“You hopeless prat! Just leave me alone!”
“Don’t be so hopeless!”
“You’re hopeless, aren’t you?”
It’s a term of abuse.
Of course it is.
It suggests you’ve given up. That you’re good for nothing.
To be ‘hopeless’ suggests a flounderer – someone with so little optimism that they’ve become incompetent. Someone who’s lost all energy and drive. Someone whose intelligence is diminished by a failure of will. Someone who’s forgotten how to try, who’s become inept. Someone you don’t really want around.
Who would disagree? It’s neither desirable nor useful to be a person without hope.
More than that, for some people, it can be quite useful for you to be hopeless.
Hopelessness incapacitates you.
It gives them an edge.
It means their hope’s winning.
They are going to get what they are hoping for.
You, on the other hand?
Which means there’s a crucial aspect to hope which we need to take into account.
Because, if it suits your adversaries or your oppressors for you to have given up hope, then hope becomes an act of defiance.
That, in itself, makes hope worthwhile.
The tactic of hope
And it’s even more important than that. Because, while hopelessness disempowers, hope does the reverse. Hope says, “Be alert. Be ready to take your chance.”
Hope prepares you for success.
So it’s a no-brainer.
It’s more than just an attitude.
It’s more than just an act of defiance.
It’s a tactic.
A catalytic converter
Hope helps to create a world where the things you hope for become possible. Hope means that, if even a fraction of an opportunity comes up, you’ll be prepared to grab it with both hands.
It’s a catalyst for change. It converts the improbable to the possible.
Hope is an attractor, too.
To offer hope is to offer something profoundly desirable.
Don’t you want to be desirable?
So, even if, for the life of you, you can’t see a factual basis for hope, there’s a tactical basis – and it’s a tactic which makes success more probable.
An objector might ask, “Why, then, have so many given up hope?”
Well, it’s understandable, don’t you think?
Just look at the inertia of our governments. Bear witness to the complacency and self-serving cynicism of those in positions of power.
It’s enough to make anyone feel hopeless.
And what could be more depressing than witnessing the relentless funnelling of power and wealth towards a tiny elite?
It’s happening year on year.
We all know the numbers.
A wealth-hoarding, asset-stripping 0.1%, whose activities are jeopardising our future.
Even, perhaps, the future of our world.
All is not lost
So it’s easy to understand why those who are willing to adopt the tactic of hope still struggle with an inner hopelessness.
Yet all is not lost.
Even in the world of realpolitik, of global society, of remorseless megatrends in human behaviour, there are reasons for hope.
Here are just a few.
Reasons for hope 1: We have the numbers
This one’s important. There’s a centralising tendency to power – as those with most power use their power to harvest more power… and yet more.
But this means the powerful grow fewer (even if more powerful). They are increasingly exclusive. They are increasingly outnumbered.
In fact, in today’s world of power accumulation and hoarded wealth, the wealthy and the powerful are vastly outnumbered.
Which is why they’re afraid.
Bribery and corruption
Which is why they channel their cash into ‘buying out’ democracy and sequestering our media.
Because, if enough of us began to feel strongly enough that things could change, that we could have a better, fairer future, then things would change. We would have a better, fairer future.
There simply aren’t enough of the wealth hoarders and power accumulators to stop us.
And the centripetal nature of power means the proportions inevitably trend in our favour.
Reasons for hope 2: We have the capability
So humanity is doomed?
Well, why should we be?
Why should we accept this grim conclusion?
Surely it’s absurd to imagine that the species which created space travel, electric light, quantum theory, sociology and smartphones is helpless?
Surely we’re too ingenious, too creative, too filled with imagination and energy for that?
There are almost 8 billion of us.
That’s 8,000,000,000 humans scattered across the surface of the Earth.
If we all pulled together what couldn’t we achieve?
Our technology is stupendous, our genius ingenious.
Why predict failure?
If anyone can find a way out of this mess, shouldn’t it be us?
Reasons for hope 3: Common sense
What an asset! Common sense….
Practically and pragmatically, and in terms of sheer common sense, it’s just so sensible to look after one another, to work together, to stop wars, to tackle the key social injustices of our time, to combat climate change….
Why wouldn’t we do that?
We all want a future, don’t we?
The sane response
It’s common sense to change the way we do things. It’s the sane response. Humans make societies. Why shouldn’t we change them?
There’s nothing sacrosanct or immutable about traditions, constitutions, economic arrangements, governments or laws.
There’s nothing we can’t change if we wish to…
If it makes sense.
If it’s so we can survive.
Reasons for hope 4: Morality
A strong argument: We should change our society to protect and preserve the biological world and to nurture and care for people all across the Earth…
Because, morally, it’s the right thing to do.
It’s always good to know, when you’re fighting waste, greed, environmental degradation, racism, power-hunger, misogyny or intolerance, that you’re on the right side.
That you’re on the side of morality.
That you’re on the side of integrity.
That you’re on the side of compassion.
After all, it’s the only side worth being on.
The pay off
So there are still reasons for hope.
And hope’s attractive.
And it’s an act of defiance.
And it’s a worthwhile tactic.
It’s our best option.
And it might just pay off.
Luke Andreski is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal and Ethical Intelligence collectives. This article comes from his 2020 book, Short Conversations: During the Plague.
His new book, Short Conversations: During the Storm, is out now.
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Luke is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal collective and author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019) and Ethical Intelligence (2019).