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Here are a few short texts and films that have helped me to ponder the meaning of hope…


Got ten minutes?


Children of 1966 talk about the future

Some children in the UK were asked in 1966 what they thought the year 2000 would be like. They’re hardly representative (!) but their thoughtful predictions seem to have been well ahead of the adult generation of the time. From the BBC Tomorrow’s World archive.


Gary Younge: ‘In these bleak times, imagine a world where you can thrive’

Gary Younge’s valedictory article as a regular Guardian columnist, on what his mum taught him about hope.


Alice Walker: ‘Hope is a woman who has lost her fear’

Alice Walker’s poem was written in response to the US administration of G W Bush during the Iraq war.


Kimberly Jones: ‘You broke the contract when you killed us in the streets’

Kimberly Jones, co-author of I’m not dying with you tonight, on what it means to struggle against centuries of racist economic oppression in America.


Cornel West: ‘Hope is spiritual armour against modern society’s spiritual warfare’

Cornel West raps on hope in the face of a consumer-capitalist culture of deceit, despair, and ‘weapons of mass distraction’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbqGtw-Tlno


Gary Younge: ‘Black Lives Matter and the question of violence’

The journalist talks about hope, violence, and Black liberation – cuttingly radical, deeply humane, and extraordinarily lucid. ‘History… bends towards justice, but it doesn’t bend by itself, it’s for us to put our shoulder to it and make it bend towards justice.’

Note: At the time of writing, the YouTube clip has been ‘flagged as inappropriate’ by [possibly racist sections of] the YouTube community – please ignore the warning and judge for yourself!


Got half an hour or so?


Kaethe Weingarten: ‘Hope in a time of global despair’

This paper from 2006, by Kaethe Weingarten, presents an outline for ‘realistic hope’, as distinct from immature or magical hope. It emphasises the importance of fellowship and resisting indifference, and argues that realistic hope has to accept that the world is a messy place.


Arathi Sriprakash: ‘White optimism and the erasures of racism in global development’

In this lecture from 2019, Arathi Sriprakash argues forcefully that the ‘white optimism’ that characterises international development organisations is experienced as a colonial project by its supposed beneficiaries – as an unwanted imposition. The talk somewhat conflates hope with optimism, but I found it very useful indeed on the need to ‘decolonise’ hope.


Vaclav Havel: ‘The power of the powerless’

This landmark essay from Vaclav Havel in 1979, predicting the end of the Soviet dictatorship in Czechoslovakia, changed the consciousness of a generation. This is a slightly abridged version.


Arundhati Roy: ‘Come September’

Arundhati Roy’s truth-telling lecture given in the wake of the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington – her theme the ‘relationship between power and powerlessless’.


Ruha Benjamin: ‘The mourning after – A dreamer’s guide to staying woke’

Ruha Benjamin’s keynote address to Princeton University’s 2017 African American Studies conference points to hope determined by the quality of our dreams (and even our sleep). We need to be able to dream a future richer than the present, which itself is based not on a dream at all, but a violent fantasy. ‘We also express a shamelessly stubborn joy, even as we mourn, and I think we really have to fight against the pressure to censor joy.’


Rebecca Solnit interview

‘We don’t know that forces are at work… you don’t always win but if you try you don’t always lose.’ Rebecca Solnit, activist and writer, interviewed by Krista Tippett.