By Abel Merawi
September 14, 2020 (Ezega.com) -- Human beings occupy the same physical space and time in this world. However, the defining description of the world is numerous. These differences in understanding the same world have less to do with intellect and more with perspective. Even if you ask intellects from the same field of study, you may get a strikingly different definition. The same is true of the uneducated, politicians, religious people, artists, and even the children. Sometimes, the difference is so wide that it makes you wonder whether they are defining the same planet or not.
I contend that we perceive and understand the world based on the past and future in the context of the present. Hope occupies an integral part of this process. When our experience and present condition is filled with adversities, we often imagine a bleak future. On the contrary, when our life hitherto seemed like a garden of roses, we often expect a bright future. However, it is not always our actual experience that leads us to a pessimistic or optimistic description of the world. At times, education makes the world personal and we may have a dark picture of the world even as we, personally, lead a fairly good life.
There are also rare yet profound occurrences that shake our entire belief system. Such moments place us in a state of shock to the point doubting our previous understanding. Such moments make us uncertain and anxious; they make us look for something to cling on to and make sense of it all again. We can take the Syrian war, the world wars, and terrorist attacks as prime examples. These are moments that make us question humanity. Following the two world wars, a nihilistic approach became more galvanized and spread across the world. Most people found it difficult to trust the future. They simply lost hope and faith in both the world and themselves. This gave rise to a postmodernist approach, which held that there is no truth or no morality other than subjective and personal valuation. This is a symptom of hopelessness that ends with a meaningless life.
Currently, the world is facing shock and powerlessness due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In such times, people feel uncertain and defenseless. This may lead to hopelessness because we feel incapable of facing our immediate surrounding and protecting ourselves and our loved ones. As was in the past, we need hopeful people to deliver us from this pandemic along with the frustration and anxiety that accompanies it. In this sense, hope is defined as the ability to transcend our immediate predicament and realistically imagine a better future.
To be human is to value. We don’t simply observe external circumstances. Rather, we measure and try to make sense of them. In this process of valuation, each of us has the ability to comprehend the world and drive a definition of life from it. Thereafter, our subjective definition appears as the objective world and we live accordingly. Hope is born out of this subjective experience and when we begin to share it collectively it defines our family, nation, and even the world. It is from this valuation that ideologies are born. At this juncture, it will be wise to clearly define and explain the meaning of hope.
The prominent psychologist Erich Fromm in his work ‘Hope’ has both defined and discussed the other innate virtues that accompany it. He states, “To hope is a state of being. It is an inner readiness, that of intense but not-yet-spent activeness.” He goes on to argue that hope, “is neither passive waiting nor is it unrealistic forcing of circumstances that cannot occur.” Accordingly, hope is the same as to realistically predict the best alternative for the future. Hope is a state of being because it determines our life by manifesting itself in our daily attitudes and actions. It is not to be confused with ‘passive hope’, which is to expect the future to be better without any active effort from us in the present. Furthermore, hope is not an ‘unrealistic fantasy’, which ignores facts and naively forces reality to bend to one’s personal whim. Hope is rather a realistic approach to undesirable circumstances in order to improve them.
Hope is built upon faith, and it gives birth to fortitude. Erich Fromm eloquently remarks, “Faith is rational when it refers to the knowledge of the real yet unborn; it is based on the faculty of knowledge and comprehension, which penetrates the surface and sees the kernel. Faith, like hope, is not a prediction of the future; it is the vision of the present in a state of pregnancy.” It is worth understanding that faith is the very source of life that helps us continue in life. We get out of bed not because we are certain that the day is going to be good but because we have faith in it being good if we interact with life to the best of our potential. Fortitude or courage is born from this will to face life despite current circumstances. Erich Fromm states, “Fortitude is the capacity to resist the temptation to compromise hope and faith by transforming them – and thus destroying them – into empty optimism or into irrational faith. Fortitude is the capacity to say no when the world wants to hear yes.” Therefore, freedom finds its expression in the fortitude we have in living up to our faith and hope. It is when we imagine a realistically better tomorrow that we have the courage to face any difficulty at the present.
Hope makes us engage actively in constructing ourselves and the world around us while hopelessness leads to passivity and violence. One manifestation of hopelessness is ‘pseudo-innocence’. The renowned psychologist, Rollo May, in ‘Power and Innocence’ explains pseudo-innocence by remarking, “When we face questions too big and too horrendous to contemplate, we tend to shrink into this kind of innocence and make a virtue of powerlessness, weakness, and helplessness. … With unconscious purpose, we close our eyes to reality and persuade ourselves that we have escaped it.” To put it in context, to act as if COVID-19 doesn’t exist, to argue that our country is safe and everyone lives in harmony, or to gullibly say the world is beautiful is a mark of hopelessness in passivity. The other form of hopelessness is violence. Erich Fromm argues, “Precisely because men cannot live without hope, the one whose hope has been utterly destroyed hates life. Since he cannot create life, he wants to destroy it. …. it matters little whether he destroys others or is destroyed.” This is the attitude of violent protestors and their leaders. It is also the mentality of leaders who corrupt and destroy a nation since they lack faith in their own country.
Finally, the value of hope is essential both for the individual and for society. We hope not just because we have a frame of reference in history but also for an ideal that is humanly possible. Both the individual and society cannot progress without hope, because to be static is to regress and decay in time. Friedrich Nietzsche said it best in Thus Spoke Zarathustra by remarking, “Wherever I found the living, I found the will to power.” The New Year should be celebrated with hope and faith in a progress. It should be faced with the fortitude or ‘will to power’ needed to overcome COVID-19 and progress in unity as a nation.
Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Abel Merawi:
Free but in Chain, Part IV: Personal Bondage
Free but in Chain. Part III: Economic Bondage
Free but in Chain. Part II: Social Bondage
Free but in Chain. Part I: Bondage of Worldview
Unemployment and Economic Growth in Ethiopia
The Underestimated Human Ignorance
Is America the Land of Freedom? (Part II)
Is America the Land of Freedom? (Part I)
Capitalism Becoming an Impediment to Morality
Ketman: Living in Disguise to Gain Acceptance
The System and the 'Criminal'
Trust as an Economic Force
Do You Trust the Government?
Our Online World
Fame Mistaken for Expertise
The Heavy Burden of Healthcare Workers
A Time to Reflect
The Plague by Albert Camus: Fiction Becomes Reality!
History of Pandemics in Ethiopia
Human Struggle Against Pandemics: Historical Perspective
You Can Make a Difference
Rule of Law for a Free Society
The Origins of Law
Determinants of Market Value: Part II
Determinants of Market Value: Part I
Your life Matters Too
Manifestations of Artistic Expression
Achievements vs Natural Accidents
The Grip of Sacrifice
Injustice is Never Justifiable
Education Demands of the Future
Job Security, Life and the Unpredictable Future
The Shift From Racism to Culturism
Sacrificing Meaning for Power?
Culture and Market Forces
Seeking Cosmic Justice
National Myths: Makers and Destroyers of Nations
Are We Truly Free?
Maturity: The Prerequisite to Freedom and Democracy
Loyalty to Truth, Not to Group
The Value of Work
The Flaws with Ethiopian Political System
Intellectuals and the People
Where Are Our Pathfinders?
The Allegory of the Cave and Its Lessons to Leaders
The Truth Behind Humanity
The Seven Virtues
The Seven Deadly Sins
What is the right thing to do?
Building National Identity
Adey Abeba and the Spirit of Change
Living the Truth as a Human Being
Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others
The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them
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