We have all kind of bought into the idea that hope can lift a people up and can make us yearn for something better, but I’m not entirely sure that it isn’t just one big tease. Hope, as a concept, is just one giant letdown, flawed and unworkable. It seems to me that hope is really trying to get us to believe that something better is possible. No matter our current situation, hope keeps us thinking that an ideal is out there, and it isn’t. At least, not without us being placated by Hope.
Hope is idealistic because it can be. It can wait around for years in the bellies of everyone who has filled up on it as their exclusive diet. It clouds judgement and makes individuals forget just how hard everything really is, and why it has to be hard. Hope props up really terrible ideas and allows truly brilliant people to sit on their hands and wait for things to happen.
Clearly, this isn’t the type of hope that Obama has made a part of his platform, but I don’t think that I can really talk about hope without bringing his brand into the discussion. He advocates for responsible hope and working toward your goals, but I’m not sure that it is getting across. Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis believe in a very generic type of hope that really isn’t hopeful about anything in particular. It is just a vague notion that things will get better, eventually. There isn’t any responsibility that the small things going on in the short term will get them to that hopeful place. There definitely isn’t a sense that they can design their hope so that it fits into the world in a real way. Hope that can’t resonate or ricochet off and blast through the boundaries of the way things are, is hope that is set up for only pacifying those who believe in it. It wraps them like a warm blanket and keeps them quiet within those boundaries.
That is why hope pacifies. It is the belief that weakness can be made into strength without working out. Hope is throwing technology or money at a problem. Hope is waiting for people to “get it.” Hope is having conversations without looking people in the eyes. Hope is eschewing online schools so that the issue will just go away. Hope is prayer for the economy to turn around. Hope listens to itself. Hope speaks without specifics. Hope feels everything without truly connecting to anyone.
So, why do I care that hope is the great pacifier? I care because I want to work for things. I want things to be hard. I want to hear all sides of an issue and then decide the best way forward. I want there to be conflict and friction. I want there to be lots and lots of writing and thinking and drawing and redesign. I want hope to take a back seat to DO.
Now just so you don’t get the wrong idea about this question, I actually think that Obama’s version of Hope could be relabeled as DO, but I just don’t think it would poll as well. I don’t think that people can get behind DO as much because DO requires details and thinking through each one of them. I don’t think that DO would allow people to stay disengaged in the process. As long as they can hope, they won’t have to get involved in creating change. When DO is what we all believe in, staying on the sidelines loses value. We are getting closer with blogs and collaborative tools, but I still think that the end goal for many is using them in order to shortcut their way back to hope. They will work with one another and write out what has been required so that at some point in the future, they can stop (retire, rest, etc.). Hope is still the default value. And it will continue to be for millions.
It isn’t always a bad thing to have a pacifier, but it is hard to compete while you are being lulled to sleep.