2013: Hope or Despair?
By Charles Eisenstein / charleseisenstein.net

Things are getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster simultaneously.”
– Tom Atlee

Was the year 2013 a cause for hope or a cause for despair? Were the positive developments signs that the world is turning the corner? Or were they delusionary exceptions to the downward spiral into tyranny and ecocide?

The case for pessimism is hard to refute. We have the good news, like outbreaks of people power in Turkey, in Brazil, in Thailand and the Ukraine, juxtaposed against the collossal disappointment of the Arab Spring to bring economic, social, or political justice to the Mideast, as Egypt slips back into dictatorship, Bahrain further into autocracy, and Libya into chaos.

We have the good news – for the first time, solar and wind power have reached grid parity with fossil fuels – paired with record demand for oil and the vast expansion of fracking and tar sands exploitation, as CO2 levels topped 400 ppm for the first time and the Warsaw climate talks imploded.

We have a rennaissance of cooperative economics in southern Europe, even as austerity deepens, youth unemployment hovers near 50%, pensions are cut, and professionals flee.

We have a rennaissance of cooperative economics in southern Europe, even as austerity deepens, youth unemployment hovers near 50%, pensions are cut, and professionals flee.

In the United States, the moribund labor movement shows signs of life with strikes at Wal-Mart and McDonalds, while at the top of the pyramid, the rich get richer and Wall Street perpetrates on even greater scale the same kinds of abuses that precipitated the 2008 crisis.

Uruguay, Colorado, and Washington state legalized marijuana in 2013, yet the militarization of police forces reached new levels. Edward Snowden exposed the surveillance state to the public, yet the capability of governments to monitor people continued to grow.

Sometimes the positive developments look like pinpricks of light under a blanket of darkness.

Sometimes the positive developments look like pinpricks of light under a blanket of darkness. The points of light are tiny in comparison to the injustice and the ecocide. Let us not delude ourselves: Nothing substantive has really changed. The environment continues to degrade. The ocean grows more acidic. Drought spreads across the globe. Life dwindles in the oceans. Military spending increases the world over. Fukushima keeps leaking. Concentration of wealth intensifies.

The points of light, however, are not merely temporary exceptions to a negative trend, isolated bits of good news. Many of them signify a deep and ongoing tectonic shift in the psychic and ideological foundations of our culture that, while it has yet to substantially manifest in our systems and institutions, portends vast, nearly unimaginable changes in coming decades. That is why, unreasonably, these pinpricks of light inspire such hope within us.

Here are a few examples. Cannibis legalization might seem a drop in the bucket compared to the vast systemic injustice that pervades the United States and the world, but here is what it portends: (1) the demise of the ecologically destructive cotton and wood pulp monopoly for fiber and paper, as industrial hemp comes back; (2) the social acceptance of altered states of consciousness that, unlike those offered by caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, tend to accompany withdrawal from a violence-based, hurried, linear, machine society; (3) the acceptance of herbal medicine – cannabis, the first herb in a century to enjoy widespread medical use, might be a “gateway herb” at a time when conventional medicine is failing to address so many chronic conditions.

Second, consider marriage equality for gay people. The cynic might doubt whether this victory for a relatively privileged group of North Americans, with no disruption to business as usual, really deserves so much more attention than, say, ending human trafficking or sweatshop labor or water privatization or predatory lending. It is no accident, say the cynics, that the powers-that-be have channeled reformist energy into this relatively innocuous arena. I beg to differ, because gay rights is an outcropping of a deeper vein of principle that holds all human beings equally deserving of every right. Social acceptance of gay marriage marks a momentous retreat from the “othering” of people who are different from oneself – and this othering is the basis of war, punishment-based “justice,” discrimination, and to a large degree, economic exploitation.

A final example: For the first time I can remember, in 2013 public pressure averted American involvement in a war (Syria); it also reversed the trajectory to war with Iran. Insignificant, perhaps, in the context of unabated drone strikes, conflict in Afghanistan, and military bases around the globe, but rather than see Syria as an exception that proves the rule, we might see it as the start of a new trend. It foretells the end of the age of conquering the enemy, a time in which we know we are, as the Black Eyed Peas song puts it, “one tribe, one world, one people.”

Could we be seeing the next stage in the obsolescence of war, that began when the hydrogen bomb made total war between the great powers unthinkable? Could it be that the ecological crisis is making concepts of “America’s adversaries” ring hollow and obsolete? Could it be, as the $15 minimum wage movement and European unconditional basic income movement suggest, that we are beginning to assert the right of every person to be free of material want? Could it be that the rights of nature, as written into law in Ecuador and Bolivia and the subject of Europe’s ecocide initiative, are becoming as self-evident as the rights of man?

Of course, none of these possibilities are original to the year 2013. My point in illuminating them is that we treat these positive developments as harbingers of the future, and stand firmly in the energy of their possibility. They are not distractions from despair’s version of reality; they are heralds of a more beautiful world. As we move into 2014, let us ask, If these are possible, what else is possible?

4.3 ·
2
What's Next
Trending Today
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 9,937 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited 'Fake News' Blacklist?
Adam Johnson · 6,250 views today · The Washington Post (11/24/16) last week published a front-page blockbuster that quickly went viral: Russia-promoted “fake news” had infiltrated the newsfeeds of 213 million...
The Orwellian War on Skepticism
Robert Parry · 4,908 views today · Official Washington’s rush into an Orwellian future is well underway as political and media bigwigs move to silence Internet voices of independence and dissent, reports Robert...
Where Do You Draw the Line? (2016)
60 min · 3,858 views today · Why is the Ecuadorian government proposing to extract oil in an area frequently classified by ecologists as one of the most bio-diverse rainforest regions left intact on earth?...
Projext X: Using Leaked Documents to Reveal the NSA's New York Spy Hub, Hidden in Plain Sight
10 min · 3,060 views today · A top-secret handbook takes viewers on an undercover journey to Titanpointe, the site of a hidden partnership. Narrated by Rami Malek and Michelle Williams, and based on...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 3,048 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Social Media Echo Chambers: Here's How Most of Us are Living in One
2 min · 2,941 views today · Americans are blocking out the friends and news sites that won't confirm their views.
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,500 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,979 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Twelve Things To Remember After The US Election, From Front Line Organizers
Bill Quigley · 1,525 views today · When you find yourself in a suddenly darkened room, what do you do?   Some rush blindly to where they think the door might be.  Others stand still, let their eyes get...
Law Professor's Epic Response to Black Lives Matter Shirt Complaint
Social Design Notes · 1,363 views today · A first year law school student wrote a complaint about her professor having worn a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during class. The professor’s response is priceless. Scans of...
This Short Film Plays Out Like an Epic Movie That Will Shake Your Soul - But the Movie Is Real, and We are The Actors
6 min · 1,325 views today · For next year, we need a resolution capable of confronting the crisis we face, and making a future worth fighting for. This short film looks back on the crisis and confusion...
Why We Need Big Picture Activism
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 1,108 views today · Despite the countless grassroots projects already under way, the global economic juggernaut can seem too powerful to stop. But because more and more of us are becoming aware of...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 973 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 939 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
How a Land High in the Western Himalayas Can Help Us Understand The Crisis of The Modern World
9 min · 583 views today · This is a clip from The Economics of Happiness. Watch it here. It's a brilliant film that was easy to put at the top of our list of the top 100 documentaries we can use to...
The Daily Show's Trevor Noah Talks With Conservative Host Tomi Lahren
14 min · 464 views today · "Tomi" host Tomi Lahren gives her take on the Black Lives Matter movement and explains why she lashed out against Colin Kaepernick for his national anthem protest.
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 460 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
The 6 Grand Illusions That Keep Us Enslaved
Sigmund Fraud · 440 views today · For a magician to fool his audience his deceit must go unseen, and to this end he crafts an illusion to avert attention from reality. While the audience is entranced, the...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 387 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
2013: Hope or Despair?