by Guy McPherson and Pauline Schneider
The ongoing, seemingly endless cries for hope indicate we have entered desperate times. After all, hope is a mistake and a lie. Clinging to hope is a mistake, and promulgating hope is a lie.
We have pointed out repeatedly in this space that hope is a mistake. Hope is wishful thinking that assumes a positive future without supporting evidence. Hope and fear are the twin sides of the same coin, and the coin assumes others will fix whatever is broken. Sadly, there is no “fix” for the predicament known as abrupt, irreversible climate change.
I (GM) prefer action over hope or fear, so I take action. From my days as a homesteader, a project initiated in 2007, I have taken radical actions that might have mattered with respect to slowing or stopping abrupt climate change and the Sixth Mass Extinction had they been pursued by many people decades before I naively started. I have been routinely disparaged for these actions, and they were followed far too late and by too few people to make a difference. Thus do we find Homo sapiens embroiled within the Sixth Mass Extinction triggered by abrupt climate change.
Hope is not only a mistake. Hope is also a lie. Consistent with many of the lies we have been told, we have accepted the lie of hope for so long we no longer recognize it as a lie. As victims of industrial civilization, we prefer the comfortable lie to the bitter truth. We love our comforts, and the lie of hope makes us better able to “fit in” with the majority of other members within our diseased society.
To hope is to believe in a favorable future. It is based on faith. Faith requires no evidence. Indeed, evidence generally interferes with faith: witness the spiritually religious among us.
The faith-based junk science known as belief in a favorable future (i.e., hope) presents significant impediments to a rational approach, as pointed out in the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Science. For example, according to the senior author of the peer-reviewed paper, “belief in a favorable future may diminish the likelihood that people will take action to ensure that the favorable future becomes reality.” In short, the evidence indicates hope, like fear, is a terrible idea.
If you are forced to choose between hope and fear, I suspect you know which of the two is more likely to inspire rapid, radical action. The Manhattan Project during World War II serves as an example.
When the infamous 300 of Sparta faced off against the thousands of Persians at the Hotgates/Thermopylae, they knew there was no hope. The Spartans said their goodbyes to their comrades, families, and lovers and took action. They were not going down without a fight, without hurting the invaders before their ill-gotten victory. These 300 Spartans knew there was no escape for them. They knew it was very unlikely the Athenians would show up to support them. They knew their number was up, that their wives, children, and lands would be pillaged and raped. And yet, despite what we hear in current mainstream media about hope being the ideal approach, versus accepting the inevitable outcome of being doomed, or the tripe that denying people hope kills one’s sense of agency, which is not only a bald-face lie, but has been proven wrong in scientific research, these 300 Spartans fought to the very last and gave the Persians a day to remember. They gave us all a day to remember, along with the deepest understanding that hope is not necessary to fight tooth-and-nail to one’s last breath, to the last standing man or woman. Hope is a waste of time at the edge of extinction.
The Israelite residents of Masada also knew hope was a lie. They had no doubt that their lifestyle, customs, and lives would be destroyed when the Romans arrived. The Romans were good at creating slave labor and reducing entire, proud nations down to scullery levels. The Roman reputation of subsuming entire cultures into the murderous, Roman civilization preceded it. The Israelites were not going down without a fight, albeit a different kind of fight. They removed themselves from their inevitable destiny of being reduced to mere human resources for the Romans. They committed mass suicide, an act of pure heroism and courage and of spitting in the face of unimpeachable odds. They rejected hope as a fool’s option and seized action as their antidote to despair.
Moving ahead a few centuries, most of us know how positivity worked for the French Revolutionaries. They did not have a festival to celebrate how cool it would be for the rich aristocrats to share their wealth, and they did not perform street theater about their wishes. They did not write funny songs to bring smiles to people’s faces. They recognized they were screwed if they did nothing and that they therefore had nothing to lose. So they took what they needed by force, not with pretty speeches or petitions. Not with begging each other to be peaceful or hopeful, but demanding everyone fight for what was decent and necessary. There was blood and no hope, and they won.
Hope is a lie, a mistaken dream, or a wish for a different outcome. Hope betrays the warrior within us and embraces complacency that a deus ex machina will arrive to rescue us. Hope sees us waiting, lost in a dream of our own invention, hands clasped in prayer and longing, immobilized and impotent, incapable of true action or genuine thought.
News flash! There is no superman coming. There is no god coming. There are no aliens coming. There is no planet X coming back around to set things straight. This is it. We are it. We are our own heroes, and our own mass murderers. We can accept the cold, hard truth like the Spartans did and stand fiercely against what comes, or we can daydream away our last days with hope in the form of “fix-it” rubbish such as Transition Towns, permaculture, veganism, praying, being positive, or blaming politicians. Abrupt climate change is here, the aerosol masking effect is here, the methane bomb has gone off, there is no way to escape this jewel of a planet that we turned into a prison and a death trap for all our non-human relatives.
Put your hope where it belongs, in the dustbin of terrible ideas, and face the future with courage, love, and a sense of being present. We can act as those 300 Spartans did, digging their sun-kissed heels hard into the Earth that bore them and that would presently take their lifeblood back. Every breeze that touched their burning flesh was a kiss, the sun upon their helmets was a warm caress, the weight of their steel in their hands a comforting and familiar heft, the sound of their brother’s breathing at their sides and their deep voices a balm upon their ears. Every last breath and sight and sound was a treasure to remember as long as there was life in their bones. They could live fully, honestly, with good character even as life was taken from them. They had no hope and they were the best humans they had ever been.
Sadly, the idea of hope has been imposed upon this culture as a necessity to our wellbeing. Hope has been deemed unimpeachably good. Perhaps this is because hope is imperative if the masses are to be kept in their corral. Even exploiting hope-filled youngsters such Greta Thunberg in December 2018 to keep the house of cards intact, more or less, is nothing new (the same trick was played on us using Severn Cullis-Suzuki in December 1992).
It ought to come as no surprise that hope has become a religion as powerful as Catholicism during the Crusades. After all, there is nothing to be done about abrupt, irreversible climate change except keep the show going for as long as money can buy pleasure. Promulgating hope is part of the show for which we inherited a front-row seat.
We are not suggesting you give up on hope. After all, we learn from our mistakes. As teachers, we would hate to interfere with your educational process.
The living planet is in the fourth and final stage of a terminal disease. Hope will not stave off the Sixth Mass Extinction. Hope will neither slow nor stop human extinction. It is long past time we admitted hospice is the appropriate way forward.
Recently published: McPherson, Guy R. 2019. Only Love Remains: Dancing at the Edge of Extinction. Woodthrush Productions, New York.
McPherson, Guy R. 2019. Revised Second edition of Going Dark. Woodthrush Productions, New York.
Pauline Panagiotou Schneider and Guy R. McPherson. 2018. Revised Second Edition of Ms. Ladybug and Mr. Honeybee: A Love Story at the End of Time. Woodthrush Productions, New York.
McPherson, Guy R. 2019. Revised Second edition of Walking Away from Empire: A Personal Journey. Woodthrush Productions, New York.
Mugs, tote bags, iPhone cases, tee shirts, and other pragmatic goods affiliated with the book are available here. I do not earn money from these items. Indeed, they have returned far less money than it cost to create and distribute them. I list them at the bottom of posts in this space in support of my artistically inclined partner, who created them.