Hope!

So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about hope. What it feels like to be hopeful. What the world will look like when everyone is full of hope. Hope is something I’ve been chasing for a while—most of my life, I suspect.

Two and a half years ago, I decided to stop work and take a bunch of time off to figure out “what I wanted to do next.” I was thirty-five and had spent all of my young adult and adult life working with and for Aboriginal people. I was tired and felt defeated. Things in this part of the world weren’t looking so hopeful for many of the Aboriginal people I knew.

I had to have lots of Co-Counselling sessions on white privilege and having the freedom to just decide to “up and go” for a while, catch my breath, figure out if I could keep facing the effects of genocide in such a big way every day of my life. It was hard to not feel like I was “jumping ship,” abandoning people I cared about. But eventually I packed up my life and went to look for maybe another place to live, or another way to live. I think I was really just looking for my friend hope.

The time off was much harder than I had anticipated. Everything about the entire world restimulated me: how much people own, how much we take for granted, how little it looks like people care, lack of generosity, how profit and money seem more important than equality and community, how much we waste, how little we notice. All I could see and feel were defeat and hopelessness disguised as apathy. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Co-Counsellors, steadily trying to find my way out of despair.

At the end of eighteen months I was ready to stop moving and “do something in the world.” I wasn’t sure if the home I’d left was still “home” but was willing to give it a go.1 I decided not to rush into anything for the sake of crowding out the panic about having no money left, being back in town without a job and therefore with too much time to notice the place and its people, or wanting to “do” something useful. I was noticing the genocide and crying a lot. I was also noticing the strong community in which I had set up my life. And something new was happening. In every moment I was seeing opportunity, a possibility. In every defeat I was seeing an upside. In the big, sad things that happen, I was seeing another way of being with people.

Then two big decisions changed everything forever. Firstly, I decided to put myself on a “blackout” from mainstream media, so I could get out from under the bombardment of stories of murder, rape, bad political decisions, crisis crisis crisis, blah blah blah. I chose what news I listened to or read. I looked for stories of hope amongst the rubble while at the same time not turning away from the important, difficult things happening in the world. There’s a huge world of hopeful grassroots organising going on2 that rarely gets reported on. It made me so excited!

The second big decision was trusting one of my Co-Counsellors with my entire life, including all the bits I never show anyone—the jealousy, the terror, the deep heartache, and the endless expectation that she would leave because it was all too horrible. It was a decision to commit wholeheartedly to another human being, forever.

A few weeks ago, Seán Ruth (the International Liberation Reference Person for Middle-Class People) led a Middle-Class Liberation Workshop. It was so good for me. I found hope and suddenly discovered I could trust my mind. My dear friend hope, and my very own mind!

A lot of resource has gone into shaping us middle-class people in a way that doesn’t leave much room for questioning why the world is how it is. I have fought my entire life to understand and talk about the disparities and irrationality created in the world by capitalism. I have tried to fight against them by choosing to never work for the government when it’s been at its most oppressive, by figuring out how to squeeze people through loopholes that bureaucrats haven’t yet noticed, by ranting and raving at injustice and undermining the system in every way I could figure out—without creating too much fuss or drawing too much attention. I have been teased by my friends and called a “hippy,” a “radical,” a “greenie,” and so on, but have never felt like I’ve done any of those labels proud.3 I’ve just felt quiet and separate on the inside and looked really chirpy and chipper on the outside.

Before the workshop I’d led a gather-in for people under the age of forty to, amongst other things, help us notice our connection as peers and show ourselves as the “younger generation” in RC. I walked into the workshop with a crew of people at my side, and it made for a world of possibility. Things fell into place in my mind: The whole time I’ve been fighting against the oppressive society, whilst maintaining a “successful” job (whatever that is), a “respectable” lifestyle, and lots of good friendships, I’ve been completely furious. Furious! For the first time I was able to show how angry I really was and how massively defeated I felt. And under it all, you guessed it—hope!

Since Seán’s workshop, my world is different. It looks, smells, sounds, tastes, and feels like hope. Everything feels possible. Everything is possible. I used to “dabble” as an activist. Now I do a lot of environmental and climate-justice organising in the fullest, most human way I can. It’s easy! Really, I can’t explain it. It’s like all this time I’ve been hurting myself by quietly sitting back and trying to do a little here or there behind the scenes.

Now I’ve figured out that it’s time. Time to get up, trust my mind, and figure out how to be with people, to bring them together, and to hold out a big picture of everything coming with an opportunity and being full of possibility. The climate crisis is an opportunity to unite people, listen, learn from those who don’t usually get consulted, and walk side by side into the unknown—knowing that what we have to gain is so much bigger than what we stand to lose. We get to lose the capitalist society that is set up to divide us, and instead we get to all build a brave new world together. In the words of Naomi Klein, “To change everything, we need everyone.”4 

Now I walk around this town I live in and see people everywhere. I see the effects of genocide every day. But I’m hopeful that my fellow human beings will stop turning their backs on things that are hard to face, and therefore easy to ignore, and instead take hold of another human being’s heart and gently carry it along on the journey up and out. Together!

Barb Molanus

Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia

(Present Time 182, January 2016)


1 “Give it a go” means try it.
2 “Going on” means happening.
3 “Done any of those labels proud” means been a good example of any of those labels.
4 From the book by Naomi Klein This Changes Everything—Capitalism vs. the Climate


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00