It’s important (for me) to distinguish btw a theology of hopelessness & a theology of despair, bc as is stated later, hopelessness is NOT disabling, rather it can be invigorating. Hope and hopelessness exist in tension; the best example I can think of is the tension btw the spirituals and the blues. You can’t have one without the other.
I find this point both helpful and compelling—hope is a luxury and a privilege when “broken lives and bodies obscure our view of the eschaton.” This idea of hopelessness meaning we act because there is nothing left to lose is one I am sitting with and appreciating, but I am wondering if hopelessness necessarily leads to this kind of action? Or under what conditions it does? (Without saying that hopelessness is only valuable as it leads to praxis, because I don’t think that’s true.)
I’m curious about the order here. It seems like the disposition of hopelessness would come first and then produce desperation. What do you mean by putting desperation first?
It seems like there are two entangled issues here: 1) Is it ethical to have hope? 2) Is it ethical to blame others for not having hope? Your case is that you can’t ever do 1 without implicitly doing 2, correct?
What is the relationship between hopelessness/desperation and resilience and survival? I wonder if the difference is that desperation and hopelessness imply a upturning of the current systems while resilience and survival work within the system?
This makes me think a lot about how this idea connects to immigrant experiences, model minority myths, and/or resilience/inspiration porn of those who “made it.”
I wonder how your understanding of liminal space in this analogy would interact with bell hooks’ idea of marginality. You seem to argue that in the desperation of this space, people will revolutionize and act. Would you say that this action is creative in the way that bell hooks argues for marginality to be a creative space?
I think this recognition is really important and a useful subject for interrogation within this lens of hopelessness. I wonder how often we (privileged) are complacent in these structures. I used to think this Eurocentric modernity project simply included things like white supremacy, patriarchy, colonialism, capitalism, individualism, etc., all things we can morally despise and seek to get beyond. However, lately I’ve been trying to go deeper and consider the things these ideals create, often things we value and consider it beneficial to keep around such as preferred doctrines or the state structure itself, and find a conviction to dismantle these things as well. Identifying and deconstructing our valued structures, those created by oppressive ideals, may become easier if we get to a point of acceptance within hopelessness. In other words, these valued structures of hope and comfort that serve to perpetuate and constantly rebrand these oppressive ideals are more readily revealed in the location of hopelessness.
What about a hope for justice? In a hope for justice there is hope not just for the oppressed but also in justice there is a reckoning for the oppressor. I feel like one does not need privelege or privelege promised to hope for retribution against the oppressor. But then again, maybe this isn’t “hope” but instead another kind of desire.
I think that many black and brown people are already practicing a theology of desperation, even tho they might not call it that. And even with those black and brown people who reject this thesis, there is resonance and identification that can’t be denied. It’s a reframing of the phrase “hope against hope”and has me thing that really means, or could mean.
This is very Hebrew Bible adjacent. It’s interesting (and not surprising) that western scripture lectionaries mostly leave out the lament psalms, the psalms that leave us without “hope,” because we can’t handle the truth. We literally get psalm 22 once a year
This! And most pointedly “Hell is the space which the world’s marginalized already occupy”
This is the “hope” we are fed as crumbs from the table. It’s like amazon raising wages $2 per hr but Bezos’s net work rising by 63 BILLION dollars during a global pandemic. And somehow this is embraced and celebrated by our white western civilization so-called judeo-christian values
In engaging with your challenging account of hopelessness, I have continually been think of M. Shawn Copeland’s Knowing Christ Crucified, which I read for our midterm paper. It seems to me that you and Copeland are working towards a similar goal; she wants all people to take up their cross and follow Jesus as disciples, which looks like solidarity with the oppressed. In her account, which draws heavily on the religious experience of enslaved Black people in America, enslaved people encountered Jesus and maintained a robust hope that they were in relationship with him, a relationship which would continue in the next life (eschatological hope?). According to Copeland, this hope is what fueled their survival, creativity (she draws heavily on spirituals), and justice-seeking praxis. Interestingly, she also explicitly identifies lament as an act of hope, which courageously owns up to our failures, creates cathartic space for the oppressed to be authentic, and forms those with power and privilege to work for justice. Ultimately, it seems to me that you and Copeland might be using different terms for a similar kind of thing (Reese used the word “purpose” above; we need something to point us towards our purpose/vocation of working for justice). We all want people, oppressed and oppressors, to work towards justice. It seems to me that there is a kind of hope which can facilitate that work, but also an insidious kind of hope (the illusion, expectancy that things will just get better without my sacrifice) which leads to numbness, complacency, and complicity in injustice. Whether we talk about hope or hopelessness, we must avoid that immature, naive, and ultimately complacency.
Definition! (Which I definitely already read, and formulated in my comment above as if it were my own thinking as I was going through this again…)
What, exactly, is the definition of hope that we’re working with? Above, hope is something that the privileged have when their future privilege is assured. But, it is also something that the oppressed can have. It seems like hope is an unfounded belief that the future will be better (an illusion)?
This makes me wonder if your argument can be best summarized as hopeful hopelessness. Because hopelessness as such can be debilitating so much so that some people won’t see the point of living. When the writer of Ecclesiastes (the biblical text you refer to in the beginning of your book) says “All things are wearisome, more than one can express,” many will wonder what the point of life is. And thus, I’m not sure if hopelessness as such will propel people to a more “liberative praxis.” There must be some semblance of purpose in which the oppressed can move forward and have the courage to fight back against white supremacy and the powers that be.
It is significant that many of us are trying to read hope into the text.
I am curious as to how reintroducing Benjamin — particularly his conception of messianic time in the "Theses on the Philosophy of History" — may function to serve you here at this point? For Benjamin, as I try to understand him, messianic time demonstrates how the potential for revolution now is not disconnected in the articulation of political hope in past revolutions. That is to say, the potential "messiah" of the present is informed and even created by the hope for political salvation in the past. Messianic temporality functions as a rupture, an interruption of capitalist time where future, present, and past are all melded together.
Political revolution could then be seen as a relief, an exit from Hell distinct from the "opium of hope" you mentioned before on the basis that the messianic temporality in revolution seeks to affirm humanity -- and nothing else. To me the recognition of one's being against all else, this seems "hopeful" in so far that it is a kind of "hope" of a different order, distinct from the soft "hope" that relies on the modernist notion of linear progress which is a hope for political victory in a particular historical moment. This reconstruction of hope would be reducible only to the denial of Hell and embrace of humanity, a hope for mortal beings distinct from any conception of linear temporality including the eternity of hell.
I find this a) very realistic, b) highly idealistic! and c) very… Christian (which I don’t mean as an offense at all)
It is clear that “Arbeit macht frei” is a highly violent slogan. I am not sure it ever even pretended to offer a *hope* though. it seems to me that even historically it served much more as an intentional and strategic (and also quite violent) disillusionment much more than a hope: don’t think you’ll get free eventually, there is no freedom to be sought except the work that you’ll be doing within these gates.
I resonate deeply with the Christological analogy here and wonder how it squares with the renunciation of any hope. Yes, Holy Saturday is the deepest moment of mourning, and of care to the body of the crucified despite any lack of hope for an extension of the future - that seems clear. Yet you also offer this “not yet” of an Easter day resurrection. In your account, do we remain (indefinitely?) in the Hell of Holy Saturday, and if so, is that an ontological state or an ethical decision? Or is the possibility of a breaking-in of Easter within the realm, maybe not of *possibility*, but of Christian, well, *hope*, after all?