Thursday, July 31, 2008

Despair is a Luxury... (Rebecca Solnit)

In the construction of our forthcoming anthology of peace poems, I've been invited into thinking the beyond of resistance...

Despair is a luxury. If I despair I can drive a Yukon and watch bad television. Despair makes no demand upon us; hope demands everything. For people around the world, in places like Burma and Chiapas, giving up means accepting hideous conditions of life, or death. Despair is cheap for us, expensive for them. What does it mean to be radical, to tell radical stories in our time, to win the battle of the story? The North American tradition seems to focus its activity on the exposé, the telling of the grim underside of what we know: the food is poison, the system is corrupt, the leaders are lying, the war is failing. There is a place for this, but you cannot base a revolution on the bad things the status quo forgot to mention. You need to tell the stories they are not telling, to learn to see where they are blind, to look at how the great changes of the world come from the shadows and the margins, not center stage, to see where we’re winning and that we can win something that matters, if not everything all the time.

from "Our Storied Future" by Rebecca Solnit, Orion Magazine. January/February 2008.


Joseph Ross said...

True Phil. Dead on true. Despair is easy for us in the first world. It even fits into a kind of hip, complaining, "nothing is good enough" attitude. Hope risks. Hope stretches us. I am sure it's why Obama's appeal to hope is so deeply appealing to many people. It might also be why people will project lots of ideas onto him. Regardless of that, your naming first world despair as a death sentence for others is true. Materials for your intoduction or preface? Good for you. J. Ross

Philip Metres said...

Joseph, yes, in fact, some of this will make the introduction (though they are Rebecca Solnit's words, not mine). When it comes to hope, I'm hopelessly unhip.