I’m excited to share this new zine; really just a collection of a dozen or so quotes (as well as some bonus poems and songs) that I turn to when I’m feeling cynical, afraid, or overwhelmed. It kind of picks up the thread of the last poem I shared too.
I first got into zines because it was nice to always have something useful or meaningful to give to people at shows, whether or not they buy my merch, whether or not they were into my artistic work. Find my other zines here. I just think they’re powerful containers for sharing what matters to us, and hopefully building community through that sharing process.
And after the last few years that we’ve had, I can’t think of anything I’d rather share with the people in my circle than the quotes here.
I’m not doing in-person performances right now (just virtual, at least through the winter), but when I do again, I’ll be sure to have copies of these to give away. For now, feel free to read the full text on this page, and if you want, you can download this PDF, print it on 11×17 paper, and make your own copies (folding directions here).
Here’s the full text:
Hope Does Not Glimmer; It Burns: Quotes on Hope, Resistance, and Possibility
It is okay to doubt, to feel scared, cynical, even hopeless. Our feelings are real… Our feelings are not all that is real.
That’s a line spoken by one of the characters in my book, “Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough,” and it captures some of why I wanted to put this zine together. I could just share a bunch of my own poems and thoughts, but the book is very much about the idea of how many voices can communicate things that a single voice can’t, so I wanted to share some of the quotes that have shaped my thinking.
I wouldn’t call myself a particularly positive person, but I am very interested in the idea of hope as something that transcends an optimist/pessimist binary, something that is not just felt, but carried, cultivated, and shared.
That’s especially important in times of great crisis and uncertainty. Just about everyone I know right now is angry, scared, grieving. And those aren’t bad emotions; they’re necessary—especially when they can be used as kindling, as first steps into “finding our political homes,” as doorways into collective action and organizing.
I try to remember the quotes collected here when I am feeling cynical or overwhelmed. They continue to inform my work, and I hope they can be useful to you as well. – KTM aka Guante
“When I would feel overwhelmed by what was going on in the world, I would just say to myself: ‘Hope is a discipline.’ It’s less about ‘how you feel,’ and more about the practice of making a decision every day, that you’re still gonna put one foot in front of the other… It’s work to be hopeful. It’s not a fuzzy feeling. You have to actually put in energy, time, and you have to be clear-eyed, and you have to hold fast to having a vision. It’s a hard thing to maintain. But it matters to have it, to believe that it’s possible to change the world.”
– Mariame Kaba, interviewed in Hope is a Discipline: On Dismantling the Carceral State
“There’s always a thing you can deny an oppressor, if only your allegiance. Your belief. Your co-oping. Often even with vastly unequal power, you can find or force an opening to fight back. In your time many without power found ways to fight. Till that became a power.”
– Marge Piercy, from Woman on the Edge of Time
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”
– Howard Zinn, from You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train
“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness—and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling—their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
– Arundhati Roy, from War Talk
“liberation is no small task—it is appropriately daunting for miraculous beings. it is a gift, to be given such undeniable purpose, such immense odds. hold each other tight, and let’s do this work.”
– adrienne maree brown, from living through the unveiling
“Just remember that what you put on your pedestal will be your main influence in your life. I am hoping you place love for your family, friends, and humanity; service to your community; concern for human rights, justice, and human dignity on your pedestal. And please show appreciation to friends, old and new. The precious, intangible gems like happiness, satisfaction, self-respect, and pride—they are the thanks to the people who come into your life. Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another.”
– Yuri Kochiyama, from Passing It On
“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”
– Angela Davis, from a 2014 lecture
“Hope is essential to any political struggle for radical change when the overall social climate promotes disillusionment and despair.”
– bell hooks, from Talking about a Revolution
“I believe our despair is a lie we are telling ourselves. In many other periods of history, people, ordinary citizens, routinely set aside hours, days, time in their lives for doing the work of politics, some of which is glam and revolutionary and some of which is dull and electoral and tedious and not especially pure—and the world changed because of the work they did… Because this is a moment in history that needs us to begin, each of us every day at her or his own pace, slowly and surely rediscovering how to be politically active, how to organize our disparate energies into effective group action—and I choose to believe we will do what is required. Act. Organize. Assemble. Oppose. Resist. Find a place, a cause, a group, a friend and start, today, now now now, continue continue continue.”
– Tony Kushner, from Despair Is a Lie We Tell Ourselves
“Some worlds are built on a fault line of pain, held up by nightmares. Don’t lament when those worlds fall. Rage that they were built doomed in the first place.”
– N.K. Jemisin, from The Stone Sky
“To prophesy doom is to proclaim your own oracular powers. To take a cynical stance is to strive to seem worldly, to position yourself as someone who can’t be fooled – though cynicism is often foolish about what is possible and how the world works… We who have materially safe and comfortable lives, and who are part of societies that contribute the lion’s share of greenhouse gases, do not have the right to surrender on behalf of others. We have the obligation to act in solidarity with them. This begins by recognising that the future has not yet been decided, because we are deciding it now.”
– Rebecca Solnit, from Why climate despair is a luxury
“I don’t think that people fight or stay the course because of hope, I think people do it out of love and anger… I try and write as honestly and realistically as I can. And you know, I see bad stuff. I see a city decaying from the bottom up. I see the landscapes that are so important to me as a Californian dying, irrevocably changed. I see fascism. I’m writing because I’m hoping the people who read it don’t need dollops of hope or good endings but are reading so that they’ll know what to fight, and fight even when the fight seems hopeless.”
– Mike Davis, interviewed in Mike Davis is still a damn good storyteller
“I would prefer to win, but struggle is about much more than winning. It always has been. And there is nothing revolutionary about fatalism. I suppose the question is, are you antifascist? Are you a revolutionary? Are you a defender of decency and life on Earth? Because no one who is any of those things has ever had the odds on their side. But you know what we do have? A meaningful existence on the edge of oblivion. And if the end really is only a few decades away, and no human intervention can stop it, then who do you want to be at the end of the world? And what will you say to the people you love, when time runs out? If it comes to that, I plan on being able to tell them I did everything I could, but I’m not resigning myself to anything and neither should you. Adapt, prepare, and take the damage done seriously, but never stop fighting. Václav Havel once said that ‘Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something is worth doing no matter how it turns out.’ I live in that certainty every day. Because while these death-making systems exist both outside and inside of us, so do our dreams, so long as we are fighting for them. And my dreams are worth fighting for. I bet yours are too.”
– Kelly Hayes, from Saturday Afternoon Thoughts on the Apocalypse
Five poems that challenge my cynicism
– Marge Piercy: The Low Road
– Lucille Clifton: won’t you celebrate with me
– Suheir Hammad: First Writing Since
– Franny Choi: Field Trip To The Museum Of Human History
– Assata Shakur: affirmation
I hope you can connect with something here; look up the people quoted, dig into their work, and find even more. And if there are quotes, poems, or songs that you turn to when feeling cynical, overwhelmed, or afraid, please feel free to share with me (Twitter: @elguante, IG: @guantesolo).
Finally, the quote on the cover is my own, from the poem Thoughts and Prayers. I didn’t want to make this zine all about me, but if you are interested in continuing to explore the ideas/themes here, they’re very much part of my new book.
- If this zine is about resisting fatalism, this other zine is more about what we do once we’ve done that. Especially for people who haven’t been involved in activism or organizing before; just a few thoughts on entry points and first steps.
- My TEDx Talk also covers some similar ground, and as long as I’m mentioning my own work, I think “Matches,” “A Pragmatist’s Guide to Magic,” and “Tension and Release” all fit here too.
- Beyond that, I hope people take the time to click on some links; everyone listed here has all kinds of powerful work to explore. Here’s the page-by-page version: