Welcome to Rebel Steps Season 2. Working in bigger groups presents some new challenges. How do you care for each other and protect each other in the midst of political struggle? How do you lift up the voices of everyone in your group? How do you work through the inevitable disagreements?
Welcome to Rebel Steps, Season 2. I’m your host, Liz
Since our first season, resistance movements has had some wins. In the US, the second unite the right rally in August 2018 was a disaster and highlighted how successful antifa movements have been. A wave of anti-borders actions launched by grassroots organizations in June 2018 made “Abolish Ice” a popular idea in mainstream culture. The J20 defendants were acquitted after tireless legal support.
Internationally, the past few months have been full of inspiring upheavals. In Chile, a fare hike sparked an uprising. In Hong Kong, China’s decision to extradite prisoners to the mainland triggered months of massive, creative protests. In Lebanon, demonstrations broke out after a potential tax of the messaging service WhatsApp was announced. All of these situations are still developing and there are even more uprisings happening around the globe as I record this.
All this news provides solid ground for optimism. And I do feel optimistic reading about these inspiring movements around the world.
But still, it’s hard to see the impact of the day to day work that goes into being politically active. It feels like I’m taking tiny steps when we need big leaps. And, for me personally, I’ve been getting discouraged.
When I got involved after the 2016 election, I felt really excited. I felt like we just needed to focus and we could get history back on track. Rebel Steps season 1 was inspired by that experience.
But as my political journey has continued, it’s become clear that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Trump’s election was a symptom of deep systemic issues, and there’s no quick fix for those. No impeachment process can undo the long-standing economic inequality that keeps so many of us scrambling to get by. No new administration, even a progressive one, can re-write our history of racism and colonialism. I thought I was signing up for an emergency intervention, but really, I was signing up for something much bigger and long term. I was signing up for a fight for a better world.
Beginning to understand these goals has only complicated taking action. It’s difficult to know what is going to move us forward.
And with a goal that often feels unattainable and no road map to get there, it’s easy for anyone to get discouraged. So to start this season off, I want to talk about hope.
Hope may seem naive to many of us. I think part of the reason for that is hope can be used to defend being passive. The adage “one can only hope” doesn’t imply action, it suggests something like wishful thinking. But hope can be very gritty and real.
Rebecca Solnit’s book Hope in the Dark presents hope as foundational to action. She writes “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.” She continues, “When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes… Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists.”
It’s difficult to maintain the outlook that we can change the future, even just in small ways. But, if we don’t think we can create a better future at all, then why are we doing this work to begin with?
It can be difficult to hope when the problems we’re facing feel insurmountable as individuals. We look around and think, what could one person do? There is truth to this fear that we as individuals can’t do it. But the answer is not to quit or succumb to nihilism, but to realize we have to do this together. We need movements, not just individuals, to champion a better future. Realizing that we’re not alone in the struggle is the key to staying hopeful.
With that in mind, this season is about the ways people can work together to make change.
That isn’t always simple. Rebel Steps Season 1 outlined some ways an individual can get started. And while ultimately movements are made up of individuals acting together, working in bigger groups presents some new challenges. How do you care for each other and protect each other in the midst of political struggle? How do you lift up the voices of everyone in your group? How do you work through the inevitable disagreements? All of these questions have complicated answers that I’ll be exploring.
Just like last season, I return to Paolo Freire’s quote “What can we do today so that we can do tomorrow what we cannot do today?” But this time with the realization that building our capacity will necessarily happen alongside others.
Find Rebel Steps on Spotify, Itunes, or wherever you get your podcasts and check us out on Twitter or Patreon. Look for season 2 starting in January 2020.
You’ve been listening to Rebel Steps. I’m your host, Liz. Believe in yourself, trust another, and get organized.