I remember that despair is my vanity talking. It is an indulgence in the illusion that what is here and now is inevitable, that the future is written, that we can see how it will unfold. Despair is not about reality, or the world, or even ultimately the people we care about. It is about us. It is the act of allowing our very real sadness and fear to limit our sense of what is possible, about finding safety and comfort in that darkness, about avoiding heartbreak. Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark: “People have always been good at imagining the end of the world, which is much easier to picture than the strange sidelong paths of change in a world without end.” Despair, I think she is saying, is the easy way out.
Despair is also, quite simply, bad politics. By surrendering the fight outwards, despair refocuses us inward. It encourages what I’ve called the politics of powerlessness, marked by navel-gazing, endless process, posturing, and the internal power struggles and call-outs that weaken our organizations and movements. When we don’t believe we can win, we reach instead for the comfort of being surrounded by people who think and talk and look like us, the thrill of being part of the in-group, the small pleasures of being right and pure. In despair there is no need for good strategy, no need for healthy group culture. These are things we only need if we intend to take a real shot at winning. Despair is a self-fulfilling prophecy; it blocks us from taking agency, which makes it all the more likely that our worse fears will come to pass.
Yotam Marom doesn’t publish on his Medium often, but when he does I’m going to tell you to read it.