Performative Nuance

Depression, Hope, Genocide, Horror, Action.

I’m in a bad depression- maybe coming out of it, maybe not. 90% of the time I say I’m coming out of depression I get hit over the head by it really badly.

I still, mostly, have hope. I think I’m probably the most hopeful person I know- When my depression gets really bad, it sometimes disappears, normally for a night or two.

The rest of the time, I’m hopeful. Not in the same way most people do- I think the next century is going to contain a lot of genocides. They fill me with dread and horror.

Honestly, I’ve spent so long with the horror of genocide it’s become both the dominant thought I have and a background to my thinking- but this is because there are so many of them and they’re so big.

I see the genocides that are coming as both a horror that keeps me up at night and also as fact- They are going to happen. I don’t have hope of avoiding them.

And that’s why I have hope. Because hope is about the things you can change, not the things you can’t. Differentiating between the two is a key part of actually doing hope.

Accepting genocides are going to happen is not the same thing as accepting genocide.

I will fight these genocides to the best of my ability- I know this is true. Some small fraction of these genocides will be prevented because I acted. Some small fraction already have. So will many many others(probably you), and we will win.

What is important is while I am certain that the genocides will happen, I am also certain that some of those that may happen will be prevented.

Every horror of the 21st century is still undecided- We decide which, how horrific, and how many.

I have a belief that we can make good choices, that we have agency, even the tiniest amount, that we can make a difference between better and worse.

This is based on a knowledge that every system, every genocide, every empire, has been made up of people who have made these choices.

Every persons choice has been shaped by their situation, but it has also shaped their and others situations in turn.

It is up to us to choose, but we cannot choose if we believe every one can be prevented, or if we act like failure to prevent one is a unique sin, and every horror we prevent is a sufficient victory, we will not be able to act.

And action is the key.

Seeing the horrors of the 21st century as a result of peoples actions rather than as abstract impossible sins gives me my reliable hope.

There is no way around the 21st century, we have to go through it. We also had to go through the 20th century. And the 19th. They all had preventable genocides and all could have had more.

For every holocaust there’s a united nations, for every coup there’s a revolution, and for every preventable death, there’s a saved life.

They don’t even each other out, but the point isn’t to achieve “ok” any more than it’s to achieve “perfect”.

The point isn’t to achieve, it’s to do.

The 20th century wasn’t an “terrible” or “excellent” or “ok” performance- it just happened. The 21st will happen too, and all that matters within it is action.

To see it otherwise requires a belief in something external, like the teacher grading a report card “they did ok this century but we’d really like to see some improvement in the empire department and a couple less death camps” often accompanied by a belief that you can pass or fail- “Sadly your species failed to achieve full communism this century and you’re going to have to retake it”.

And the desire to create this external metric on which we can be graded always involves leaving things out- The tankies would like us to forget death camps and remember literacy rates, the Anarchists would like you to remember the freedom of our communes and forget their size and temporality, the colonialists forget plantations and remember railways, the billionaires forget sweatshops and remember global gross domestic product.

Horrors are coming. This is an inevitability, and has always been. If it was not the climate crisis it would be something else- for the 19th and 20th centuraries it was modernity-enabled imperial slaughter. In the 22nd it will be a new, seemingly unique horror.

My hope isn’t a grading system I believe we can attain a passing grade on, my hope is a knowledge that we will take action.