On the importance of hope and optimism during Brexit and Trump

It’s understandable that people lose hope when their countries are being run for the benefit of 0.01% of the population. Here’s a reminder that this situation is not new, and that hope does bring change. 

Dazed from being repeatedly hit over the head with the false message that Brexit and Trump are the “will of the people”, demoralised from misinformation and fake news, it can be easy to admit defeat, to accept the reality designed for us by a small number of psychopath heir-tycoons and their useful idiots in the media and government.

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith clearly described the problem in 1963:

“The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

“It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor. The man who has struck it rich in minerals, oil, or other bounties of nature is found explaining the debilitating effect of unearned income from the state. The corporate executive who is a superlative success as an organization man weighs in on the evils of bureaucracy.

“Federal aid to education is feared by those who live in suburbs that could easily forgo this danger, and by people whose children are in public schools. Socialized medicine is condemned by men emerging from Walter Reed Hospital. Social Security is viewed with alarm by those who have the comfortable cushion of an inherited income.

“Those who are immediately threatened by public efforts to meet their needs — whether widows, small farmers, hospitalized veterans, or the unemployed — are almost always oblivious to the danger.”

Slavery has diminished, the civil rights movement, and the women’s suffrage movement have flourished. Positive change can happen, as Howard Zinn points out:

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.”

See also
Why the Brexit referendum is invalid

Elsewhere
Mark Fisher on reflexive impotence

2018-09-01T20:27:42+00:00Politics|0 Comments

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