A Case For Hope

Hope Is What You Are Looking For

By: Grainne Rhuad

Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.-Mark Twain


We all heard the call at the 2008 election, inspiring words like “Change” and “Hope” and enough of us heeded them because we wanted so badly for them.  President Obama even said; “On every front there are clear answers out there that can make this country stronger, but we’re going to break through the fear and the frustration people are feeling. Our job is to make sure that even as we make progress, that we are also giving people a sense of hope and vision for the future.”

Over three and a half years later things haven’t turned out the way we hoped.  And people are downright out of optimism.

A recent poll published by TIME magazine illustrated just how pessimistic America at large has become.  According to the poll conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, for TIME/Aspen Ideas Festival, the country is going through one of its longest sustained periods of unhappiness and pessimism ever, the poll uncovered the kinds of attitudes we saw among Europeans during the decade after World War II.
In fact, 71%, including a majority of every major demographic group other than African Americans, see the U.S. as worse off now than it was a decade ago.

American is worried about attacks from without in the form of terrorism, but as a people we also seem to be in agreement that we are hurting ourselves.  Rating highest in the pessimism index was health care concerns-no matter which side you’re on, deficits and national stability.

“A full two-thirds of Americans see the greatest long-term threats to national stability as coming from within the U.S. This is an enormous change from the days and months after September 2001.”

It’s true, there’s plenty to be worried, frustrated and as many alternative news writers are beginning to point out in a state of desperation about.

America is coming unhinged and it has been a while in coming.

We are coming to terms with a debt crisis that has been many administrations in the making.  Our military is spread thin across the globe and underpaid.  We cannot provide basic food and health care and housing for our citizens.  We have an ever widening gap between the haves and have-nots.  We spend an average of $65,000.00 per capita per year on illicit drugs, which by the way is more than we spend on higher education.

The list goes on nearly forever, however in the midst of all this America has lost something more precious.


Americans have begun to lose their can-do spirit and have begun throwing in the towel.   We are at a point where more and more people are looking at where in the world they can relocate.  Also more people are opting out of voting, citing it as a pointless exercise.  They feel they have no say.  Suicide rates too have steadily grown an average of 2,000 in number a year since 2001.

The problem with throwing in the towel is nothing gets done.  It is one thing to notice that interest rates are unfair, but unless you have hope that you can mitigate change by your actions, nothing happens.  Everything either stays the same or gets worse.

Hopeless people are also an easier to manage lot.  Think in terms of revolution.  Nobody is very likely to get up off their couch and protest, riot or do anything if they are depressed.  And we are a nation of depressed people.  Highly medicated ones at that.

While mental health disorders should never be a cause for shame, the prescribing of medications just so someone doesn’t notice that they are unhappy has risen in the last decade.  It has also become more acceptable to talk about socially.  Almost anyone will list off to you what sorts of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications they are on and at what level.

By not feeling our pain we are both allowing medical companies to make mountains of money which they give to their favorite candidates ensuring that there will never be any good public health care; and we aren’t examining just what is making us mad or sad or any other feeling, we simply are getting by and being good worker bees.

Hope can combat this.  A sense that we can and are able to overcome obstacles as a nation, a people and a culture.

Cynicism has taken deep root.  We see it in our reporting, our writing, and our communication with others.  We talk a lot about our fears, our lack of hope that things will get better.  Our mistrust and dislike of the generations coming up is unabashed.

And yet it is our young people who are the ones doing something with their outrage.  Most of the arrests made recently of the group Anonymous for hacking into PayPal were of young people.  Young people are more vocal and while it may not look like the protests of the Vietnam War, it is perhaps bigger because it is online.   They are tech savvy and making use of new mediums.  And they are employing hope.

So too is the survivalist, who spends time teaching others how survive when things go terribly bad. Stocking food, ammunition, and medicines and learning how to live in a different sort of society is an act of hope.

There is even a message of hope in Nihilism. Although Friedrich Nietzsche stated:

“Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”  

Under examination, even the Nietzsches of the world illustrate a measure of hope.  Why else write?  Why else say anything about human nature at all?  Why take the time to end your life if you didn’t have hope for the end of your pain?

Asking questions, calling attention to discrepancies in beliefs and behaviors of our fellow humans is an important role that the cynic can play.  A person entirely devoid of hope does not do this.  What would be the point?

There is no question we are at a very difficult point in history worldwide.  We are at a point when we need hope most.  Hope inspires activism, art, love, and genuine work, all the things that are good about the human race.  It is something we cannot afford to abandon.

Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.”- Author Unknown.

Anarchist and Mother-Banksy





6 Comments on “A Case For Hope”

  1. Nice article – also, I love that “Anarchist and Mother” portrait by Banksy at the end: it really drives home the point that it’s the “bad guys” of society that are the only real resistance to state power anymore (which raises the question as to why “good” and “bad” are defined in the manner they are…).

  2. Hope that last demon to accompany war, diseases and plague, has a parallel cousin named faith. While both are ridiculed by cynics as unrealistic expectations, hope and faith have often make the difference between survival or certain death under life threatening conditions such as accidents or disasters. A drowning man clings to anything that appears to be floating on the top. It might not always be sufficient, but sometimes, that bit of wood the drowning victim is clinging to is just enough to keep his head above water. He grasped with hope. He holds on through faith that help will come his way. Without these two dynamics, he would just resign himself to his fate.

    American morale is drowning in spiritual bankruptcy, with little hope of fair treatment and no faith in the ethics of its government. To see the courage of our aware youth is inspirational, and inspiration is badly needed for changing the tide against the tyranny and petty despots that currently rule us.

  3. @ Karlsie,

    I don’t deride faith as “unrealistic” – but rather as dangerous: something to believe in might be nice for the idealist seeking to make his life mean something, but it also makes a great trap for ensnaring them into the machinations of powerful interests (see the religious Right for a prime example of this).

    I’d prefer it if faith was replaced with an awareness of the world as it really is, I realize that this won’t happen any time soon – it seems too many of us are still married to various belief systems and are unwilling to let go. For the idealist who absolutely must believe in something greater than himself out there, I have one suggestion: that he takes any idea he clings to with a grain of salt – if you want to function with your head in the clouds, your feet still have to remain on the ground…

  4. Azazel, i agree, blind faith can be a dangerous thing. As i illustrated, faith is often the accompanying feature to hope. The drowning man discovers the log he is clinging to keeps him buoyed. His hope has been fulfilled, but there are no rescuers in sight. He continues to persevere by either having faith that someone will come or that he can make it to shore by his own resources.

    The world as it really is has destroyed both hope and faith, replacing them with artificial trust. The religious right don’t have any faith that their God will strike down their enemies, but they do trust their own weapons and military might. It is the opposition; the minority who have ceased to trust their religious, social or political leaders who actually must rely the most on faith. Their faith is not constructed by a blind belief in miracles (although miracles do exist; i’ve witnessed this over and over again) but a faith in their own resources and/or faith that others will recognize that the emperor is parading naked.

    I choose to neither join a religious group nor take a stand with the anti-religious, because either alternative places you in a box. They limit your acceptance of possibilities and assume human intelligence is the only true measurement of intelligent, sentient life forms. Religion makes god man, and anti-religion makes man, god. Both cling to the antiquated concept that the sun revolves around the earth instead of vice-verse. Both concepts are subject to easy manipulation. A god fearing society cowers before a punishment inflicted or threatened by their own devices, not a physical manifestation that willfully strikes down its offenders. A godless society quickly abandons such virtues as hope, faith and trust for materialism and a reduced viewpoint of the value of human life. This reduced viewpoint allows godless scientists to experiment on those they see as inferior in mind or physical attributes. It allows godless corporate heads and legal administrators to see only numbers instead of individuals.

    It’s not necessary to have a god of religion or of science. What is necessary is to understand that even at our full capacity, we are using only a small percentage of our brains. When we liberate our minds to accept all possibilities, we begin trusting our own senses and the messages generated by the sub-conscious. We begin seeing avenues of thought either banished by religious sentiment or discredited by a science academy still clinging to concepts of absolutes (despite the evidence of pi) and setting themselves up as the final word, i.e., god. These avenues are sometimes called inspiration, imagination or creativity. Whatever the motivation, these avenues are visionary, rely greatly on hope and faith and set the groundwork for humankind’s future growth into awareness.

  5. “America is coming unhinged and it has been a while in coming.”

    Well, yeah. And no.

    First, America has come unhinged. I’d submit that any nation which would take someone as religio-nuts as Michele Bachmann and actually elect her to office has gone ’round-the-bend.

    The ultraRight half of things seem bent on destroying any form of government – but they have that history; their ancestors hail from the Scots/Irish border-ridings, where they mistrusted any form of authority, and where they shot each other when the census-man wasn’t around. Violence, hate and mistrust are part of their culture – along with a good dose of Calvinism, which tells people to root, hog, and die – and never to expect any form of help.

    That’s fine if you’re roping goats and living in a sod hovel. It’s not so workable in a first-world nation with things like plumbing and toilets and electricity and streets and – well; you get the idea. I hope.

    There’s that word.

    Hope is thin on the ground now. I know this; I’ve got a good friend who’s an attorney – due to a lack of billings and a mortgage that’s underwater, she’s actually looking at homelessness – and it’s not willingly, either.

    When this sort of thing can happen to an attorney or an accountant or a doctor, it can happen to anyone.

    We’ve destroyed the middle class. The guy we elected President has caved in on every major issue of his platform, and failed to roll back the disasters of his predecessor (most of which were the main reasons for our being in the current malaise).

    With neuticals the size of BB’s, we can’t count on ‘change’, either.

    I’ll say it again – the ultraRight has sucked so damn much political oxygen out of the nation’s discourse that it’s been pulled to the far Right – we now have an ultraRight, and a center-right (where Obama is perfectly willing to squat, and sit on his thumbs).

    Try to point out the truth or use reason and logic, and the Right will cease talking – and pull out its metaphorical .357 magnum, which it will commence to using, pumping five rounds apiece into Reason and Logic’s chest.

    Blowing the smoke from the muzzle, they’ll declare “I win!”, and go back to wrecking the country.

    I don’t know if that’s because they just like the sound of the wrecking ball; the pretty fireworks when the whole thing finally explodes, or what-all.

    We’ll probably agree on this – the whole thing has taken a turn for the surreal.

  6. While Faith often hangs out with Hope I don’t think its always necessary, it kinda piggy bags on hope’s deeds. We think and talk too often of faith when hope is what we really mean especially as there is so much we really cannot know or count on.

    In any case neither faith nor hope are enough without work.

    W.D. I would concede that America has come unhinged already. However the screws are still close at hand and not already lost. We can pick them up and put the hinges back on. We are in fact lazy and want some magick-santa-government-god to do it for us. Also you are entirely correct. House Rhuad runs a similar type of practice as your friend and has noticed months with no payments, and while we suffer, can we blame anyone for wanting to buy food before paying us? It’s a time for sufferance and rethinking what payment means. We need to be moving towards barter if we want to survive.

    Azazel, I love that picture too I picked it because it shows that revolution is a job, and indeed some mums will pack a lunch and be proud of their revolutionaries.

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