REBECCA SOLNIT: I wrote a book about hope when the war broke out because I’m a contrarian, for one thing, and because people needed it for another, and I went around talking about hope. And I would often find these kind of affluent middle-aged left wing people would get very, very angry at me. I now jokingly refer to that book as snatching the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left. And, what was really interesting is that they would suggest that being hopeful was insensitive to the plight of oppressed peoples, and I’d be like, “well, the oppressed peoples are really hopeful.” The Zapatistas are all about esperanza. The coalition of Immokalee workers, who are these undocumented farmworkers in Florida who have done the fantastic organizing, and they’ve beat Jack in the Box, and they’ve beat McDonald’s, and their struggles are incredibly hopeful, and I realize that for some people the alternative to these wild hopes is dying hideous deaths of starvation and marginalization. The alternative for comfortable people to hope is comfortable cynicism and more shopping and television.
Hope demands a lot of you; despair and cynicism demand very little. And I think the Zapatistas and the people of Bolivia, et cetera, came very close to being rubbed out and pushed back with vigor but also with profound inspiration, with poetic language, with incredible and contagious vision. And, they are an influence. We do have amazing movements in this country that are very connected to those things. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is here and has a lot of native-born Americans working with them. There’s a lot of that going on, but getting at that comfortable cynicism has been one of the things—seems to be one of my jobs.