Why Hope Wins, in the long run

So, I was asked to touch on this topic by a friend and community member. We have seen some of us “argue” from places of cynical fatalism; it is hard to even witness (and, frankly, even harder to intervene). That said, I can try, and so let me start with a recent post from a kindred spirit:

Surely much more can be added, to clarify and expound. Please feel free to add anything more in the comments below. And let me start with a few topics: real hope, perspective, critical thinking.

First, Real Hope.
Real hope is the option available when one might say all hope is lost. Real hope is not like playing a game in which you think you have a slight chance of winning, and as such you might still “hope” to win. Rather, real hope is like playing a game which in all likelihood you can only lose, and as such you can now choose to be hopeful that you could win because of some factor beyond all that you know.

As an analogy, imagine a card game, and you have this standard deck of 52 cards. All the potential cards and all the combinations and all the relative odds are knowable. In such a game, you might know you could only win if you draw only one specific card out of the 52 cards, and you have only one draw left before you lose. This is not the best way to think of real hope. Rather, perhaps, you know you have no possible way to win, no possible card, with one more draw before certain loss. Real hope is now an option; perhaps you’re wrong in your belief of having no possible option, and you made some mistake in analysis. Then when you draw your last card, you could draw the right card you needed to win, and then realize how your previous assessment of no possible option was in fact incorrect. (In many games, a competitive player might have conceded early, and never been the wiser).

But even further, actually, the game we’re playing is not so possibly certain nor knowable. Further, it is psychologically preferable to think in cynical and fatalistic patterns, (ie: because of power differentials, complicated factors, historical patterns, trauma, etc) such that our unknowable and uncertain world can appear to us as knowable or certain. This dynamic lends itself to cynicism, because we then feel like there was no hope, and we might complain about how others seem crazy because they have apparently illogical hope in apparently hopeless things.

As such, building from the previous analogy, it is important to remember that our game has a fundamentally unknowable amount and distribution of cards in the deck, (even if we may have some partial knowledge and estimations).


Now Perspective.

Another point to keep in mind, we are not in a winner take all game. We are in a complex game. In fact, there is actually no ultimate win or lose scenario. This part is a bit harder for me to explain.

It is like, we could play a game, and it has a defined win condition, and maybe some winning reward or result. This is not the game we are playing. We have to balance many values. Capitalism would like to reduce all value to price, because wouldn’t that be such a simpler and easier world, if everything could actually be relevantly compared in a single number? However, in fact, we don’t have a single priority to optimize. Having a single (or even a few) such product(s) is narrow-bounded; we might focus on one specific goal, or have one thing we care most about. Yet, as a movement, we in fact have many (even ever growing) objectives and values; this is wide-bounded.

Everything we do, we should keep in mind that while we may temporarily have a specific goal in mind for a specific initiative, it is (almost) never a priority beyond our wider-bound directions. For example, elections will have one winner, and many candidates could run, and most lose the election; but, even losing an election could still gain ground in other directions, and so could win in other ways. That said, one may want their personal win definition to be different from others (like keeping a narrow-bound definition based on winning the actual election), and so we may then disagree about winning if I had a wider-bound definition. And, for someone like me keeping a wide-bound perspective, it can be impossible to show this perspective to another person if they don’t want to let go of their narrowly-bound definition of winning. (And, in some cases, they could even be right to do so, by the way; there is no undoing genocide, for instance).

(Also, btw check out the book, How Bernie Won).


(I can feel myself starting to tire; please forgive my worsening clarity)

And Critical Thinking.

So, obviously we wouldn’t want to hang our hopes on anything which has worse odds than another option with better odds. Also, we would want to keep aware of our confidence or measured uncertainty regarding such odds. The ability to analyze such odds and confidence is, pun intended, critical. We will have debates and arguments over such analysis. In order to do this better, we need to remember to keep things civil, and not fall back into basing our arguments on cynicism, as if one could possibly know anything with absolutely (read: absurd) certainty. We would improve our analysis by considering how we know what we think we know; who are we trusting, and how are we trusting? Such trust invites confidence errors which are difficult to appreciate, let alone account for. When others question our gaps, it can be triggering.

It is just as critical to keep in mind the points I made in the previous comment (on perspective). An initiative may have poor odds with a narrow-bound goal, but, with a wide-bound perspective such an otherwise risky option may in fact still have considerably good odds among diffuse directions; (will we recognize the value of such opportunities by keeping a wide-bound awareness?). Further, it is often the case that initiatives with a good narrow-bound goal and good odds could also have bad externalities when considering the wider-bound perspective (and this is even harder to appreciate when said potential externalities have slim odds). (For example, arguments implying our taxes fund military spending are economically illogical, and while it could be effective at criticizing military spending, it has the externality of reinforcing the neoliberal economic delusions of how money works). (Example aside,) keeping aware of the array of wide-bound results (as opposed to focusing on narrow-bound perspectives) is important in understanding how dynamic systems work, with multiple interacting factors, with effects often displaced over time. (Maybe others might add on to this point, or maybe I’ll start topic series on systems thinking).

(I had another last point here, but unfortunately I’ve forgotten it)


Lastly, the type of real hope discussed here is also evolutionary. Fighting against all odds will occasionally defy the odds, especially in the long run. Having such hope keeps us humble about what we don’t know, (and demonstrates the importance of being comfortable with uncertainty).

Maybe we hope we’re just doing what’s right despite insurmountable odds. Maybe we hope we don’t fully understand odds which seem otherwise insurmountable. Climate change can seem hopeless, if we let it; but what right do we have to be comfortable in false certain doom, (as opposed to uncomfortable in near-certain doom)? We owe it to others to act, despite even apparent certain doom, with the awareness and humility to recognize how, in fact, we can still choose hope; in so choosing, we create hope where otherwise none would (nor apparently should) be.


This is an awesome topic and will comment more soon. I love the positive and progressiveness here. :+1:t2: