Active Hope – and voting for what we believe in.


(Blog written by Carrie – Medway Green Party member – and pondered over for quite a while – there was no more time to get it right! The concept of “Active Hope” made sense to me and I hope it makes sense to others who read this!)

There has been a lot of conversation about hung parliaments and tactical voting this election, a direct result of our undemocratic first past the post system, which means that many people are feeling they have no choice but to vote for parties which they may disagree with fundamentally on many issues, simply because they see them as slightly better than their worst option.  Most striking are comments during the local campaign from long-term Labour voters, sympathetic to the Green Party, who are regrettably considering voting for the Tories in Rochester and Strood constituency this time, their previous arch enemies! Smaller parties like the Greens lose out in this process, as they are so often not predicted to take the seat from the major parties.  Of course the UKIP victory in the by-election (after, it has to be said, massive media coverage) somewhat flies in the face of the idea that the smaller parties have no chance. And The Green Party of England of Wales is now bigger in membership than both UKIP and the Lib Dems!

However, the first past the post system (which tactical voting honours) produces a self fulfilling prophesy:  If people vote for a narrow range of options, rather than for what they truly believe, they will end up with a narrow range of options. The only way to give the party you want to win a chance of winning is to vote for them! It is also likely to reduce the overall vote share of smaller parties, with fresh ideas; a vote share that, if large as hoped, will make a reasonable case for getting rid of the first past the post system and replacing it with proportional representation. Expect a big push for proportional representation after the election.

Proportional representation would allow a more diverse, democratic, range of views in parliament, such as we are hearing for the first time (at least in recent years) in the leadership debates.  Suddenly there are three strong voices saying that we have an alternative to cutting back our public services.  We have one voice (Natalie Bennett) in the debate saying that we need to start taking the risk of climate change seriously. We need voices like that both in parliament (and outside – non-violent direct action also plays a part e.g. Occupy, Climate Change marches, NGOs and lobbyist groups like 38 Degrees etc) if we are not going to trundle even further into this downward spiral that is selling off our public services, loading our financial problems onto those who are most vulnerable in our society and destroying our planet at the same time.  We need those voices to challenge what is now a worldwide ideological shift (known as neoliberalism or Thatcherism) and take us back on a better course towards healing our society and our world.

So, I thought I would post something on a book that I read it a few months ago by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone called “Active Hope – How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy”. Much summarized here, it contains an antidote to the feeling that many of us have, at times, that it seems pointless trying to produce the changes we really want to see, as the obstacles appear so huge.  One of the ideas expressed in this book, to combat this, is that the future of society is unpredictable; we cannot predict what impact our actions today will have on others tomorrow. Therefore, there is an element of mystery. And there is always the potential for something new to emerge from the interactions between two or more groups or individuals and indeed this potential has been realised historically, examples being the civil rights movement and the overturning of Apartheid. If none of us act because we feel powerless, it is likely that we will remain powerless – yet if we take action, this has the potential to empower others to take action. This is referred to as “power with” in contrast to the old “power over” which can only be achieved by taking power away from others. As we are unable to predict the outcomes of our actions on others, the only way we can be certain of doing the right thing towards achieving our goals, is to take active steps in the direction of our goals. This is referred to as “Active Hope”.

Here is a key quote from the book which explains “Active Hope”:

 Active Hope involves identifying the outcomes we hope for and then playing an active role in bringing them about. We don’t wait until we are sure of success. We don’t limit our choices to the outcomes that seem likely. Instead we focus on what we truly, deeply long for, and then we proceed to take determined steps in that direction.

It seems that there is a lot of talk of – limiting our choices to what seems likely – going on.  I hope that many of us will instead proceed with active hope tomorrow and vote for what we believe in.  It seems that only then will we have a chance for real change.



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