The Antidote to Despair

A Response to Stan Grant and the politics of giving up

There is little point beating about the bush. Times are tough. There are legitimate questions as to what the future will look like, and how we will get there.

However, tough as times are, I remain immensely surprised at the intense negativity, bordering on, quite frankly, a neurotic defeatism, that I have seen displayed by some. Perhaps the best distillation of this is the ABC’s International Affairs Analyst, Stan Grant, in his recent article What Eddie McGuire, Xi Jinping and Joe Biden tell us about the shifting global order. Let’s take it from the top.

Mr Grant shapes his article from the outset through the lens of the three men mentioned in the title, stating that “in their own way, they are part of the changing of the old order – a shift that involves liberalism, democracy, racism, assumptions of power and indeed the future of the West.” Mr Grant makes a few good points, a few poor, in what is a pretty stock-standard article – until he hits the section addressing the United States.  

Mr Grant assesses the United States entirely through a lens of race suggesting that “Race and racism belie the American myth of equality.” I disagree with Mr Grant’s points concerning equality. If one accepts that equality is a need and a desirable goal, one must accept that inequality is a thing that 1. exists and 2. must be solved. To state that equality is a “myth” is like saying that the moon sits up in the sky. Congratulations! The opinion is correct, but pointless. It is from here on that the article really veers of the rails of what I can justify or accept.

Mr Grant castigates President Biden for his “appeal to decency, to bring Americans together,” suggesting it risks “ignoring the history and reality of the country he leads.” What? To me (and I may well be incorrect) this reads like a form of defeatism. Yes, the situation, the divide across the United States, is great. But that is no excuse to give up any attempt to bridge that divide. It seems that Mr Grant is suggesting we ought to give up appeals to unity, appeals to bridging divides, instead simply believing that history is too ugly to ever be successfully confronted.

Division is not some new thing. Storms always menace the horizons of nation-states. However, when a storm is coming, you don’t stand there and whinge about how wet you are soon going to be. You find an umbrella. When a nation faces division and divide, you don’t put it in the ‘too hard basket.’ You start the long work of healing.

Mr Grant continues to zoom off the rails of reason, linking “Fear of China’s rise” with “a sense of ‘white panic.’” He suggests that “The emergence of a non-Western superpower that is authoritarian and rejects liberal democracy threatens to upend a Western dominated global political order.”

What a bunch of malarkey.

My concern at the rise of China has nothing to do with the fact that is it a “non-Western” (i.e., in the implication of Mr Grant, non-white) power “that is authoritarian and rejects liberal democracy.”

My concern at the rise of China has everything to do with the fact that China is a power “that is “authoritarian and rejects liberal democracy”!

“White-panic” has nothing to do with my desire to see a “Western dominated global political order” maintained. I desire to see the “West,” whatever that term even means, maintained because a so-called ‘Western’ world order doesn’t involve my arrest and execution for the crimes of advocating individual rights and freedoms!

Mr Grant quotes a “philosopher” who assesses the West as a “delusional fantasy, a false consciousness, at the full service of an imperial hegemony.”

The only delusional fantasy I perceive is the one inhabited by persons who think such statements rational and justifiable.

The “West,” which quite frankly (and, in my opinion, distastefully) in this segment is taken to suggest European whiteness, becomes for Mr Grant some great Satan, lost and purposeless unless it is engaged in the exploitation of others.

I have hardly heard such pointless nonsense in my life. The nebulous term “West” has become a placeholder word, representative of the worst sins of humanity. This is an attempt to justify a radical, extremist desire to destroy civil society through equivocation. Yes, the United States, Australia and the rest have great failures on our record. The solution to those failures, however, is not further destruction through the abolition of the nation-state. The solution comes from harnessing the wealth and power of our societies to uplift and serve those who labour under the repression of history and circumstance. The solution is not destruction, but construction.

Seeing race and exploitation in every nook and cranny is useless to me. I am more interested by far in solutions and problem-solving, addressing wrong and upholding right in every which way possible. Call me old fashioned if I refuse to accept that the only way to address inequality is through dismantling the post-War global order, or abolishing the individual or society or the nation-state.

I think it is high time to reject whingeing and complaining. It feels good to highlight grievances and castigate others for their failures. Sometimes, this sort of thing can even be useful in challenging perceptions and creating meaningful change. But defeatism, whining and useless protestations are a waste of time.

I want to hear solutions. I want to hear pathways to success. When wrongs are noted, I want the immediate thought to be ‘well, what do we do to right this wrong?’ not ‘how terrible is life and history!’ Solutions do not live in the past. They inhabit the future, and are to be found in the present.

Despair is a pointless emotion. Like hate and all other emotions based on grievance, despair simply corrodes the vessel in which it is contained.

What is the antidote to despair?

Hope.

Call me hokey and naïve, but I furiously believe that the only solutions to the ills of our present are a firm hope for our future.

A hope that, if today we strive, tomorrow we will greet a better day.

A hope that seeks righteous action, fighting in the dust for change rather than wallowing in the mud of self-centred grievance.

The antidote to despair?

Hope.

Alexander Back is the Vice President of the Conservative Club

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