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2018 November 173 min read

"I admire the effort, but realistically, it's just not gonna happen."

If you're like me, this will be your first gut reaction to Earth Strike, the burgeoning grassroots movement organizing a global general strike for climate action. Like me, you've probably grown up in the so-called "End of History" era, where the extent of our collective influence has been insufficient to fix, in any meaningful way, the problems of the world - insufficient to disrupt, in any meaningful way, the power structures that exacerbate them. And you've been thrust out of any optimism you might have had in your youth, jaded enough by realism and the realities of the current time, that you've built up the same defense mechanism against disappointment that most of us deploy when we are faced with optimism:

"I admire the effort, but realistically, it's just not gonna happen."

Or maybe you're like me, and for whatever crazy reason you'll decide to put those nagging thoughts aside, give this thing a shot, put your heart and soul into it, and see where it goes. Eager to help out, you spread the word to everyone you can - friends, family, classmates, social media, and so on. But whenever you propose this kind of collective upheaval of the system, you're going to be met, either explicitly or implicitly, with this same refrain:

"I admire the effort, but realistically, it's just not gonna happen."

...and like me, you might not be sure what to say in response.

Like any statement, if someone says this, they're not only expressing their belief in it, but also that they have a motive to say it. And I think examining the motives behind this statement can shed some light on how to reply.

I think most of us, myself included, are afraid of setting ourselves up for disappointment - or worse, embarrassment - at having committed ourselves, publicly and psychologically, to something that could very well turn out to fail. Speaking personally, and not at all with the intention of congratulating myself for being slightly less spineless than I usually am, but it was a big step for me to go as public as I have with my endorsement and continued support of this movement. I've been a political junkie for a few years now, and I've seen my own perspective on the world grow so fast that I've been in a perpetual six-month cycle of self-cringe the entire time. I know that if this movement fizzles out, I'll probably look back on my naive current self and feel that same embarrassment. Conversely, there's something to be said for that smug sense of superiority you get knowing you didn't "buy into the hype" of some trendy cause that went nowhere. "I was obviously just being more realistic than everyone else, caught up in their fantasy world, where things change just because enough people whine about it."

But if there's anything that would outweigh that sense of smugness for me, it would be the sheer guilt of knowing that I could have helped to prevent the greatest disaster humanity has ever faced, to spare the masses of people who are and will continue to be victimized by the effects of climate change, to support the thousands of eager, ambitious, selfless, committed, and optimistic volunteers who have built this movement and put their trust in people like me to make it work. And this time, I couldn't on good conscience betray that trust.

So I'm taking the word "realistic" out of my vocabulary. None of the most significant positive changes in human history have been through "realism". Reality is what we make it.


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