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The remedy to political lethargy is to believe in ourselves.

  • Essay
  • May 15 2023
  • Ece Temelkuran
    is a writer and a political thinker. Her book How To Lose A Country was published worldwide. Her most recent work is Together: A Manifesto Against the Heartless World. Currently, she is a democracy fellow at The New Institute, Hamburg.

There are two ghost words haunting Europe today: community and hope. I’ve been hearing the same two words wherever I go in Europe for the last two years. Political activists who are concerned about the rise of fascism and the climate crisis are constantly talking about or making plans for building communities. Meanwhile, they ask whether there is hope. It is as if cauldrons of hope, each burning hesitantly, forming a circle of people around it—also known as the community. Finally, the ring closes in on itself, preventing the people around it from seeing anyone else but each other. Having researched the global rise of Fascism and its confidence in “building movements” for the past seven years, the word community, in its stagnancy, sounds more like a codeword for surrender. In contrast, “movement” is a word that promises action and inherently embodies motion en masse. It is the open arms looking outwards with ambition and stamina. 

Although one can see the need for such a sheltering concept in our terrifying political reality, one cannot help but remember William Butler Yeats’s assertion that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Why, then, do we lack conviction? How did the word hope and the search for it replace our need for conviction, and why do we continue to confine ourselves to the cauldrons of hope, the community? 

What Yeats refers to as “conviction,” I call “faith in humankind.” Since neoliberalism declared itself as being the natural state of existence for the last five decades, faith in humankind has been fatally damaged. With that, the motivation and the will for political action have been missing. The definition of what makes up a human in neoliberal ideology has forced us to believe that we are self-centered, egotistical, bastardly creatures who no longer need meaning in order to survive. Thus, devoting one’s life to the ideal of justice, or sacrificing oneself for a political conviction, has been rendered laughably naïve, if not wholly pathological. In some parts of the world, it took neoliberalism five decades of killing and torturing to achieve this ongoing state of numbness. In other parts of the planet, with all its tentacles in culture, this system displayed politically engaged progressives as village fools to ensure that younger generations do not fall into the trap of being political. And so, here we are.

There are more than enough ideas today about how we can change our political and economic reality, and the necessary means to communicate them to the general public. Finally, and most importantly, the necessary discontent with the current socio-economic framework is vital to initiate a mass movement that will create meaningful political change. However, long-awaited political action is still not there. It is as if everyone is waiting for everybody else to take the first step into the carnival of full-scale political action, which, at this point, seems to be the only option for the survival of humankind. One can list many reasons for the current inertia. Yet somehow, the lack of faith in ourselves and others stands at the bottom. We don’t believe in humanity anymore. Our lack of faith in humans is connected to our current damaged perception, one that views politics as a dirty game. 

When politics is widely believed to be filthy, one should know that humanity's self-perception is damaged to the point of self-hatred. That is when togetherness becomes close to impossible. But creating a large, inclusive movement remains an absolute imperative to overcome interconnected global problems, such as the climate emergency and the crisis of neoliberalism. Today, humanity has no choice but to imagine itself as a movement if it is to stop our final extinction, rather than sheltering in isolated communities. To enable such an imagination on such a large scale, we need to have faith and stop asking for hope. 

It is time we realize that the concept of hope has become a security valve for the neoliberal system. If nothing else makes you suspicious about the ghost-words hovering over Europe, many TED Talk-like speeches by politicians and their ilk on hope should. The word passivizes. It makes us wait for some divine ray of light that will redeem our reality. 

Hope diminishes our relationship to actuality and current affairs, making them even more terrifying. Hope and the unceasing search for it go hand in hand with neoliberalism that robbed us of our political agency and the ability to believe in others. If these words are not convincing enough for you to become suspicious of hope, ask yourself two questions: if there is hope, would it change anything in your political action tomorrow? If there isn’t, what would you do differently? 

Faith, however, is a different ballgame. Faith is a matter of decision. Contrary to what many think, it is a rather rational and practical process. When you believe, you find meaning, and that meaning keeps you going. There is an all-encompassing sense of nonetheless in the act of believing, an infinite number of nevertheless. Faith helps us to stand straight despite all proof refuting the existence of the object of our belief. It is exactly that which we need in order to attack the Goliath of polycrises that seems unbeatable today. To better prepare, we must ask ourselves: how can we renew our faith in humanity in order to deploy a mass movement, when we are subject to the worst representations of others on a daily basis? How can we imagine the political home not as a sheltered community that closes in on itself, but as an open house that welcomes many? 

When I take a poetic distance to the planet, I see and hear the new, faithful voices rising. The young, with a completely different political lexicon than the previous generation, are coming to change neoliberal politics. They are like fish schooling and shoaling around the wreck of the conventional political institutions, turning them into a new reef, full of life. Contrary to what many may think, they are ready to sacrifice for what they believe in.




    Umar Rashid, Live free or Dior. Bathe in lava, colonizer! Lapita Prime, 1796. 2022 

    The Dutch Pirate Kings are no match for the Spanish guns and the ire of Poseidon Panoptes, defender of self interest. 



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