The power of hope

Sometimes I wish never to see another newspaper in my life. Reports of suffering, cruelty, corruption and ineptitude paint a picture of a country that has gone to the dogs. Is that really all we are about?

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I refuse to believe that South Africans would allow their country to be classified as ‘junk’ by ratings agencies, to allow tourists to bypass us for fear of their lives, and to let their children go hungry – all to fulfil an ideology with no basis in reality.

Every time another blackout hits the country, the collective psyche seems to take a dip. Strange – isn’t it? – how a cold shower or missing one’s favourite soapie can upset many people more than the national crime or unemployment rates, or the recent xenophobic attacks. Newspaper reports must have desensitised us to the ugly side of South Africa; either that, or people have simply stopped reading them.

Yet despite all of the negativity, I still detect a spark of hope. Farmers we speak to are worried about the implications of government’s suggested policies, yet they still carry on farming. Drought has many farmers on their knees, yet instead of selling their farms, they are making plans to get through the winter. Why? Because they haven’t given up hope.

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A quote on my diary page by Martin Luther King, a man who faced many disappointments, seems as relevant to us today as it was to his followers in the 1960s: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

What choice do we have but to hope that things will turn out OK? After all, hope in a better future is what gets us all out of bed each morning – in order to bend our bodies and minds towards realising that future. A speech by Wessel Hattingh, the outgoing chairperson of Free State Agriculture’s Young Farmer committee, at the committee’s 30th anniversary celebrations, echoed this sentiment. He challenged young farmers to dream big, to believe that their aspirations were achievable, and to go out and achieve them. If we don’t believe in what we hope for, we might as well cease all efforts to achieve it.

As a country, we’re in danger of losing hope in our dreams. We need our government and our president to inspire and lead the nation so that we achieve the better future we all dream of – and which has been promised by leaders. If the workers at Medupi were sold on the dream of a better South Africa, they wouldn’t have gone on strike. Instead, they would have worked towards getting the power station constructed in record time.

If public workers were sold on the dream, they would manage public funds as if it were their own money. They would do their jobs knowing that they were making a real difference in the lives of others. For now, so many of us seem to be focusing on our own personal dreams, and all too often it’s at the expense of others.