I’ve been worrying myself lately, trying to imagine a positive future that I can actually believe. As opposed to sinking into science-based Catastrophism.
Rebecca Solnit takes a different tack in her end-of-year essay for Tom Dispatch, and, I gotta say that, despite a few clunkers — e.g. “For millions of years, this world has been a great gift to nearly everything living on it” — it rings true. In fact, her overall approach to the what-the-hell-do-we-do-now problem, one that’s both accessible and encouraging, has clear advantages over my “we need to actually plan for a fair global transition” style of rationalism.
Solnit’s point, basically, is that fighting to save the world will allow us to live well — in the classical sense of living “a good life’ — even as we face the dark and iffy days ahead. And that, by pursing both solidarity and clarity, we might also find that we have a real chance at a desirable, and even emancipatory future.
“Everywhere people are at work to build a better world in which we — and some of the beauty of this world — will be guaranteed to survive. Everywhere they are at war with the forces threatening us and the planet. I usually avoid war metaphors, but this time it’s barely a metaphor. Our side isn’t violent, but it is engaged in battle, and people are putting their bodies on the line and their lives behind the cause. The other side is intent on maximizing its profit at the cost of nearly everything.”
Even better: “When you fight, you sometimes win; when you don’t, you always lose.” And she fills out the point by speaking frankly of “class war.” Like so:
“There has, of course, been a war against working people and the poor for decades, only we didn’t call it “class war” when just the rich were fighting hard. We called it corporate globalization, the race to the bottom, tax cuts and social-service cuts, privatization, neoliberalism, and a hundred other things. Now that the poor are fighting back, we can call it by its old name. Perhaps what the conservatives have forgotten is that if you return us to the grim divides and dire poverty of the nineteenth century, you might also be returning us to the revolutionary spirit of that century.”
This isn’t the whole of the strategy we need. Maybe it’s not even a strategy at all. Whatever it is, it’s good stuff.
Happy New Year!