it, and political change often follows culture, as what was long tolerated is seen to be intolerable, or what was over-looked becomes obvious.
Which means that every convict is in part a battle over the story we tell, or who tells and who is heard. Some activists are afraid that if we acknowledge victory, people will give up the struggle. A victory is a milestone on the road, evidence that sometimes we win, and encouragement to keep going, not to stop.
Or it should be. My own inquiry into the grounds for hope has received two great reinforcements since I wrote Hope in the Dark.
Hope In The Dark : Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
One came from the recognition of how powerful are the altruistic, idealistic forces already at work in the world. Most of us would say, if asked, solnjt we live in a capitalist society, but vast amounts of how we live our everyday lives—our interactions with and commitments to family lives, friendships, avocations, membership in social, spiritual, and political organizations are in essence noncapitalist or even anticapitalist, full of things we do for free, out of love, and on principle.
Activists often speak as though the solutions we need have not yet been launched or invented, rbecca though we are starting from scratch, when often the real goal is to amplify the power and reach of existing alternatives.
What we dream of is already present in the world. The second reinforcement came out of my investigation of how human beings respond revecca major urban disasters, from the devastating earthquakes in San Francisco in and Mexico City in to the Hpoe in London to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
In fact, in most disasters most people are calm, resourceful, altruistic, and creative. And civilian bombing campaigns generally solnitt to dafk the will of the people, making them a waste as well as a crime against humanity. What startled me about the response to disaster was not the virtue, since virtue is often the result of diligence and dutifulness, but the passionate joy sark shined soknit from accounts by people who had barely survived.
These people who had lost everything, who were living in rubble or ruins, had found agency, meaning, community, immediacy in their work together with other survivors. The century of testimony I drew from for my book A Paradise Built in Hell suggested how much we want lives of meaningful engagement, of membership in civil society, and how much societal effort goes into withering us away from these fullest, most powerful selves. But people return to those selves, those ways of self-organizing, as if by instinct when te situation demands it.
Thus a disaster is a lot like a revolution when it comes to disruption and improvisation, to new roles and an unnerving or exhilarating sense that now anything is possible. My own research was, I realized by its end, a small part of an enormous project going on among many disciplines—psychology, economics, neurobiology, sociology, anthropology, political science—to redefine human nature as something more communal, cooperative, and compassionate.
This rescue of our reputations from the social darwinists and the Hobbesians is important, not to feel positive about ourselves but to recognize the radical possibilities that can be built on an alternative view of human nature. The fruits of these inquiries made me more hopeful. Hope gets you there; work gets you through.
And there is a long history of that work, the work to change the world, a long history of methods, heroes, visionaries, heroines, victories—and, of course, failures. But the victories matter, and remembering them matters too. We can tell of a past that was nothing but defeats and cruelties and injustices, or of a past that was some lovely golden age now irretrievably lost, or we can tell a more complicated and accurate story, one that has room for the best and worst, for atrocities and liberations, for grief and jubilation.
A memory commensurate to the complexity of the past and the whole cast of participants, a memory that includes our power, produces that forward-directed energy called hope. Amnesia leads to despair in many ways. The status quo would like you to believe it is immutable, inevitable, and invulnerable, and lack of memory of a dynamically changing world reinforces this view.
One of the essential aspects of depression is the sense that you will always be mired in this misery, that nothing can or will change. Which is where hope comes in, and memory, the collective memory we call history. The other affliction amnesia brings is a lack of examples of positive change, of popular power, evidence that we can do it and have done it.
Who controls the present controls the past. Despair is also often premature: News cycles tend to suggest that change happens in small, sudden bursts or not at all. As I write, the military men who probably murdered Chilean singer and political activist Victor Jara in are being charged.
More than forty years have gone by; some stories take far longer than that to finish. The struggle to get women the vote took nearly three-quarters of a century. For a time people liked to announce that feminism had failed, as though the project of overturning millennia of social arrangements should achieve its final victories in a few decades, or as though it had stopped.
Feminism is just starting, and its manifestations matter in rural Himalayan villages, not just first-world cities. Other changes result in victories and are then forgotten. For decades, radicals were preoccupied with East Timor, brutally occupied by Indonesia from to ; the liberated country is no longer news.
It won its liberty because of valiant struggle from within, but also because of dedicated groups on the outside who pressured and shamed the governments supporting the Indonesian regime.
The fight against Black Mesa was a totemic struggle for indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice; inthe mines were shut down, and the issue disappeared from the conversation. It was also a case of tenacious activism from within and good allies from without, prolonged lawsuits, and perseverance. None of the changes were inevitable, either—people fought for them and won them. People adjust without assessing the changes. As ofIowa gets 28 percent of its electricity from wind alone, not because someone in that conservative state declared death to all fossil fuel corporations or overthrew anyone or anything, but because it was a sensible and affordable option.
Denmark, in the summer ofachieved percent of its electricity needs through wind generation and sold the surplus to neighbouring countries. Scotland has achieved renewable energy generation of 50 percent and set a goal of percent by Thirty percent more solar was installed in than the year before in the United States, and renewables are becoming more affordable worldwide—in some places they are already cheaper than fossil-fueled energy.
If there is one thing we can draw from where we are now and where we were then, it is that the unimaginable is ordinary, that the way forward is almost never a straight line you can glance down but a convoluted path of surprises, gifts, and afflictions you prepare for by accepting your blind spots as well as your intuitions.
That apparent power has, again and again, proved vulnerable to moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, patience—whether by blacks in Alabama and South Africa, peasants in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Vietnam, or workers and intellectuals in Poland, Hungary, and the Soviet Union itself. Social, cultural, or political change does not work in predictable ways or on predictable schedules.