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The Dangers of Hope

1069 words by attila written on 2016–02–07, last edit: 2016–08–04, tags: rantPrevious post: TMTOWTDI FTWNext post: SQhelL


We are easily subjugated by those who would give us hope: it is one of our greatest weaknesses. Hope, like its cousin belief, are shams, scams and ultimately shake-downs. It is an emotion that people are constantly told they must have precisely because it serves those who tell them so. In a world devoid of soothsayers there is no hope.

This is not a bad thing. I am not promulgating a message of despair. I am just telling it like it is. We don’t need hope and I don’t think we even want it if we aren’t told to want it. Hope keeps us from acting, it freezes us in our tracks. It is when we feel we need hope the most that we are thoroughly, deeply screwed: if you’re talking about hope then things must not be going well.

When things are going well there’s no need for hope. When the sun is shining and the sky is blue the future is now: what we have in front of us will last forever, we’re just sure of it. We are suffused with the will to delude ourselves, both individually and in groups. This is not hope but rather the flip side of the same coin. We were hoping for this and now we’ve got it but we’re not done with hope yet, since we’re sure it got us this far. We’ll put that coin in our pocket and save it for a rainy day. The fact that the rain was coming regardless, that all things pass, that great cycles sweep us along like flotsam never penetrates the bubble of hope. It is an ancient bit of psychic malware, present in us since we crawled out of the mud, came down from the trees, got booted off the mothership… whatever. Broadly interpreted it is a symbiotic parasite, a brain-sucker that feeds on us while it helps us keep stumbling along… in the end we’re doomed, of course, but the parasite does well no matter what and there are plenty more hosts to suck on when the current one is tapped out.

Hope is a shiny, red button on the collective forehead of humanity, begging to be pressed. Demagogues have built careers on piles of bodies and hope: the stick and the carrot. The stick works by itself, of course, for a while… but combined with the carrot it becomes impossible to stop. Things are turning around. Prosperity is just around the corner. The worst is behind us. A new day is dawning. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your gullibility and listen to my message of hope.

The opposite of hope is not despair: it is action. Archimedes knew this, faced with a siege of his city by the Roman empire. His cool-headed actions included the invention and improvement of several machines of war: his ship-wrecking claw, improvements to the accuracy of the catapult, the use of mirrors to turn the sun into a heat-ray capable of burning the sails of enemy ships. I imagine him standing on the wall surrounding Syracuse, looking down at his massive enemy. He must’ve understood the fundamental hopelessness of his situation. There was no help coming: the large army sent by Carthage to relieve Syracuse was destroyed by pestilence and forced to retreat. The Romans vastly outnumbered the Syracusans and yet Archimedes held them off for two years. He was finally sold out by some of his own who let the Romans in to end the siege… apparently they had some hope.

Hope makes us easily led. If only this wasn’t the source of most of the Fascist Pig Playbook (vols. 1 and 2) then there might actually be some legitimate hope, but it is and there isn’t. If what we’re talking about is change on a social level then you definitely want to ditch hope because that’s not where it goes. Hope leads to prolonged misery and servitude. Hope is what keeps the status quo safe and warm at night. Hope is what keeps you from accepting your fate.

Sometimes on a personal level this is exactly what you need: to waggle your bottom and honk at the great nothing and not accept your fate. It can be the healthiest course of action to prick your skin and let a little hope well out, wear it on your sleeve, feel like maybe it is possible that things not suck. We have to do this. Any thinking person is too frail and exposed to the elements not to need this kind of comfort and I’m not telling anyone they shouldn’t feel hope.

It’s not feeling hope as individuals that gets us into trouble, it’s the reasons why we feel hope and our lack of reflection on this point. Our will to believe that things will turn around for us turns from a trickle to a river in a heartbeat when properly managed by a skillful sophist. We want to believe this and it is in the mud of this desire that our wheels get stuck. People have to recognize that they are screw-ups once in a while or bad things happen. This is why the pigs in charge build you up and massage your pride: to keep you from recognizing your flaws. You are a great nation. The whole world envies you. You will get whatever you want. When anyone tells you this kind of stuff you can rest assured they walked onto their podium through a door with “HOPE” written large over it. They’re never telling the truth. They’re always telling you what you want to hear.

It is our weakness as individuals that gives rise to our psychic hope vulnerability, from which emerges the larger social vulnerability. Admitting that you are weak and flawed and facing into the wind anyway is not hope. It is pragmatism and strength and usually comes from caring for something outside of yourself. Nobody wants to give those they love mere hope, they want to give them something real, something that lasts. Hope is a Trojan horse, a gift designed to betray. Don’t accept it. Don’t accept mere hope for yourself. Don’t allow your capacity to imagine a better future to keep you from accepting reality.


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