I heard the incomparable activist and writer Arundhati Roy speak last week, and I’m still on fire. The night’s immersion into such heady territory–empire, democracy, globalization, commerce, and naturally, the environment, left me reflecting on the nature of information. There have been times in my life where I just have to turn off the noise. I turn away from the news, and even from the intelligent criticism of it. I’m afraid of getting overwhelmed, of despair, of hopelessness. And yes, I can report back that there is a stillness that can be found in turning off the noise. But if it is not a powerful, life changing stillness, one able to counter and upend our culture’s unyielding and destructive growth, then it is finding a false refuge.
We are among the privileged few in the world able to choose the safety of hopelessness. We can say, there’s nothing I can do, so I’ll just not worry about it. It is from that place of dis-empowerment that we can opt out, convinced of our inability to make a difference. From there we comfortably continue on in our lives, content to do the best we can.
Across the planet, in places wrecked by climate change and war (often the two are hand in hand), people have been forced past the point of reasonableness to the precipice of hope. It is a hope born of necessity, and made real with action. These are our kin, our counterparts who can no longer afford hopelessness.
I’m generally always looking for an answer to my questions about how to live. What kind of action is the right kind? What is enough? Where does living well for myself and living well for the planet intersect? I don’t always know what to do, and when I have a fleeting certainty, it is quickly countered by the endless contradictions of our reality. But by staying engaged and educated, I find that I am better able to fertilize my own inner capacity for action, involvement, and change. Which are all fingers on the hand of hope.
Without reminders of the shocking injustices taking place in my name–or in the name of capitalism and growth, a system based on inequality and from which I undoubtedly benefit at the expense of others–I could easilt slip back into my old, I’m Doing the Best I Can ways.
We need the kind of gloablization that keeps us in check. That breaks down barriers of ignorance and apathy. We need to be reminded of our place in the Great Turning, so that even when we are truly doing the best we can, we want to do still more. And do it.
If you’re at all curious about what hope, action, and battling for system change looks like in India, please check out Arundhati’s recent article in the recent edition of Outlook India magazine.