I bought Rebecca Solnit’s book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities after hearing Bob Garfield interview her on On the Media. She wrote the book after George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, attempting to show people why there might be cause for hope among people like herself who opposed the war in Iraq and other Bush administration policies. The book has been increasing in popularity lately as people distraught by the election of President Trump look for constructive ways to move forward.
There were a lot of useful perspectives in this book that I haven’t seen eleswhere. She makes clear that having hope isn’t equivalent to being a Pollyanna. Instead, it is a reason to act and not to despair or retreat into apathy. I liked her points about how sometimes the seeds of change take a long time to grow. She notes that it was unfathomable to many people that the Berlin Wall would ever fall or that Nelson Mandela would be freed and become president of a post-apartheid South Africa. The people fighting for marriage equality twenty or twenty-five years ago may have seemed like out-of-touch idealists. Today, their dreams are an uncontroversial fact for many people. Even the battles people fighting for social change seemingly have lost might have been worse had they not struggled to make their voices heard.
At times, I had trouble reading this book because of Solnit’s hypercritical anti-globalization messages. Those arguments struck me as shallow and one-sided, ignoring the hundreds of millions of people who have escaped extreme poverty in large part because they are more connected to the rest of the world. Although I don’t agree with all of the arguments Solnit puts forward, I find some of her book convincing. There are certainly things worth working for even if it is hard to see your impact directly and even if you might lose.