Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Futility of Hope (or Hoping For Change)

This article was originally published at on Feb. 2nd, 2009

"Be the change that you want to see in the world."
Mohandas Ghandi

I was discussing recent events with my mom the other day and she told me not to worry about my unemployment situation, that 2009 was going to be a year of "change." Now, I love my mother dearly, but the problems with that statement are just too numerous to count. The word change and the concept of change are so nebulous, so ambiguous, that every English speaking individual in this world likely carries with him a different interpretation of the word. When these words were uttered by my mom, however, one thing became instantly obvious to me. She had fallen for the propagandistic rhetoric of last season´s political campaigns like so many other Americans.

So, why shouldn´t I worry about change? Change can be good or bad and I do worry when I lose my job and have to start depending on the state for my income, especially when that income is half or what I´m used to. That does not seem to me to be good change. Now had I been offered a higher paying position or had I been given a raise, that would have been change I could live with. Anyway, I do my best to try not to worry and to have faith that everything happens for the best, but it can be difficult at times. Sometimes it just seems natural to worry, especially when there´s little else that can be done. I hope and pray that despite the economy something comes along and someone wants to hire me to do something. I hope to get a callback from one of the applications I have filled out.

But I digress. It is easy to think of such things after a conversation has taken place. At the time I was speaking to my mother, I said something like "Everything´s always changing. That´s the nature of the world. Change is the one constant." Something like that. That´s how I am. During a conversation, I don´t always give full weight and credence to the meaning and purpose behind the statement the other has made. I tend to focus on some word or aspect of that statement instead and take the conversation in a direction the other never meant it to go. It is a tendency I think I share with many other people. In any case, the whole "change" thing has bothered me for a long time now because of its amorphous nature and the fact that change is inevitable no matter what is happening or who is in office. Change is something that, unless it is clearly defined, can be extremely uplifting, or horrifyingly catastrophic.

So my mother went on and said something like "That´s not what I meant. This time it´s going to be different. It´s going to get better." Or something like that. Now, I realize my mother was just being hopeful. I understand that she just wanted to help relieve my worry and doubt as to my situation. I also understand that she desires to see the world in a better place where abundance is prevalent. I do too. Most everyone does. But at the same time one has to take stock of the current reality. Things look pretty bleak. The economy´s tanking, the nation´s indebtedness is unfathomable, and the police state seems to grow more intrusive and ominous with each passing day. The only change I see happening is more people growing more dependent on government handouts and less dependent on their selves. It´s a tough cycle to break free of.

So I told my mother something like "It sounds to me like you´ve been listening to the political hype everyone´s been spouting lately."

Now my mom is getting up there in years. She grew up during the depression. She is a member of what some people might call "the greatest generation." She, and my father, have been through a lot in their lifetimes as have many of their contemporaries. But, despite that, they are perhaps also the most indoctrinated generation. They never really learned to question authority as should be done, perhaps because outside fascist and dictatorial threats were so great and so real that it seemed obedience to the state was the only course of action that could keep the wolves from the door, so to speak. Perhaps this helped blind them to the threats they had already allowed into the home.

She answered me by referencing our current president. She pointed out to me that he was already changing things for the better, that he was planning on closing down the prison at Guantanamo Bay and that he was planning on pulling the troops out of Iraq. While I admitted that these things were steps toward the right direction, I explained to her that Barack Obama was a politician and therefore very good at obfuscating his real agenda and making himself look and sound good to the average person who only pays attention to the surface and doesn´t care to look beneath the glimmering waves. I neglected to tell her that the mainstream media, where she gets most of her information from, hasn´t really done its job in terms of exposing breaches of public trust for decades.

I pointed out that, for instance, in his recent interview with George Stephanopoulos he claims he will make certain that our military will not engage in torture, but he did not specify that he would order the CIA to stop torturing suspects. Torture is, after all, mostly the purview of the CIA and not the military. I also pointed out that while Mr. Obama plans on drawing down the troops in Iraq, he also plans on moving those troops into Afghanistan. Furthermore, he plans on keeping troops in Iraq as a permanent occupation force, I´ve heard as many as 40,000. He´s also expressed a willingness to go into Pakistan if he feels it´s necessary, and he hasn´t been too specific on what constitutes "necessary." He seems to wish to continue to build an ever bigger empire and ever bigger government.

I wanted to go on and tell my mom that Mr. Obama´s proposed economic changes and social engineering programs were steps in the wrong direction. I wanted to explain to her that the nation was already very deep in debt and going deeper into debt was no way to improve the economy. We would do better as a nation to start cutting expenditures. We would do better if the government would shrink and allow free and open markets to operate on honest footing. We would do better if competition was allowed to exist where government monopolies have taken over and to allow people to choose which services they want to pay for rather than being forced to pay in the form of taxes for government services they won´t necessarily use. I wanted to say these things, but I never got the chance.

"Szandor, stop," my mother said. "I don´t want to hear it. I want to think that things are going to change for the better."

So, the truth came out. My mother wasn´t interested in reality. Reality was a little rough around the edges and she wants to hope that the edges will soon be smoothed out. She wants to hope that this one man, this new "leader" of ours, is more than just a good orator and has some knowledge of how to fix the economy, some magic bullet that will make everything about our financial system, our foreign entanglements and the infringement on our civil liberties right again. I´d like to hope so too. It would make life so much easier for all of us if suddenly government was to stop being so intrusive and start staying out of our way. I just honestly don´t think that´s going to happen. I don´t think Mr. Obama´s policy changes that he plans on instituting have any substance. I hope I´m wrong, but that´s only hope.

I think most of us have high hopes for the current administration, especially considering the blatant abuses of power the past administration engaged in. But hope is a funny thing, it is different for many people. Some people hope for a market recovery. Some people hope for more federal aid. Others hope for further bailouts. Still others, like me, hope for the establishment of freedom in this nation and an end to the restrictive environments created by federal regulation in both the business world and in the private lives of the citizenry. But hope in and of itself is futile. While you are standing by idly hoping for a particular outcome, there is a good chance someone is actively seeking to enact legislation contrary to your hopes. Hope all you want, there´s a better chance those taking action will get the outcome they want.

The time to sit back like couch potato school children watching their favorite cartoons has ended. Merely hoping for the type of change you want to see occur will do nothing to create that change. Action is required. The form that action takes is up to the individual. Protest. Write blogs. Boycott products that support things you disagree with. Film cops abusing their power. Join groups that agree with your point of view. Do something to get involved. Let your voice be heard in some fashion. Let those in power know you expect them to enact the change you want, that you are going to see to it they keep their word and that their campaign rhetoric was not just empty promises. That is how one becomes the change. Your silence is the complicity those in power seek, for with it they do as they please and often dash your hopes in the process.

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