Why I Continue to Remain Hopeful Despite Evidence to the Contrary

Photo from interview on ABC.com

By Mark Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Author of White Boy: A Memoir

Today, I am oddly hopeful that some, perhaps many, people will not accept the grim future being prepared for them–a future of austerity, low paying insecure work, relentless surveillance, crushing debt and elite monopolization of the nation’s wealth and income. I say this not only because of the movements that occurred last fall, and now are reinventing themselves off the radar screen, but because of hundreds of conversations I am having with people, some in person, some through email and social media, which suggest that a society where the few control, manage and  exploit the many is not their idea of what America is  or what they want their own future to be. And this is a feeling which crosses party lines, and divisions of race gender and age. Many people look at where their lives are heading and feel profound dismay. And they may be angry enough and proud enough to do something about it.

I am not suggesting that their dissatisfaction will always be expressed peacefully, or constructively. I think we are likely to see all kinds of violent outbursts, some individual, some collective as life becomes more insecure for a growing number of people. But–and I believe this with every core of my being–we are going to see people coming together to prevent themselves from losing what little they have while the few live untouched by hardship.

For the next few months, our attention will be diverted by the drama of elections, with peoples hopes and fears being projected onto political candidates. But once the elections are over, and current trends toward immiseration and economic stagnation continue unchecked, and quite possibly, accelerate, you will begin to see people decided to take their future in their own hands, in their workplaces, in their neighborhoods, in their schools, in the streets, and in city halls, state houses and the Congress.

And this time, it will be much more broadly based than the Occupy movement and much more difficult to suppress, peaceful, militant, but with an undercurrent of rage embodied in violent outbursts that will be occurring spontaneously because of the pressure that people will find themselves under.

I plan to be there with the peaceful protesters, raising issues and demanding solutions, but I will not  not turn my back on those, who in frustration and desperation, turn to violence, or allow authorities to use their outbursts to justify a further expansion of police power and the prison industrial complex that is already the largest in the world.  

These will be hard times and challenging times, but the greatest danger is silence and compliance, not resistance. And I think more and more people are ready to accept this.

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One thought on “Why I Continue to Remain Hopeful Despite Evidence to the Contrary

  1. kenwaltzer

    I offer my objection to the mistaken view that the elections are merely an interlude during which people project their hopes and fears on the candidates and nothing really important happens. They are a diversion until we get back to the real stuff of everyday protest and change, Naison seems to say. But the elections are important and set the parameters on the possible; they direct the movement of state power, which in turns sets the rules and open up or close down further actions. They make it more or less likely that Supreme Court justices of one or another stripe will be appointed; they make it more or less likely that the economy will be pushed in the direction of recovery, people with preexisting conditions will get health coverage, consumer protection will be bolstered by a strong federal intervention, and more….The elections are real, not an interlude, and much is at stake in them….

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