Saturday, March 3, 2007

Hope and fear are inseparable. La Rochefoucald

Hope, by Olga Zoskin

In Celebration of Me (1909), Rainer Maria Rilke

I am so afraid of people's words.
They describe so distinctly everything:
And this they call dog and that they call house,
here the start and there the end.

I worry about their mockery with words,
they know everything, what will be, what was;

no mountain is still miraculous;
and their house and yard lead right up to God.

I want to warn and object: Let the things be!
I enjoy listening to the sound they are making.
But you always touch: and they hush and stand still.
That's how you kill.

The other night I was with friends, chatting. We were (ok I was) talking about politics and apathy and local government (they were staring glassy eyed at the space where I used to be entertaining). I was ranting bleakly about the terrible quagmire of financial chaos and the absence of observed due process, personal/political commitment, morality and values that is your average council.

"The problem is," I declared, waving my beer, "Is that the people who really care are just out there doing it. On the frontline, doing their job every day. The ones at the top can come and go, come and go. There's little responsibility, there's little accountability and it's hard not to feel incredibly, indelibly frustrated with it all."

There was a pause and my two compadres jolted upright again from their zombie slump.

"God! Yeah." There was a pause.

"It's like that everywhere though, Sare, worse in the private sector."

"And where do we go from that statement?" I asked.

It was unfair. I was looking for someone to vent some probably non-political anger on.

"Well, it doesn't matter anyway, does it? The planet's going bust anyway. We're all gonna fry,"
my brother declared.

The others laughed and the conversation went on.

I know that humanity has always lived in the face of one sort of (often self-imposed) threat or another: famine, natural disasters, superbugs, pollution, viruses, etc, but is there something different about accepting that we have - irrevocably, if my friend's jests are to be believed - as a species, ruined the entire planet? Would that mean that there was no point to anything, if it were true?

I've brought that conversation to mind several times since, un- or consciously. I wonder if this implicit sense of hopelessness has taken root somewhere in our collective or cultural psyches. The individualisation (yes, I'm a geek) or atomization of society seems writ large at the moment, wherever I go: we comfort ourselves with our individual dreams, of personal ambition, personal life choices, experiences we must/should have before we die; to a soundtrack of psychobabble in our daily vocabulary (Susan, I don't want to disempower you here, but you're shit); and the endless consumption of things, things - Good God Please Just One More, I must have that Thing - as a form of comfort reflex.

I know, I'm also going through a dark phase right now. Humour me. Do the good things in life: the smiles, the personal touch, the intimacy of a shared reference or joke, love, sex, kissing in the rain, crying in the rain with your best friends, crying at a Neighbours wedding (for different reasons than romance, admittedly: "God! I really thought she wouldn't go through with it!" *sob* and an explosion of laughter); do they become more or less meaningful in this world, now that our capacity for self-destruction seems set to implode?

For me, personally yes, and philosophically, I'm not sure. My biggest question, I suppose, to myself, as ever, is if we accept that we/the planet has no future, what becomes of hope?

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