Cities and Society (Blackwell Readers in Sociology)

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In a dream Plenty Coup sees the vision of the Chickadee — an emblem of Crow culture. The vision told him to wait and to watch and listen. The Crow could not halt the devastation but they were able to act in new ways, sustaining vestiges of the past and avoiding utter annihilation. Radical hope is made and shaped in the here-and-now by the chickadee bird listener who takes in what is happening and interprets its meaning.

In this sense hope is not a faith that delivers a future.

Rather, it is an attention to the present and the expectation that something will happen that will be unexpected and this will gift an unforeseen opportunity. Hope can also be the enemy of other kinds of certainty — its emergence is too provisional and leaves too much to chance. Hope in my view is a wasted emotion.

People hope to win the lottery when they buy a ticket. They hope to win it because there is no chance. If we want a better world, we as human beings ought to do what we can to bring about the change. Hoping is a futile mental exercise. The expectation that hope licenses is empty. This is precisely what Lauren Berlant calls a cruel optimism. Famously Antonio Gramsci described his view on the subject in a letter dated 19 th December Thatcherism and the logic of neo-liberalism was imposed harshly in a premeditated attempt to break the trade unions.

The drama and trauma of this is remembered in countless films like Brassed Off and Billy Elliot. Perhaps, it is in part because the breaking of the strike was such a total defeat. It is interesting that these nostalgic films that are set around the strike contain not a single black or brown face.

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Powell has been somewhat recuperated in British public life as we edge closer to the 50th anniversary of his speech. There are no mines in Birmingham. Street collections on the Soho Road a poor predominantly black and Asian district were known to be amongst the best supported in Birmingham and miners squabbled over who should get that pitch. I have been collecting the accounts of those Miners given to me by a friend. These pages of transcript are over thirty years old now. I have seen him knock on doors, I never knew what he said, but I see the woman going in and fetch something out and he said something else and she went in again and the man came out and gave him 50p or something like that which is unbelievable.

But I class them more than my own now. That how much it has developed. There was another moment: an Island of hope. Many spoke of in terms of a kind of political realisation or epiphany, which had retuned their political sensibilities. I was up all night with my radio listening, knowing some of the streets — the Soho Road, Lozells Road.

It all flooded my memory, flooded back because I used to walk up and down those places. Long cues of miners formed eager to read news of what had happened and the response from within the local black communities. Both strikes were broken, both failed, but in the midst of that failure was a transient and precious glimpse of a different kind of future in which the counter-intuitive — that alliances are forged across differences — becomes intuitive. Hope is not a destination; it is perhaps an improvisation with a future not yet realised. It is not cruel optimism that hides behind a promise that is broken before it is even made.

Whose hope is this?

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Ours or theirs? That desire is an entanglement, a disposition that anticipates a hopeful sociology. References: Berlant, L.


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