To Fire Our Engines? Collective Hope

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

The issues that have occupied me for the past few weeks are a culmination of many topics discussed here.    But coming up through the middle has been a sense of hope.  Layton’s letter put HOPE out there clearly for us as Canadians.  But a couple of electronic speeches have reinforced this direction, one for which I’ve been longing: collective hope with reasons and goals.

Hope is a sign of resistance to the culture of greed, cynicism and indifference.  Part of me despaired – as did many others – when the Ontario election of 1999 started on the path of dismantling structures that supported a culture of taking care of each other (social and co-op housing,
Thistletown , for starters).  It wasn’t losing the election – it was the strange ennui and helplessness that seemed to descend.  Many of us had, in small and larger ways, been organizers and developers and supporters of building a more democratic and caring society than that in which we’d grown up.  And now it was coming down.  And we didn’t seem to know how to stop it.  From Harris to Harper many had indeed worked in the political trenches but the trend away from the collective good seemed to accelerate.

But signs of hope emerge!  Joy Connelly’s housing blog is a stepping out into the fray here in our world.  She’s in good company and more voices are emerging.

A TED talk by Naajid Nawaz: A global culture to fight extremism, posted July 2011, lays out an agenda of combatting terrorism and warring ideologies by recognizing that people have to LEARN democracy.   We have to grasp that the virtues of democracy are not so obvious to those who aren’t at all familiar with it.  Looking for new narratives of citizenship, identity and belonging in a globalized world are some of the tasks that have to be undertaken on the ground.  It has to come from the grassroots up, with lots of support.

Then our daughter in New York dropped in on the “Wall Street occupation” and today Naomi Klein has published her speech to the Occupation in the internet magazine Common Dreams.  I’m including some key paragraphs from it.  [It is copyrighted but my assumption is that if there is no commercial gain in quoting from it, we’re allowed to do that].

Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor  rally said: “We found each other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful ….

…“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?”   “We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.”

… And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It’s because they don’t have roots. And they don’t have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.

…Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows.

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well.

…The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

…What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. ..This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though
that’s important.

I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.  [my emphasis]

Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.

Copyright © 2011 Naomi Klein

Please contrIbute any signs of collective hope that you’re part of or come upon.   I’ll be doing the same and figuring out if there are any I can contribute to.   Blessings and hope to all.



Filed under Rosemary's entries, Uncategorized

3 responses to “To Fire Our Engines? Collective Hope

  1. Mike Gouthro

    Coincidentally my wife and I spoke of hope for the future a few days ago when it was conceivable that Hudak could become Premier by voters primarily driven by antipathy towards McGuinty’s Liberals – a not unrealistic fear in light of 47% of Toronto voters recently turning the city over to the Ford brothers.

    I’m ambivalent about current democracies. Many are controlled by establishment parties or ideologies. They are beholden to their own histories, financial backers and nineteenth century mechanisms. Upwards of half of all citizens have a disappointing propensity to not vote while being first in line to complain and blame.

    My cautious hope rests in a gradual end-run around current democratic mechanisms which are based on scheduled elections and main stream media campaigns attempting to persuade dozing and confused citizens.

    The emerging world of 24/7 personal wireless connectivity via smart phones and tablets allows curious and engaged citizens to rally around “none of the above” ideas that traditional party and election structures are unwilling or unable to accommodate.

    A well informed, proactive, independent-minded minority using technology to communicate and mobilize can be David against the Goliath of angry or lazy-minded citizens manipulated by propagandists and special interests.

    In addition to learning Democracy (or perhaps even instead of), I suggest that people have to learn personal empowerment and group mobilization via connectivity. And A Bigger Circle is part of that process.

  2. I wrote a long and convoluted response. Then deleted it. I went to the live stream video of the occupation of Wall street and thought YES!!!!
    This is what I believed (past tense) America was all about. It is the reason the Declaration of Independence was written. (Although it left women out, still it was appropriate to the time in which it was written. Still that’s personal tooth grinding.)
    I have something I didn’t have before. Hope for America. And by extension, hope for Canada and the rest of the world.
    Lord, do you think the ‘sit-in’ is back? The Gandi-esque version?
    How wonderful!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Joy Connelly

    For me, one sign of collective hope is this blog entry, Rosemary. Oddly, my 20 year old son and I were talking about this very topic at dinner. Then I opened up your blog, and you’re right there with us … you, and as the Wall Street protesters note, the rest of the 99 %.
    Thanks so much.

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