I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death. – Robert Fulghum.
When I watch my Twitter feed, sometimes I find it all too easy to become disheartened. There is so much happening, so much injustice and so much oppression. When I was younger, I had this idealistic idea that somehow I could change the world. That one person could make a difference. It is all too easy to shout out into the wilderness, to follow that that ever moving Twitter feed, the short life of an article, to feel the constant drive to have new content on a blog to make sure it isn’t relegated into ‘inactive’ status. What happens when you feel like you’re shouting into the abyss, that if you say something and it’s out there, it will just get pushed to the bottom of that day’s Facebook news feed? People get jaded, seeing petitions for anything and everything pop up all the time. Who would blame them for not signing? For every cry of injustice and anger you retweet for someone, ten other cries quickly move down and by the end of the day, they are yesterday’s news.
So what is the flipside of this? What changes things? What makes us change from jaded and cynical to hopeful and empowered? What makes us see the world anew again, gives us the drive to change things, to make thoughts into words? There is a lot of truth in ‘actions are more powerful than words’ – but words and their meanings, said in a certain way, in an authentic, powerful and raw way – have the power to change our thinking, to give us that motivation to push ourselves to make a difference. I am who I am today because of words, because I’ve listened to people and tried hard to understand what they have to say.
I’m always striving to understand the privileges I have and the oppressions that I have. Everyone is a bundle of oppression and privilege. I understand that I can’t speak for a woman of color, or for someone from a working class background. Yet privilege fluctuates too, and it is understanding that which helps me understand my place in this dialogue. I will hold my tongue and accept that there are some things I will never experience, that can be better told by people who have experienced them. Yet I also understand that I can share their words, can spread them, and be part of that dialogue and message. I can empathise, and listen.
What changed me from feeling cynical and jaded from the arguments and in-fighting of online feminism in 2006-07 to believing again that people can make a difference? It was moving away from that and listening to people who had their own voices, who were talking about a more nuanced and intersectional feminism. It was understanding that not everything is black and white, that black and white hides the shades of grey. I began looking at my own identity as a deaf woman, and that of other deaf women. I found my voice again, and tentatively began to hope for a better world again. Finding people who are changing the world by speaking out, by crystallising their thoughts on blogs, by encouraging and inspiring people.
Passion is part of hope. Being passionate is the opposite of being cynical. Cynicism is turning the other cheek, thinking that nothing you can do or say can ever make a difference because things just are – they are never going to change. Yet all the little things that have happened across history – all the milestones that are still worth fighting for – racial liberation, women’s liberation, disability rights, sexual liberation and so much more – have taken someone, or a whole group of people, rising up, having hope and fighting hard for what they believe in. Coming together, despite the fact that they might have differences, and being part of a common cause. Just because that Twitter timeline changes so quickly, just because Facebook has a short memory, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth fighting for things – that we should have a short memory. What is hope but the thing that has sustained human dreams and set us into Space and time?
When you act on that hope, when you take a small step forward into something, even if only one person notices, you will still have made a difference to someone. Writing is like that too. One reader – one imagination – and you’ve made a difference. It does feel painful to realise that not everyone shares that passion to change things, to make the world better, but all you can do is keep going, keep hoping, and remember that slumping into cynicism is the easy way out. It is hard to fight, hard to hope, but so very human.
It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. – Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl.