Hope is Our Enemy: Fighting Boiling Frog Syndrome  

I caught myself feeling optimistic the other day. I had just read another great internet column by Caitlin Johnstone, who has deservedly gathered a huge following in recent months with her series on the utter batshit insanity of Rachel Maddow and other Hillaroids who are following MSNBC down the New McCarthy Highway of Demon-Putinism. In this particular piece, the always entertaining Ms J was pushing some serious positive news which we all desperately need: alternative media is making substantial progress against the official narrative from the presstitute Mainstream Corporate Media World of Propaganda – and not only corporate, because here in the European Union the public media are right there on board with the Evil Russia Narrative, condemning all who question EU-NATO Neoliberalism as “populists” who represent a terrible threat to Democracy with a capital D. In Germany, in particular, there is a great deal of confusion about the meaning of the D-word, which is very loosely thrown about here as a perceived synonym for the Rule of Law.

As I subsequently commented in a Facebook Post: ‘In 2016 Obama visited Berlin and made a joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in which, in very worried tones, he criticized “Fake News” and said — in so many words — that if people take information on the internet just as seriously as the presstitute mainstream media (which he strongly implied has much greater credibility), then we are all in trouble because, as he put it, that “makes it very difficult to govern”. Merkel gave her patented pouty-jowly frown and nodded sagely. That was a very happy day for me. I knew then that we are making progress against the machine. It was an admission from the elites that, if they cannot control the flow of information, their agenda is at risk. For a positive plan, see my post today of the Caitlin Johnstone piece “How to Fight the Establishment Propaganda Machine and Win”.’ (from 11 May).

And, after the last 20 years or so, many of us who stay informed about political and scientific developments, about hard facts beneath the superficial surface layer which is presented by corporate and government-controlled media, are understandably desperate for any ray of hope. I am regularly accused of being a prophet of doom and putting far too bleak a spin on this planet’s future, although it is my practice to attach credible documentation to most such oracular pronouncements. Some “folks” (thanks Barack) appear to believe that I take great pleasure in painting images of impending catastrophe, like some atheist old hippie version of one of those street preachers we used to see in my Tennessee youth wearing a hand-painted sign warning of eternal hellfire if one did not come to JEEEEEzus, all the while shouting dire remonstrations at passers-by – most of whom, in East Tennessee in those days, were already conservative Christians anyway. It’s hard for me to avoid the conclusion that a great many people are not very interested in checking out any of my documentation, any more than we stopped to listen to those street preachers back then, and that includes ostensible “progressives” who generally agree with me about the broad outlines of the make-up of any desirable future sociopolitical order … should we be fortunate enough to have one. No-siree, most people definitely do not want to be convinced that it is 1 minute to midnight on the old Anthropocene Clock.

They want Hope.

And reading Ms Johnstone’s column, which was full of a we-can-do-this encouraging spirit, made me realize how badly I want some of that stuff too. I smiled and felt validated in some ways; validated for telling people repeatedly in recent years that what we do with the internet distribution of political truth represents much more than just “Bitching On Facebook”, to use a term which has been thrown in my face a number of times, usually by people who don’t like to be told that Lesser Evil Voting makes them complicit in the destruction of the environment, the mass murder of people in US-NATO war zones around the world, and the cancerous growth of the worldwide police-surveillance state.

But pretty quickly, I came to my senses again and, while recommending in writing the tonic qualities of the skillful Johnstonian wordsmithing and the indubitable truth of her well-argued arguments and cheerful cheerleading to those who persist in reading my stuff in spite of its occasional resemblance to a verbal disaster film, I gave myself a good psychological slap in the face and settled back into my default mode of hopelessness. Let me explain why.

To put it very simply, hope makes things worse. Hope got us where we are today. Which is a very, very dangerous place. If we want to eventually have some hope about this planet’s future which is based on anything other than extreme self-deception, we need to admit that things look pretty fucking grim and hopeless.

There is no time left to build political movements slowly and patiently. I know there is probably not a single climate-change-denier reading this (since Cockburn is no longer with us), but I’m pretty sure it will be read by some people who think the Paris Accords offer real hope for saving the environment (for example). I am here to tell those of you in that group right now: You have your head deep in the sand. Even the most cursory open-minded review of the latest widespread scientific evidence, findings, and consensus on current environmental developments will leave little room for doubt to anyone not blinded by hope. We do not have fifty years to get our shit together. We may not even have twenty.

But in the most recent election, day after day for two years, I found myself feeling like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day”, watching in stunned, shocked disbelief as the same brain-numbing bullshit justifications for voting for ecocidal Orwellian mass murderers were trotted out again, word for word, exactly as I have heard them in every election since the Vietnam War made me begin to pay attention to politics.

What would it take? What would have to happen before these people would admit that voting for Democrats because “the Republicans are worse” has for 60 years brought only miniscule, isolated bits of anything one could conceivably call positive change, while simultaneously accelerating our rapid course in the direction of the abyss? Would nuclear war have that effect, perhaps? If Manhattan and Miami were to disappear under water before the next election, might those Lesser Evil Voters then consider abandoning their Democrats, instead of saying that if the Republicans win, the water will soon reach the Smoky Mountains? If enough plastic were to accumulate in the Atlantic that it became possible to walk from Virginia Beach to Lisbon, would we all finally agree that perhaps this please-give-us-jobs-and-we’ll-be-good shit is not working anymore?

For those who continue to assert that things are not that bad, that this is an unnecessarily gloomy outlook, because it makes them feel unbearable fear about their children’s future, because it makes it impossible for them to kick back and “chill out” properly with all of the wonderful little hypnotic gadgets around which our often mindless lives revolve these days, because their personal comfort level tells them that things are in fact quite good, because they think some wise omnipotent invisible being is actually in control of our fate and all of this is just a “test” of some kind and it’s not really up to us at all, or for whatever silly goddamned reason or reasons

It is your hope which makes things hopeless.

Only when we admit that we are racing toward a bottomless pit with the rest of the lemming herd, when we find the courage to reject the superficial comforts and distractions with which our owners lull us into submission, because we know it is this world of comfortable illusion that has robbed us of our future, and when we realize that it is those very owners for whom many of us continue to vote who have doomed us, will we deserve to be described, not as “hopeless”, but as “conscious”.

Some of us may think that, if it is too late already to save the human race, and save all life on this planet – half of all life forms on Earth may be extinct by 2050, according to some predictions – then why not just enjoy the time we have left, and stop fighting?

I sometimes wish for that blissful oblivion, that waking sleep, that creeping death of the boiling frog. But when I think about it a bit, that strikes me as being the most abject and cowardly way to die imaginable. We may not win. But can we please fight? Can we at least adopt as our totem some animal with a bit more perspicacity and nobility than that hapless amphibian?

Gregory Barrett is a translator and musician living in Germany. He is also a featured columnist in the Anglo-Indian magazine Socialist Factor.