I ended on a cynical note last time, so today I’d like to open up on a less cynical one. Hmm. After I wrote those words, I sat for a moment staring at a blank screen, which strikes me as a bit ironic. But I really am a glass-is-half-full kinda woman (married, by the way, to a glass-is-not-only-half-empty-but-it-probably-has-a-leak kinda man, so perhaps we balance each other out).
If you’ve picked up any vibes from me on this blog, I am a bit worried about the future of our planet. And the state of democracy, especially the rise of autocrats. And lately it feels as if human suffering on this planet is not being addressed not because it is a hard problem to solve (which it is) but *because* keeping people in desperate situations literally empowers autocrats and millionaires.
You may be wondering where my less cynical note is. I realize I wrote the statement above because it always seems insensitive to speak optimistically when so many people face so many challenges. I am yet to find a graceful and concise way to recognize this fact. Indeed, to speak of one concern is to risk appearing indifferent to other struggles. You know, I like the phrase YMMV, “Your mileage may vary,” as a way to recognize that what works for me may not be experienced the same way by someone else, for many reasons, including institutionalized discrimination. Perhaps there already is a phrase out there that would work here, but until it floats before me, I think I will try creating my own: IKIAMS—“I know I am missing something.” Or FITB Fill-in-the-blank. Write in what you see as the greatest struggle, the most urgent concern.
So there is always FITB, that which I don’t know how to articulate or address when I make an attempt to be optimistic, yet I will be optimistic anyway.
Why? Because autocrats and people-who-promote-suffering benefit from pessimism. So even if we must recognize that FITB exists, we can be radical and subversive by being optimistic anyway. To say, maybe the suffering can be reduced. Maybe democracy will resurge. Maybe we can heal the planet. Maybe we can heal one another. I will say maybe, because I don’t know the future. But neither do the autocrats and those-who-promote-suffering.
I also, oddly enough, find something optimistic in considering the idea that suffering empowers autocrats and millionaires. Besides various historical and political events that might support this claim, I am thinking of a Last Week Tonight analysis of how investors are buying up mobile home parks because mobile home owners are helpless customers—a deeply disturbing story.
What is optimistic in this rather dark vision of the world is that it means that every act to reduce suffering, to provide, for example, food, medical care, opportunity, or agency to another person—or even just an encouraging word, is to increase democracy and undermine the power of autocrats and corrupt individuals. Choose your FITB. We might not be able to fix everything all at once, but we can take one step every day to comfort and empower one another (including ourselves). To reject those who want us to fear one another and to embrace helplessness in the face of great challenges. They are out to make a buck and/or to indulge in delusions of grandeur. We are here for each other.