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With Hope in the Dark , Rebecca Solnit makes a radical case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable. Drawing on her decades of activism and a wide reading of environmental, cultural, and political history, Solnit argued that radicals have a long, neglected history of transformative victories, that the positive consequences of our acts are not always immediately seen, directly knowable, or even measurable, and that pessimism and despair rest on an unwarranted confidence about what is going to happen next.
The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings. Rooted in grief and rage but pointed towards vision and dreams. 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 the means of protest, as well as by 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 influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.
Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists.
You 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. Literary and progressive America is in a Solnit moment, which given her endless talent should last a very long time. During a period of pervasive cynicism and political despair, the first edition of this book provided me with a model for activist engagement that I have held dear ever since.
Today, as movements for climate, racial, and economic justice sweep the globe, its message is more relevant than ever. In her inimitable and inspiring way, Solnit reminds us that social change follows an unpredictable path. Despite all the obstacles, we must not lose sight of the fact profound transformation is possible. It provides succor and sustenance, fuel and fire, for those fighting for a more just world. And, unlike so many who write about the great injustices of this world, she is an optimist, whose faith is deeply grounded in a knowledge of history.
This is a book to give you not just hope but zest for the battles ahead. And you remember that hope is not a guarantee for tomorrow, but a detonator of energy for action today.
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Hope in the Dark
But there are good reasons. In and early , I wrote a book 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 defence. 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.
Hope In The Dark : Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
We despair. We hope. That is what governs us. We have a bipolar system. Indeed, the stories we tell ourselves about these poles matter.