The Politics of Hopelessness, Skepticism and Dropping Out


Minor Details
By Bob Minor

Donkeys-or-ElephantsWho can’t understand why people are frustrated, skeptical, fed up? We have two political parties with a monopoly on politics that are dominated by corporate interests.

We often find ourselves voting for the least awful alternative, not a candidate who courageously champions our interests. We hear the label “liberal” used of people who barely lean left and often tilt to the right, who readily seem to cave in to the right-wing in order to get re-elected.

We desperately want to believe in someone. So we scrounge around like abused spouses clinging to anything that tells us they’re for us, that their critics don’t understand.

We make excuses for their failures to stand boldly against the opposition. We tell ourselves to be realists because it’s really, really, really the best they can accomplish “given the state of politics.”

Such feelings are widespread. In terms of the corporate world, for example, a recently released Gallup poll conducted in 2011 indicates that about two in three adults worldwide believe corruption is “widespread” in the businesses in their countries.

This belief ranges from 60% in the U.S. and Canada to a high of 76% in sub-Saharan Africa, tending to be higher in lower income regions. Though American mythology wants us to accept that those at the top of our industries have somehow risen like cream due to moral superiority, most people know better than to buy that.boehner-pronounced

In 2001 the U.S. was perceived as the 16th least corrupt country in the world whereas in 2011 we are viewed as 24th. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index now ranks New Zealand and Denmark as numbers 1 and 2, with Canada tenth and the U.S. 24th right behind Chile and Qatar.

Meanwhile, the establishment’s desire to suppress the voices it doesn’t want heard takes many forms. We see it in the suppression of voting with voter ID laws of those who are unlikely to support corporate takeover of the government. We see it in reports of voting machine fraud.

But the most insidious method of suppression of opposition is to convince us that there is no hope, to encourage us to repeat the mantra that it doesn’t matter. As poet, essayist, novelist, activist Audre Lorde wrote: "That you can't change City Hall is a rumor being spread by City Hall."

You hear this in people giving up, claiming “politicians are all the same,” or griping: “they’re all crooked.” You see it in those that won’t even vote and those who refuse even to think about the politics that’s emptying their pocketbooks.

You hear it in young people who say: “I don’t expect Social Security to be available by the time I retire.” And you want to tell them: “Why doesn’t that get you so angry that you’re ready to burn down every radio station that plays the oldies to which generations collecting it nostalgically listen?”

When we hear this, we confront exactly what the right-wing wants - people whose energy, time, donations, and actions could change things who won’t get involved. That silence and paralysis is actually a vote for the right-wing’s agenda.

As Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation as well as the Moral Majority explained to a 1980 Dallas religious right-wing gathering: “I don’t want everybody to vote…. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Additionally, to suppress further activism, if you can ensure that the economic rewards system for the 99% involves jobs that deplete all their energy, time, and strength, if you can make their work stressful and insecure enough, if you can create the necessity for overtime and multiple jobs, then you can ensure that people will be too exhausted to get involved.

And if you can get them to blame each other for the problems the 99% experience daily, you can keep them at each other’s throats so they won’t work together for change.

As historian Howard Zinn wrote of the mythological “unity” that is supposed to be the U.S. in his conclusion to A People’s History of the United States (1995): “It is important for them [“the Establishment – that uneasy club of business executives, generals and politicos”] also to make sure this artificial unity of highly privileged and slightly privileged is the only unity – that the 99 percent remain split in countless ways, and turn against Handicap friendlyone another to vent their angers.”

Blame the poor for the taxes levied on the middle class to bring the poor relief to build resentment on top of humiliation. Blame LGBT people for the problems of American families caused by culturally-hyped consumerism, keeping parents over-worked, and increasing economic insecurity, and ensuring that we have worse social and economic safety nets than in most advanced societies.

It took the Occupy movement to focus political discussion to income inequality from the distractions about government deficits, giving us an understanding of what “the 99%” means and how out of touch that other 1% can be. That didn’t arise directly from the Democratic Party, much less the Republicans.

And it will take involved individuals, not those who are lost in their skepticism or caught up in complaining and spreading their negativity on to others, to make a difference. It will take those who are willing to embrace hope to pass that hope along to those who have opted out hopelessly.

One doesn’t have to turn into a happy, clappy optimist. I’m certainly not that.Robert Minor

But we can decide to stop what is hurting us. We can choose to act on hope.

We can join movements of people whom we may now write off as utopian. We can choose not to support the nay-sayers.

Hopelessness is a feeling, while hope is a choice. We can think, act and decide to free ourselves from letting regressive forces control our thoughts and lives.

This will have to be a choice we make over and over again, because the system continues to do everything it can to get us lost in hopelessness.

By Robert N. Minor, Ph.D.

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