“While we are unable to transform this world overnight, we can take important steps to change it, to solve its problems, lift its oppression, and minimize the many applications of violence” (Sharp, 2005, p. 1).
I teach nonviolence, peace studies, conflict resolution, environmental connections of resources to violence, peace journalism, and a few other courses from time to time. Part of this teaching is to look frankly and full frontally at the problems. This often has the unintended but sadly anticipated effect of shattering ideals and hopes. Looking at the US history of invasions and exploitation can erode a student's faith in the nation. Understanding the overwhelmingly destructive results of our massive war system can make a student nearly paralyzed.
That's when I fight back against hopelessness. It is not an option. It is a duty. And it is realistic.
- Without hope, we are inactive.
- Without hope, we see no point in doing the right thing.
- Without hope, we teach our children poor ethics.
- Without hope, we fail to do our most minimal share.
- Without hope, we doom our species and harm others.
We have no realistic option except to hope. Hope motivates us. Hope recruits. Hope, even in the face of the overwhelming appearance of loss and destruction, is what gives us our only chance for success. If we don't owe that to ourselves, we owe it to both our children and our ancestors. Hope is not something we wait for; we make a decision to hope.
This is why books about nonviolent success are so vital. They are all stories of winning despite overwhelming odds. They are true case studies of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Gene Sharp was the first one to seriously start to research, gather, present and analyze these cases of nonviolent success and that is why he is the grandfather of the study of nonviolence. Reading his opus, Waging nonviolent struggle, is learning why hope is both possible and required.
Get his book. Read it and weep. Read it and learn. Read it and see how and why hope is at the heart of this method of struggle, the real hope for humankind. It is impossible to logically lose hope in this moment of Arab Spring and Occupy uprisings, both phenomena now accounting for victories great and small, and both holding great promise and huge hope.
Sharp, Gene (2005). Waging nonviolent struggle: 20th century practice and 21st century potential. Boston: Extending Horizon Books.