Written by Conor Mullins
Allow me to put on my cap I put on for waxing philosophical. Now, it’s a simple question, everybody. Heads down! You have thirty minutes to think it over. Don’t dilly, or dally. No fuss or discussion – it’s a yes or no question, answer as neatly as you can in black pen, and remember, no takesies backsies. Is all hope for a brighter future lost? Can we believe anyone anymore? Are we merely scrabbling madly at the six-foot-high walls of our own graves as slowly the undertakers of our own greed bury us alive? Is democracy merely, as the Manic Street Preachers put it, “an empty lie”? Are things ever going to change?
Recently, one of my fellow HIGNFYouth writers, Andrew Wilson, pointed out in a rather sobering article just how pervasive Western capitalism is now. His article signs off with the rather stark warning that “Full fat, American consumer capitalism is here to stay. And there is nothing we can do to stop it.” And this made me feel quite depressed. Because, perhaps Andrew is right. And perhaps there is no way the current system is ever going to change. Like maggots worming our way through the carcass of some unfortunate mammal, we’re so embedded in the capitalist machine, so embedded in overarching systems of oppression, so reliant on them, that perhaps these are inescapable.
It gets me thinking. What is there left to care about? Even with ever-encroaching certain doom, can we still find hope? On the final track on her recent self-titled album, Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) used the metaphor of “severed crossed fingers” for the human ability to find hope even when there is none. She takes it from a short story by Lorrie Moore, which makes reference to a pair of crossed fingers found in the wreckage after a plane crash. So now we pose the question – exactly what the fuck are we doing as a global society? Are we merely crossing our fingers and hoping that we’ll get out of that plummeting airliner alive?
Everyone seems to want change, but nobody knows the right way to change it. We’ve already privatised our railway systems, our water supply, our electricity, our postal service – soon our healthcare system looks to be going the same way, due to sabotage on the part of the powers that be. Due to nuclear weapons apparently taking precedence over children with brain tumours and young men with life-changing injuries. C’est la vie.
C’est la vie. C’est la vie? Est-ce que la vie? Should we give up? We had a good run team, but it’s time to pack up and accept it, let that big final wave wash over us and sweep us out on to the ocean bed, where we can take our eternal sleep? UKIP is a party dominated chiefly by people who want an “alternative” to the main three parties – the fact they’re basically a more extreme version of the Tories notwithstanding – and the Green Party appear to be slowly, but surely, gaining popularity. Both parties are dominated by people who want change, idealists in their own right, striving for a different arrangement in the current system. Are their dreams unfounded? Who knows?
The ice caps are melting without abate; the possibility of sustainable energy is constantly being ignored in favour of another war to be fought for more oil. Environmentally-friendly power is scoffed at by the right wing, referred to as “eco-fascism” by some. We’re slowly watching the planet become uninhabitable. We’re assured that there is more we can do – recycle more, turn off the lights when we’re done using them, don’t leave the telly on standby, but are we just flagging?
Perhaps there are some things, some uncomfortable inevitabilities that we have to face. The world is, perhaps, on some level, doomed. Or at least, there is no hope of it ever being the same as it once was. Perhaps there are some things we just can’t change. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can change. And I’ve seen it happen. I know – because it happened in myself. I know – because when I was fourteen, I had an ideology based around my disbelief in God, chiefly. I know – because when I was sixteen, I called myself an “egalitarian” and a “libertarian” because I thought “feminism” was too exclusive, and I thought “socialist” was too Commie. I know – because as recently as a year ago I was still holding harmful political opinions that I have rectified. And I am still in the process of doing this.
There are some things the individual cannot change. There are some things we may end up just having to live with. But in my opinion, we shouldn’t resign ourselves to sitting down and going out without a damn good fight. Humans have extraordinary resilience – we are able to lose half our blood – that’s a full four pints – and still survive. We are able to find hope even when everything seems hopeless. We are able to look at the inevitability of our own deaths and say, “Isn’t life wonderful! Isn’t nature beautiful! Isn’t the night sky amazing! Isn’t this brief moment we get to spend living on this planet just so precious!”
On an individual basis, there are things you can do to make the world a better place. Listen to your oppressed comrades. Be brave. Contribute to discussion when you are wanted. Contribute what you can. Be loving. Be caring. Don’t support the fanatical bigotry of politicians who don’t know what it’s like to be marginalised. Where you can, support positive change on a smaller level, at the grassroots. In the words of Bill and Ted – “be excellent to each other”. Be kind. Be inspired. Be hopeful. Be brave, even in the face of Armageddon. Even in the face oblivion. It’s what’s keeping everyone alive. And nothing is hopeless – not while there’s still air to be breathed. Get pissed off, write a poem, sing in the shower, fall in love, don’t, read a book, paint a self-portrait and then burn it.
Is all hope lost? Only if you let it be.
[Edited 19/01/2015 15.34 to reflect typo ‘nationalised’>’privatised’]