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19 April 2009 @ 03:08 pm
Harvey Milk  
"I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you... And you... And you... Gotta give em hope." - Harvey Milk

I watched The Times of Harvey Milk today. The documentary ended with the above quote, and all I could think was ... hope isn't the right word. Hope is just this ephemeral bit of nothing that people use as an excuse to deny reality and comfort themselves. Harvey Milk and the gay activists of his time and all civil rights activists of all times did so much more than "give hope": they built bridges that we might walk across them; they built doors into the walls that we might come out of the closet; they built words into the constitution that we might vote.

People of every kind have died building these bridges. Are the bridges still in good use, and maintained? On the one hand, we have a multi-racial president with a black wife. On the other hand, 500 grams of powder cocaine (racial majority of offenders are white) carries the same sentence (mandatory minimum of 5 years) as 5 grams of crack cocaine (racial majority of offenders are black).

"The first step is always hostility, and after that you can sit down and talk about it." - Harvey Milk

That quote is something I'm very much thinking about today.
Douglaschiaspod on April 19th, 2009 10:58 pm (UTC)
"Hope is just this ephemeral bit of nothing that people use as an excuse to deny reality and comfort themselves."

Bullshit. Utter bullshit. This is similar to the annoying pretentions of hipster doofuses that cynicism and/or negativism is realistic, optimism and hope aren't.

Also, check out http://www.talkleft.com/story/2007/12/12/215349/87 . It's an interesting timeline and explanation of the rational on all sides.

Edited at 2009-04-19 11:05 pm (UTC)
Kburgunder on April 19th, 2009 11:12 pm (UTC)
On matters like this, I'm not nearly as interested in reading the content of an article written by someone(s) else as I am in hearing, in your own words, why you disagree with me.

Provide examples.

Let's sit down and talk about it ;>
Kburgunder on April 20th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
My problem with "I hope" is in the context of "I wish". As in I am a human girl but I hope to be a beetle. I wish I was a beetle. That's just putting energy into something that denies reality.

Hope as the acknowledgment of a possibility isn't how I use the word.

This sounds like it's about semantics, but what I'm trying to communicate isn't semantics, it's that thing so many people call hope when what they mean is "I can't deal with reality" / "I need reality to change but am powerless to make that change."

I hope he will love me (he doesn't and won't).
I hope she offers me a job (she can't and won't).
I hope minorities won't be persecuted (they will).
I hope racism ends (it won't).

Milk half says it with "You cannot live on hope alone."

The way I see most people and myself and family in the past use hope - not as the identification of a possibility, but as a way to avoid accepting reality - seems very dangerous to me. I'm all for identifying and acknowledging possibilities - that's a great thing.

In the above scenarios, I guess I want to see something more like:

He doesn't love me, and I can't change that. We will still be friends, but I can only control how I feel.
She can't offer me a job. I'll keep applying to other jobs.
I'm against persecution, so I will be a civil rights activist to improve the situation.
Racism isn't going to end, but I'll do everything in my power to combat it.
autonomic_pilotautonomic_pilot on April 20th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC)
I would suggest the word "Vision" for now...

It implies belief, action, and objectives which can be tested.
Kburgunder on April 20th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
And I'm all good with the identification and acknowledgment of possibility. It's just when people use hope as a justification for denying reality. No.
nplusmnplusm on April 20th, 2009 05:42 am (UTC)
Hope is many things...

It can be an ephemeral thing, but it can also be a reason to risk.

To go to poker, which is something I am acquainted with, it's a series of risks. A good player makes smart risks, a bad player makes poor risks. You take risks because you hope they will pan out...that they will pay dividends.

I put my money in, and I hope to win.

Without hope, there is no reason to risk. Without a reason to risk, there is no reason to sacrifice. Without sacrifice, there are no advancement.

I think the core is in what you hope for.

I hope racism ends completely....sure I do, but it won't.

I hope racism lessens and becomes incidental and isolated...I hope that too, and I believe that can be achieved (and we move that way every day.)

Pandora's box held hope as the bulwark against the ills of the world. It's an interesting metaphor. There was no panocea or soveign specific in the box, there was not bandages and wealth...there was only hope.

It was because within each of us is the power to dispel the ills that beset us, to best them, to vanquish them. It does not promise to be easy, and sometimes we fail, but mankind holds the armory. Hope existed in the box not to save us, but to give us the reason to save ourselves, to give us the impetus to take up arms against a sea of troubles...and by opposing...end them.

Hope can be used as a justification for doing nothing...and just hoping for a better tomorrow....and that is sad.

However, hope can give you the strength in the face overwhelming opposition. It can give you a reason to risk with no promise of a return.

Bah, I have written and rewritten six times...so I'm going to stop.

However, I would like to close with, I think hope IS the right word. I think the people you speak of live on wishes.

I wish he loved me
I wish racism was gone
I wish I had this job

The desire for a genie (metaphorically) to provide. This wishing mentality is asking for reality to change.

Hope is the belief that reality can change, if one is willing to take the risk, make the effort, try...in my opinion

Kburgunder on April 20th, 2009 05:48 am (UTC)
Ok, you've cracked my hard case of Hmph on this subject.

I'm thinking about it.
Deirdreevillinn on April 20th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
Well said, and exactly the point I would have wanted to make, although I'm not sure I'd have done so as clearly as this.

It is, on some level, "just semantics", but when the semantics at hand are tied to the things that make people take important and necessary risks, I think its important to analyze the semantics and make sure we're not dismissing something valuable.
Mistress Vermilion: socio-politicsms_vermilion on April 20th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
"Harvey Milk and the gay activists of his time and all civil rights activists of all times did so much more than "give hope": they built bridges that we might walk across them; they built doors into the walls that we might come out of the closet; they built words into the constitution that we might vote."

True. So why are you fixated on the fact that Milk used a word you don't like? His concept and application of hope clearly did not interfere with political action; it provided part of the emotional framework within which to act.
Kburgunder on April 20th, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
Actually, it was just a tangential observation, the notion of acting versus wishing, but everyone else has taken what I wrote to be a fixation on the nature of hope, so my words aren't quite working for me, heh. It's created some very interesting dialogue, so it's all good.

I guess I felt compelled to include the personal commentary because there are points in my life where I would've misinterpreted the quote - that I wouldn't have heard "carry hope / possibility with you to inspire you to take risks and take action" (concrete) but instead "wish for change" (ephemeral).

The former: inspiration to everyone (build bridges! take action!).
The latter: bah.

I wanted to pinpoint and underline the former. Somehow this didn't come out right, though.
Mistress Vermilion: socio-politicsms_vermilion on April 20th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
I agree with you that hope as in "wish" isn't terribly useful as a concept and that an expression of the idea of hope can be misconstrued as such even when it's not intended to be.

I think that it's always best to take anyone's quote about hope (or anything else) within the context of the rest of the person's life and work and ideas. I can see how an expression of hope can seem defeatist, but in this case it's just a little snippet out of a broader context.