Privatizing hope: Rebecca Solnit

These days, staying hopeful is as hard as kicking a bowling ball up a hill. Global warming? Oil spills? Earthquakes? Flash-floods? And that’s just environmental disasters. What about governmental and administrative corruption? What about our oppressive food system? It’s getting harder and harder to move without bumping into some gigantic mess, both human-designed and otherwise.

While I’m not particularly good at finding hope in the midst of turmoil, some people are. Consider Rebecca Solnit.

It was Geez editor Aiden Enns who first referred me to Solnit’s article Iceberg Economies and Shadow Selves on He said he liked it “because she emphasizes that the better future we activists are looking for is already here. To me, that’s a lot like the Christian theology that says the kingdom of heaven is already here but not yet fulfilled.” It is a hope of the now and the not yet.

What drew me to Solnit’s article was her defiant emphasis on the goodness of humanity. If that goodness is often invisible, she says, it is because it is doing damage control, repairing what has been broken.

“How can you add up the foreclosures and evictions that don’t happen, the forests that aren’t leveled, the species that don’t go extinct, the discriminations that don’t occur?” she asks. Only when that can be calculated, can goodness be measured.

Solnit finds the heroic in the everyday. Goodness is achieved when ordinary people give of themselves, for something that will benefit others. Although this sounds lofty, Solnit sees this as happening all the time. Just look at all of those volunteers that worked day in and day out on oil-covered beaches, she says. Even Wikipedia, flawed as it may be, is a testiment to the millions of average people that spend hours updating and improving it. This selfless self-giving is what keeps Solnit hopeful, both for the present and the future.

Check out the full article here.

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