I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doomscrolling a lot: my addiction to information and the fact that I’ve been stuck at home for seven months (and counting) don’t help me fight this habit. Every time I promise myself I’ll check Twitter for five minutes or just read the headlines, I come out of the Internet feeling tired just from knowing what is going on. And it isn’t just me: I’ve been noticing, more and more, people around me succumb to a feeling of generalized tiredness, which, I dare to say, isn’t limited only to my internet bubble of progressive Brazilians. It was perfectly summarized by a cartoon by one of my favorite artists, cartoonist and screenwriter Laerte:
We’re in the middle of the battle and we ran out of cartoons!
I sometimes joke that my best writing happens when I’m angry. But, if the impending sense of doom once made me want to sit down and do something, now all I can feel is a paralyzing sense of uselessness and of tiredness. I turn on the news: climate change is knocking on our door, authoritarianism is on the rise, fundamental human rights are being violated right under our noses, a pandemic with no signs of stopping is taking a gigantic toll out there. No one can know what will happen tomorrow, but for sure our perspectives aren’t looking good.
“Then what’s the point?” I, and I believe many other people out there, find myself asking, consciously or unconsciously, over and over again. What’s the point of trying to make your voice heard, of showing what you see from where you stand, of making a change, little by little?
The answer — or at least the key for an answer — might be in one of my favorite (if not my very favorite) science fiction subgenre: hopepunk.
According to Alexandra Rowland, the person who coined the term: “the opposite of grimdark is hopepunk. The essence of grimdark is that everyone’s inherently sort of a bad person and does bad things (…), it’s looking at human nature and going ‘The glass is half empty’. Hopepunk says, ‘No, I don’t accept that. Yeah, we are a messy mix of good and bad, flaws and virtues. We’ve all been mean and petty and cruel, but we’ve also been forgiving and kind.” It’s understanding, as Becky Chambers puts it on her book (also one of my all time favorites) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, that “you are capable of anything. Good or bad. That darkness exists within all of us (…) and all any of us can do is work to be something positive instead, to decide what part we’ll play.”
Sounds naïve? I know. But what if that’s all we’ve got? What if, in this moment when we all feel we’re spreading ourselves too thin and that, no matter what or how much we do, it won’t be worth anything, the key is to insist on seeing the glass half full? Fighting and hoping and believing might seem pointless, and some days, or more days, it seems like we’re swimming against the tide and struggling to reach something that never arrives. But, what if the fighting and hoping and believing is a reason itself? “Utopia is on the horizon,” says Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. “I move two steps closer; it moves two steps further away. I walk another ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps further away. As much as I may walk, I’ll never reach it. So what’s the point of utopia? The point is: to keep walking.”
Galeano has nothing to do with hopepunk, but he captures the spirit of hope — something Latin Americans and many other people around the world have relied on across the decades and centuries of injustice. Hope: the only alternative for many of the ones who came before you and I, and who decided to keep moving towards the unachievable, who decided to believe in an utopia because there is still something worth fighting for.
The point is not to change the world. The point is not to be the Chosen One who will wipe evil away while brandishing a sword. The point is to understand that, sometimes, to keep moving is enough. To be stubborn and to insist on seeing the molecules of goodness and kindness and beauty amid the chaos is an act of bravery itself. And, in times like ours, it’s more than enough.
So what’s the point? There might not be an answer, and if all we have is each other, we cannot let each other go, no matter how messy and hopeless humankind may seem. No matter how we make a stand, with art, with kindness, with refusing to give up now, we all have moments when we ask ourselves if it’s really worth it. No matter how we make a stand, not losing hope is an act of bravery.
We are where we are thanks to the ones who came before us and didn’t give up. Then, why not us? Why not now?
A last note: take some time to read Alexandra Rowland’s excellent article on hopepunk. Trust me, it’ll be better than doomscrolling.