Choosing revolutionary optimism in the face of doom
Daily mass shooting have injured hundreds of people, yet the power for state’s to limit gun access has been limited. Bodily autonomy and reproductive rights have been severely gutted, leaving millions of vulnerable people without access to adequate care. Indigineous sovereignty is facing attacks from every direction. And because of that, our country is moving backwards, not forwards, in progress towards ending the climate crisis. Our people and our planet are being pushed past a point of no return by a powerful few people who don’t care about our collective livelihood and feel no responsibility or kinship to this earth. Despite it all, we must fight. But how? In the face of so much doom and devastation, how can we maintain hope? Like many other Gen-z folks, I often struggle with understanding the “point” in continued resistance and in believing that we can change the world. It may feel foolish or naive, but as abolitionist organizer Mariame Kaba reminds us: “hope is a discipline.”
A central tenet of the modern American project, late-stage neoliberal capitalism, is convincing us that individualism is the way. We are meant to work hard to pull ourselves up, earn and spend as much money as we can, compete for even the most basic resources, and expect little from others and offer nothing of ourselves in return. This toxic individualism is completely antithetical to cultures and communities that have centered relationships since time immemorial. Prior to global colonization, many cultures had little use for money or strict hierarchy and instead shared resources and responsibilities as a community. While capitalism requires people to remain poor and exploited in order to function, community centered approaches to life instead posit that everyone deserves both their basic needs to be met and that we deserve time and space to love and create freely. A truly balanced life isn’t limited to work and productivity, but instead leaves room for pleasure and play.
What does all of this have to do with our sense of impending climate and societal doom? Giving up - accepting that the way things are is the only way they’ll ever be and that we can’t unsettle the stronghold that corporations and fascist governments have over our lives and planet - is exactly what those in power would like us to do. Choosing to instead reinvest in community, particularly through joining a revolutionary organization, participating in mutual aid and building power with your fellow community members, is a dangerously powerful decision. Now more than ever, we must choose hope and community.
Hope is a muscle that must be flexed, strengthened, and cultivated. Getting involved in a local mutual aid group, getting to know your neighbors and learning to rely on each other, committing to political education and learning about how we got to the current moment, and other acts of defiance and resilience are excellent methods for combatting doom and cultivating sincere hope. The concept of revolutionary optimism challenges us to believe in the possibility of a radical future, and to get involved in radical organizing to help make that change happen. To fall into nihilism at the hands of oppressive governments and systems of power is to give up on people-power and the possibility of ushering in a new society that we all deserve. In a society where our choices are deeply constrained by capital, we can make the choice to believe in a better world and join forces to make that world a reality. Commit to an organization, join or start a community defense project, access resources on organizing via the Power Shift resource bank, study with trusted friends and comrades, ask questions, build trust, take risks, and never let go of the possibility that we can save the people and the planet.
Here’s some further reading and media suggestions to learn more about revolutionary optimism, freedom dreams, and surrealist possibilities:
Freedom Dreams by Robin D.G. Kelley
We Do This Til We Free Us by Mariame Kaba
As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Fresh Banana Leaves by Jessica Hernandez
Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton
Care Work Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi
- United in Anger ACT UP (1.5hr)
- Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (2 hr)
- Building Power Sin, Contra y Desde El Estado Mijente (10min)
- Neoliberalism II: Anti-Imperialist Poster Exhibition