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Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

Finding hope when the future looks dark: And why we lose without it.

Stephanie Wong | 03 Nov 2017

An image of the book cover "Hope in the Dark" by Rebecca Solnit

Image credit: Act build Change.

Hope is a gift you don't have to surrender, a power you don't have to throw away.

— Rebecca Solnit

At a time in our lives when there is so much to despair about, this book is more important than ever. Turning over the ugly underbelly of the world, Solnit challenges us to gaze into the darkness and see the mushrooms of justice thriving. Solnit draws light on our history to guide us towards a hopeful future.

Three takeaways

  1. Hope and action are inseparable.
  2. Hope is uncertain, and that is a positive thing.
  3. Hope is what delivers justice.

Hope is not naive.

Rebecca Solnit. Image credit: Brain Pickings.

It's important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine.

— Rebecca Solnit

Hope is not naive. It is not ignoring the realities of life. It is acknowledging our history of change; whether we like that change or not. The people of our history took action, for us to enjoy many of the freedoms we share today; freedoms once thought impossible. These freedoms were achieved because those that came before us believed change could happen.

Hope is radical action

Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting.

— Rebecca Solnit

Hope is not a naive ignorance of the world. Far from it. It is a feeling that moves us away from easy despair, to act courageously with hopeful action. Its the belief that what we do matters, even if we have no idea what will and can happen. It is an inner belief that those questions are not as important as our ability to act.

Hopes energy is born in uncertainty

Hope is an embrace of the unknown.

— Rebecca Solnit

Hope understands we don’t know what will happen. In that vastness of uncertainty, there are so many potentials and doors that can open, and some are just a-jar for us to pull, tug and tear open. Once we embrace uncertainty, we can play a significant role in pushing change in our favour.

Only hope can sustain our movements

Change is rarely straightforward Sometimes its as complex as chaos theory and as slow as evolution. Even things that seem to happen suddenly arise from deep roots in the past or from long-dormant seeds.

— Rebecca Solnit

Movements and revolutions take time to build. The victory may appear suddenly, but it has grown from the day-to-day quiet organising, hidden beneath the noise, like marriage equality, desegregation and democracy. These transformations are sustained through the continuous acts of everyday people, who do so because they are hopeful they can win.

Victories are a pause for celebration, not inaction

Some activists are afraid that if we acknowledge victory, people will give up the struggleIts always too soon to go home.

— Rebecca Solnit

We must keep our eyes focused on what comes after a revolutionary change. The victory is not the end but only the beginning. Each victory requires our action to defend, improve, and share it. Most of the great justice wins will continue to unfold. There is so much more work to do, and the ripples of change that grow from one victory are unknown.

Do not forget how far we have come

You row forward looking back, and telling this history is part of helping people navigate toward the future.

— Rebecca Solnit

Or as Maria Papova, puts so beautifully;

The comic book about Martin Luther King was translated into Arabic and widely distributed in Egypt shortly before the Arab SpringKings civil disobedience tactics being inspired by Gandhis tactics, and Gandhis inspired by Tolstoy.

— Maria Papova

We often forget our victories, despair in the present and unjustly forget the sacrifices our brothers and sisters gave for our freedoms: a sacrifice they expect us to continue to fight for. History shows us we have come so far. Social change is uncertain and unpredictable and is always possible. History is proof of that. Never lose hope. It is what we share in creating a world we love.