Creating Your Own Hope Via Collective Action

I spent the entire fourth of July watching a charity stream hosted by my favorite podcast, Friends at the Table, as they raised money for the National Network of Abortion Funds. Over the course of two days of streaming, 10 hours on July 3rd and almost 12 hours on July 4th, they raised over $160,000. It was amazing to watch on both days as the numbers slowly (and sometimes incredibly quickly) ticked ever upward as the dual promise of supporting a worthy cause and unlocking the various goals pushed people to donate. The world would be a better place if charity drives like this one weren’t necessary, but we don’t live in that world. We live in one slowly falling apart due to corruption, extreme wealth disparity, rampant capitalism, the powerful’s open hatred of anyone who isn’t a cisgendered white man, and reactionary politics. It’s difficult to feel hope these days, especially given that I live in the most gerrymandered state in the US, so I’m not sure I can say I live in anything even close to a democracy without lying to myself. But as I watched some wonderful entertainers play games, goof around, and do a solid twelve hours of streaming (with a few reasonable breaks, of course) while the people watching (myself included) smashed through every fundraising goal these entertainers put in front of us, I can’t deny the spark of hope that ignited within me.

Now, I don’t think this one stream has fixed everything. It got a great deal of money to a cause that definitely needs it right now, but this is a reaction to a loss of rights that is meant to be one of many steps toward mitigating that loss. It is one small moment in the long process of change. An important step, as all the steps are, but one step. It is difficult to find joy in this moment of connection and positive collective action when I know there is so much more out there that needs doing, but I’m trying my best to enjoy it. I’m enthusiastically gushing about it to my friends, bragging about the work the entertainers have done (because twenty-two hours of streaming over two days is no easy feat), working to spread word of their creations on the only social media platforms I still use, and reminding myself that it is not only okay but excellent to enjoy any victory in an endeavor like this one. These smaller victories will sustain us as we pursue the larger ones.

I don’t know what the future will bring. I’m not sure that there’s even anything anyone in my state can do to change the reactionary and facist course of my state-wide government. I don’t even know if anyone leading the US cares enough about what is happening to do anything to stop it and as days pass without any meaningful messaging beyond “Vote in November” coming from those who supposedly oppose the erosion of human rights in my country, I get more and more doubtful. After all, they’re all so old. In one or two more decades, most of them will have passed away and those who remain alive will have to deal with their failures. After all, the favorite byline of the Democratics and the liberals who so closely support them always seems to amount to “the next generation and their activism will save us.”

What I do know is that we can act. A little bit every day adds up if you do it for enough days in a row. A little bit of effort can become a wave of change if enough people work together. Collective action is the only salvation we have remaining to us, now that older generations and our political representatives have seemingly abidcated their responsibility to our well-being and our desires (as illustrated by how popular opinion differs so greatly from what legislation gets considered and pased in the US). It can be exhausting to attempt both finding a way to maintain your life as a person in the world right now and working with whatever organization already exists to work toward a better future, but the other option is to let this decline continue in the hopes that future generations will fix things (which seems to be what the Democratic Party’s leadership is doing despite not giving any of those future generations the support they need to make change start happening now). In case it isn’t clear to you yet, if you think letting future generations solve the problems you are giving up on is a good idea, you can go fuck yourself.

We all need to act now. All of us. We need to unite, to set aside exclusionary language, to accept that the work to solve the problems or address the needs of other groups of people doesn’t erase us, to stop the constant in-fighting so that we can work together to topple the unjust systems that seek to separate and oppress us all. Collective action works. Every little trickle of water is needed to create a mighty stream. The only hope we can find right now might be the hope we make for ourselves, but we need to keep that up. Take breaks when you need it, make sure you can stay in for the long haul, and let’s get to work.

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