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David Swanson

David Swanson is a longtime peace and justice activist and author of 'War Is a Lie'

July 27th, 2011 9:59 AM

Stop Hoping! Start Changing!

"Zeus did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man's torment." -Friedrich Nietzsche

Had enough hope yet?

Had enough waiting, praying, expecting, wishing you actually believed it but pretending you just might, anticipating the let-down, taking in the impact of disappointment, betrayal, humiliation, and powerlessness, and finally, time after time, smashing your forehead into a concrete wall that had always been standing there as big as day?

Had enough of a steadily growing military, more wars than ever before, assassination as an instrument of national policy, the stripping away of civil liberties, and nothing to show for it but a prize that Henry Kissinger got too?

Had enough of the steady transfer of wealth to the 400 billionaires who already have as much as half of us, while poverty wages, unemployment, foreclosures, lack of healthcare, homelessness, incarceration, and suicides increase right alongside inequality, and nothing to show for it but a president who looks different and talks better?

Had enough of the relentless devastation of our natural environment, while the coal, oil, nukes, and gas profiteers monopolize the representation of our misrepresentatives, and the best we can do is a promise to put token solar panels on the White House, and a broken promise at that?

This story is horrendous enough on its own, but absolutely toxic if mixed with a significant dose of hopium.  It's time to go cold turkey.  This is the fate of the world we're screwing around with.  This is people's lives, every day, at home and abroad.  The money to save all the lives in Somalia is wasted each and every day in Afghanistan.  The money to keep our own parents out of the poor house is funneled into Wall Street under the pretense that inflicting pain on working people is brave, principled, and in some admirable sense bipartisan.

Enough with the poisonous emotion of optimism, and with its twin sister pessimism. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Did you?  Are we men and women or infants in grown up clothes?  Who gives a damn if I'm hopeful or despairing?  Either one simply indicates my lack of seriousness.  "The only kinds of fights worth fighting," said I.F. Stone, "are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins.  In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing -- for the sheer fun and joy of it -- to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose.  You mustn't feel like a martyr.  You've got to enjoy it."  Or as corporate marketing says, just do it.  Did Susan B. Anthony see women get the right to vote?  Does that make her life worthless?  Did she sit on her hands and moan?  Did William Lloyd Garrison see it?  Did he really see African Americans gain equality either? 

It's not about you.  It's not about me.  Stop asking me if I'm hopeful as if the world cares whether I'm hopeful (I'm looking at you, radio hosts).  The question is what should be done and whether we, you and I, will do it.  That the world does care about.  That determines the fate of the world in a way that watching the slow-national-suicide being carried out by politicians does not.  Change is a far less dangerous notion than hope.  But change is something we do, not something we hope somebody else does for us.  They don't do it for us.  Stepping aside and cheering for the team defending the richest 1 percent or the other team defending the richest 5 percent is deadly and treasonous. 

The time for spectatorship is over.  If you want Obama to be challenged in a primary or a general election, and if you have an idea of the best candidate to do it, make your voice and all of our voices heard: http://stophoping.org

If you want to inject sanity into the national discourse week after week, make your opinions and all of our opinions known: http://rootsaction.org

If you are tired of cheering for Egyptians and Tunisians, Greeks and Spaniards.  If you think that we too will have to take control of our government in between elections, then pledge now to do so: http://october2011.org

We can smash Pandora's box and the hope that lives there in a day.  But save the wood, as we are going to need to build something new.

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