With so much pain, strife, isolation, and fear of greater troubles to come, many are bewildered, scared, and don’t believe things will get better. Hope for improvement fades, especially when the tools that had occasionally worked for change, such as political lobbying, have been completely corrupted.

Hope for financial stability is threatened by rapidly increasing prices of nearly everything in conjunction with flat income and increasing unemployment. Millions are being pushed closer to, into poverty. Many people feel their self-worth is tied to their financial worth.

And the greatest threats, the multiple aspects of rapidly escalating environmental chaos, are almost impossible to ignore, though many still try. Once that begins to be accepted, there is the realization that there is no way to change the weather. Hopeless.

Faith was once the primary source of hope for many. For years, the trend of turning away from organized religion has continued. Of course, organized religion is just one way to express faith.

The accelerating trend towards a more secular America represents a fundamental change in the national character, one that will have major ramifications for politics and even social cohesion.

U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time by Jeffrey M Jones, Gallup, March 29, 2021

Hopelessness is toxic. Diminishing the sense of self-worth. Affecting personal mental health and relationships. Encouraging search for a savior which means embracing authoritarian politics. Mistrust of, violence against “others” who are portrayed as the reason for our hopelessness.

The approach of a new year often stimulates reflections on the past year. Some consider resolutions to make positive changes for the new year. But in the face of all these challenges, what is there to hope for?

Mutual Aid

My past three years of experience with Des Moines Mutual Aid has not only given me hope but also helped me begin to heal from traumas I hadn’t known I was suffering from. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/

Because living with hopelessness is traumatic. Witnessing the hardships of so many people because of capitalism is traumatic. Seeing and feeling the damage to Mother Earth is traumatic.

These Points of Unity eloquently express what Mutual Aid is about. Basically, it is the system of capitalism that has trapped so many people in hopelessness. Has destroyed their sense of self-worth. Has created a system to give power to those at the top of the hierarchy, the rich. And in the process has deeply damaged Mother Earth by recklessly extracting resources with the sole intent of increasing wealth of the rich.

Points of Unity. Des Moines Mutual Aid

  • We believe in working shoulder to shoulder and standing in solidarity with all oppressed communities
    We ourselves are oppressed, and our mutual aid work is a fight for our collective liberation. We do not believe in a top-down model of charity. Instead, we contrast our efforts at horizontal mutual aid, the fostering of mutually beneficial relationships and communities, to dehumanizing and colonizing charity.
  • We believe in community autonomy.
    We believe that the communities we live and organize in have been largely excluded from state social services, but intensely surveilled and policed by the state repressive apparatus. Capitalism is fundamentally unable to meet people’s needs. We want to build self-sustaining communities that are independent of the capitalist state, both materially and ideologically, and can resist its repression.
  • We are police and prison abolitionists.
    Abolition and the mutual aid that we practice are inextricably linked. We don’t rely on capitalist institutions or the police to do our work. We believe in building strong and resilient communities which make police obsolete, including community systems of accountability and crisis intervention.
  • We work to raise the political consciousness of our communities.
    Part of political education is connecting people’s lived experiences to a broader political perspective. Another component is working to ensure that people can meet their basic needs. It is difficult to organize for future liberation when someone is entrenched in day-to-day struggle.
  • We have open disagreements with each other about ideas and practices.
    We believe there is no formula for resolving our ideological differences other than working towards our common aims, engaging each other in a comradely manner, and respecting one another, whether or not we can hash out disagreements in the process.

The principle of raising political consciousness is the purpose of this blog post about hope. When we show people their situation is the result of the capitalist system they are in, they can then begin to have hope as they build caring communities outside the capitalist model.

The website for Iowa Mutual Aid Network shows the expanding number of mutual aid communities in the state, and the variety of work they are doing.


My hope is that many more people will become engaged with Mutual Aid communities so we can pull people out of the traumas from capitalism. I hope you will consider becoming involved in Mutual Aid to begin your own healing. I hope you make mistakes.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

Neil Gaiman

I often sign my emails “practicing hope” because I practice this mental discipline.

People often mistake hope for a feeling, but it’s not. It’s a mental discipline, an attentional practice that you can learn. Like any such discipline, it’s work that takes time, which you fail at, succeed, improve, fail at again, and build over years inside yourself.

Hope isn’t just looking at the positive things in this world, or expecting the best. That’s a fragile kind of cheerfulness, something that breaks under the weight of a normal human life. To practice hope is to face hard truths, harder truths than you can face without the practice of hope. You can’t navigate dark places without a light, and hope is that light for humanity’s dark places. Hope lets you study environmental destruction, war, genocide, exploitative relations between peoples. It lets you look into the darkest parts of human history, and even the callous entropy of a universe hell bent on heat death no matter what we do. When you are disciplined in hope, you can face these things because you have learned to put them in context, you have learned to swallow joy and grief together, and wait for peace.


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