Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

Review:

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities - Rebecca SolnitI read this for the Social Justice Book Club I joined and that was featured in this Book Riot article: Level Up with the Social Justice Book Club. I enjoyed reading it but it didn’t completely shatter my world and I didn’t absolutely love it. It’s a good book for when you feel like you need to be talked out of the feeling that everything is already lost and there is nothing that can be done about it.

Synopsis: With Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit makes a radical case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable. Drawing on her decades of activism and a wide reading of environmental, cultural, and political history, Solnit argued that radicals have a long, neglected history of transformative victories, that the positive consequences of our acts are not always immediately seen, directly knowable, or even measurable, and that pessimism and despair rest on an unwarranted confidence about what is going to happen next.

Originally published in 2004, now with a new foreword and afterword, Solnit’s influential book shines a light into the darkness of our time in an unforgettable new edition.

Again, I did enjoy reading it. There were some places in the books that genuinely inspired me but it did so by putting together in better language than I can articulate, or adequately reference, things that I knew already. The trajectory of hope only seems lost when we feel that we are in a major down-spiral of all things that we have fought for and that may be true for many, but I am personally surrounded by constant change in the non-political arena that are for the better and that are feminist in nature. They may not have direct social justice implications, but they make an impact on progress as well and being a part of that end of things made most of the points here not so much a surprise or new but directed at a different audience.

Honestly, I know how many feel about Trump and I’m not advocating for or against him here. His presence is not an automatic reversal of everything that every one has worked hard for. Some things will likely revert back but I highly doubt that those of use enjoying new freedoms are about to let them be taken away so quickly. His impending inauguration has even spawned some activism on a scale that would have seemed unnecessary with a Clinton presidency and I am interested in seeing what happens next.

As Solnit points out about the environmental lobby against the ranchers, sometimes the people we perceive as our opponents can be our biggest help in achieving the final goal. I’ll be interested in seeing who the new bedmates end up being as everyone strives for what they believe in for the next four or eight years. The point is that hope should not be lost on account of a single election.

The new foreword and afterword were added, but not much of the meat seemed to have been changed as it mostly attacked Bush. I am also not here to go on about the pros or cons of the Bush administration. This is about the book, right?

Regardless, a Bush administration didn’t destroy the country like many, including Solnit, seemed to think it would and an Obama administration didn’t either, like many conservatives that I know thought it would. And again, our level of progress only seems bleak when we only go back one or two administrations. I remember growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in a country that was going to be swallowed by smog while dying of AIDS that were only in this country because of people still being decried as the dregs of society. I remember movements about rampant Styrofoam usage by corporations that have since abandoned the material and movements about saving the trees. People worked hard on getting awareness of what causes these things out to the masses and others worked hard on solutions or alternatives.

The trees aren’t completely safe and the LGBT community is still fighting for rights, but these issues have come a long way with successive small victories. Homosexuals couldn’t serve at all in the military when I was born, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell came along when I was in high school and I remember the day that it was completely repealed. By the way, women couldn’t serve in combat roles at all back then either, and now we’re integrating into every portion of the military with no combat exclusion whatsoever. There has been a lot of progress in the most unlikely of places.

We have a lot of reasons to maintain hope that not all progress will stagnate and not all progress will be driven backwards. It won’t be easy, but the progress machine keeps turning and people keep learning and listening. Yeah, it would have been really symbolically cool to have a woman as president during the centennial of women attaining the vote in this country. There’s still a possibility that instead it will be the year we first vote a woman into that office later that year.

 

I had gotten a free copy of the book on the day after the election when Haymarket was giving it away but if you missed that boat, click on the cover to go to BookLikes for purchase options.



Note: I do disagree with Solnit’s stance on the story of the Fall being a “central” story to the Judeo-Christian cultural outlook. While it is a story that we tell as Christians (I don’t want to speak for Jewish people, so I’ll just rebut for Christians), it’s far from central. It’s part of the setup, like a first chapter or prologue. I agree with Solnit’s assertion that many conservatives spend more time looking back than forward (I mean, “Make America Great Again” is a clear example), but not that it’s a Christian idea of the past being more perfect than the future. To me, the story of the Fall actually illustrates the idea that Solnit makes further into the same chapter, that humans are unlikely to be happy with any form of Utopia. I feel that story is meant to show that we disobey. that we inherently do what we feel is best rather than what we are told is best, and we strive for more than we have and that it sets up a story where this continues to be the case until God sets up a new expectation, or covenant. I haven’t read through the whole Bible and I am not a theologian, but I have been reading through it for a while now and am past that story. I’m about a third through, and have covered some other big highlights of Christianity from the Old Testament and just feel really strongly that “central” is not the appropriate term for where the story of the Fall sits no matter how you slice it. At best, I think it sits in parallel to the main story of Jesus and the redemption his death brings as the original thing that we need redemption from. At best. Feel free to disagree and we can talk about it in the comments.

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