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Hope for the future: The power of the positive

Posted on July 2, 2008 by ari

I’m really happy a lot of the time. I’m also very hopeful about the future. Seriously, I sit around thinking and drawing and writing about all the wonderful things human beings are doing, how beautiful the future could be, and how glorious and resilient our environment is, all the time. Like for hours every day. This happiness and hope is what keeps me actively working for peace and justice – it’s a huge motivator. It’s also just really nice to feel happy and hopeful, which can be hard when you’re educating yourself about injustice (which can be depressing).

I could focus on the horrors happening today and work against them or to stop them, and that’s what I’ve done for years. This is a very negative, painful way of operating though, in my experience. It makes me worry if I’m even having an impact, and focusing on the bad stuff all the time can make me feel hopeless and helpless. It’s also not a very attractive life, the tortured, self-sacrificing activist living a life of deprivation, with a burden of horrible knowledge – who wants to join in on that? “Join our struggle” doesn’t sound like much fun.

So instead I look to successes, read about other activists and activist history. I begin to see how our action today is part of a long legacy of human movement toward peace and justice; I begin to see I’m not alone, that the world is full of folks who aren’t only striving for a better world – they’re building it right now, and we can all join in.

Here are just a few organizations and books and online communities who are working around these ideas of positivity and looking at the big picture. Every time I discover another group like this I feel another spark of hope and happiness, and I hope they do the same for you:

Anyone else out there into the power of the positive – or have other strategies for keeping motivated? How do you keep hopeful and happy in a changing world that still needs a lot of work?

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Comments

2 Responses to “Hope for the future: The power of the positive”

  1. Shira Golding
    July 2nd, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

    Ah yes, it’s all about optimism!
    Another great organization doing work on this front is WorldChanging. Their Executive Editor, Alex Steffen, recently wrote a great post on the topic, including these words of wisdom:
    Optimism is a political act.
    Entrenched interests use despair, confusion and apathy to prevent change. They encourage modes of thinking which lead us to believe that problems are insolvable, that nothing we do can matter, that the issue is too complex to present even the opportunity for change. It is a long-standing political art to sow the seeds of mistrust between those you would rule over: as Machiavelli said, tyrants do not care if they are hated, so long as those under them do not love one another. Cynicism is often seen as a rebellious attitude in Western popular culture, but, in reality, cynicism in average people is the attitude exactly most likely to conform to the desires of the powerful – cynicism is obedience.
    Optimism, by contrast, especially optimism which is neither foolish nor silent, can be revolutionary. Where no one believes in a better future, despair is a logical choice, and people in despair almost never change anything. Where no one believes a better solution is possible, those benefiting from the continuation of a problem are safe. Where no one believes in the possibility of action, apathy becomes an insurmountable obstacle to reform. But introduce intelligent reasons for believing that action is possible, that better solutions are available, and that a better future can be built, and you unleash the power of people to act out of their highest principles. Shared belief in a better future is the strongest glue there is: it creates the opportunity for us to love one another, and love is an explosive force in politics.
    Great movements for social change always begin with statements of great optimism.

  2. Shira Golding
    July 2nd, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

    And sometimes complicity turns into cynicism and then turns into optimism leading to (somewhat misguided) positive action.
    See also Victor Papanek’s Design for the Real World »

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