Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I hope they're getting this. The administration is not going to escape being seen as anti-business.....And I hope the ensuing discussion will lead President Obama to understand that the human and financial costs of continuing on this path far outstrip any conceivable security benefits....Let's hope the courts don't decide that we need to ratcvhet (sic) up the police state by siding with officers who hope to cover up their unprofessional and illegal behavior.....The sooner this country comes to grips with the fact that our mission in Afghanistan is overly ambitious, while excessively costly, the sooner there will be more and louder calls for disengagement. Let's hope this turns up the volume.....And let us hope some policy based in reality follows.....What I hope we're seeing is a rare example of the Democrats staking out a position on the left so that they can make a compromise in the middle.....I do detect some momentum gathering behind Tom Udall’s constitutional option for curbing the filibuster in January of 2011, which if it happens would revive hope in the legislative arena.....It’s always difficult to characterize the emotional state of a convention full of people. But if the 2007 edition of Netroots Nation was mostly angry, 2008 was hopeful, 2009 was anxious, and now in 2010 the dominant mood is depressed.

That last one, unintentionally, gets at the point I'm trying to make here quite well.

Raoul Vaneigem: "Hope is the leash of submission."

Derrick Jensen, Endgame, vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization, pages 329-331 (immediately after quoting the Vaneigem):
Hope, we are told, is our beacon in the dark. It is our light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is the beam of light that against all odds makes its way into our prison cells. It is our reason for persevering, our protection against despair (which must at all costs, including the cost of our sanity and the world, be avoided). How can we continue if we do not have hope?...

Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. ...

More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You wouldn't believe--or maybe you would--how many editors for how many magazines have said they want me to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to "make sure you leave readers with a sense of hope." But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I couldn't, and so turned the question back on the audience. Here's the definition we all came up with: Hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency. It means you are essentially powerless.

Think about it. I'm not, for example, going to say I hope to eat something tomorrow. I'll just do it. I don't hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn't crash. To hope for some result means you have no agency concerning it.
To the liberals I quoted above, engagement seems to consist largely of closing your eyes and hoping, interspersed with occasional voting (which is by its nature essentially just a special form of closing your eyes and hoping). I admit that I frequently become paralyzed thinking about everything wrong with the world, and how powerless I feel--and that is exactly when my thoughts turn to hope. It's a sickness! Jensen continues:
So many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they've guaranteed at least its short-term continuation, and given it a power it doesn't have. They've also stepped away from their own power.

...when we stop hoping for external assistance, when we stop hoping that the awful situation we're in will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free--truly free--to honestly start working to thoroughly resolve it. I would say when hope dies, action begins.

Hope may be fine--and adaptive--for prisoners, but free men and women don't need it.

Are you a prisoner, or are you free?
Incidentally, I'm returning the book to the library tomorrow morning, so I'm going to have to stop giving over my entire thought process to Jensen. At least until the copy I bought arrives. I hope it comes soon!

UPDATE Hahahaha, I just got home from the library and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a package from Derrick Jensen. Both volumes are now in my clutches. The need to think for myself has been averted!


Solar Hero said...

Jensen rocks, as a paleo-anarchist he's the best -- I think he underestimates the power of cultural institutions to reproduce themselves. So he thinks everything is falling down, when it may take several generations for this Empire to decline...

Ethan said... the context of Jensen's analysis, that makes you even more pessimistic than him. Fun!

Richard said...

I'm really happy you're shining your blog-light into various corners of Jensen's book(s).

Ethan said...

Glad you're enjoying it! I'm probably going to take a short break--I need to read some fiction for a change, dammit--but the second volume is beckoning.