When I was still a teenager, I had the chance to hear Tommy Douglas – the greatest Canadian – speak at an NDP meeting. It was a large crowd but there was no stage so Mr. Douglas, who was barely 5 feet tall, asked me to get him a chair to stand on. Such are our brushes with fame.
He spoke for more than forty minutes, without notes or repetition. It was not a rote speech he had memorized as he included references to things that had happened that very day. It was, however, wide-ranging and mesmerizing.
One of the things I most remembered though was ancient history – or so it seemed to my 18 year old self, going back to the earliest days of the CCF which was born in the deepest, darkest days of the Great Depression. He told how the party activists were certain they would get their strongest support in the worst hit parts of Saskatchewan, the places where the dust bowl had hit hardest, where people were poorest, where even hope had abandoned the field.
But they were wrong. Those areas stuck with the old established parties – the conservative parties. They voted for more of the same. They voted against change. It was the areas of the province that were less hard hit, less poverty stricken that supported the new democratic socialist party. It was the areas with hope that voted for change.
That was a lesson I learned long ago but which is still true today. Hope and Change are inextricably linked. This is true for individuals and it is true for societies. If your only experience with change has been disastrous, if life has squeezed the last drop of hope from your spirit, then you cannot believe in the future; you must cling to the past. Quite literally, the devil you know – even though you know he is a devil – is better than the leap of faith into the great unknown.
Only hope allows you to change. Only the understanding that a better world is possible makes it possible to reach a better world.
Conservatives learned this lesson, as well. To this day, they try to convince the public that the past is better than, will always be better than, the future. They tell us we live in the best of all possible worlds so you better give up hope of anything better. They try to frighten us of anything and everything – in the hope we will cling to the devils we know.
But I believe that a better world is always possible. It isn’t easy to achieve but it is achievable. Maybe that’s why I read and write science fiction. It suggests a path forward to a world without want, without war, without hate. Not all science fiction, of course – conservative SF simply projects the past into the future with better gadgets – but the best, most hopeful, kind always does.
Hope for change and then make it happen. Change yourself and change the world. Or continue to live in fear and imperfection.
It’s up to you.
And that’s ten minutes.