A young friend half jestingly threw a rhetoric question at me the other day enquiring how I could remain a propounder of optimism knowing what reality really offers....
.........my repartee was (smilingly), a suggestion to be involved with nurturing young people.
Cliched as this may sound it actually is sound advice. Our problem as we grow older is that we feel unable to "meet up with reality" in ways that would oblige us to define our personal politics; and to then acquire the courage to get beaten down from time to time and still be determined to address life uncompromisingly.
Will you accuse me of spouting another cliche?
Well it depends on whether you are willing to look at life as a journey of learning, or whether one merely attempts to survive each day by protecting the tiny world of personal existence; because this cross-road poser will actually determine how you receive the ideas of optimism.
There is also a whole load of unlearning required when optimism becomes a factor of significance within ones life. We are normally products of influences that we have casually adopted because they become familiar from repeatedly encountering such attitudes and opinions; and we then do little to deconstruct them to make pertinent enquires for ourselves. We become defeated by our own pessimism to accept an active role in change of any kind; deeming it impossible and the responsibility of others and never oneself. Discontentment and complaints become the easy way out as we march along the cribbing route; passive in our martyrdom and comfortable in the self righteousness of being the eternal victim.
It was refreshing to listen to Justice Markandey Katju on the program Right to be Heard, telecast on Headlines Today recently, where he spoke at length and with great patience about his views on civil society, politics, the judicial process, and also what he determines as development and progress in India. I listened to him as I painted and found his candour on a variety of subjects to reveal a sharp and analytical mind-space that was structured from encountering realities without flinching. The questions however from most of the audience were so pedestrian and repetitive that they only exemplified his "controversial" remark of 90% Indians being fools as perhaps sadly correct!
We disallow ourselves to define "hope" because critical spaces that disclose and demand accountability from us as civil society get pushed away by us because we never desire to recognise that we belong to the problem. We hold ourselves always in that convenient space of being the victim and thereby remain conveniently unaccountable to partake of the process of reforms and change where possible through our interventions.
Optimism is that essential belief that change is always attainable via pro-active methods of living. It is like a re-lay race where in connecting ourselves we produce the sequence that delivers a positive result. Where the collective is recognised by us as a social space that obliges us to leave our imprint of relevance and purpose; sometimes quietly and unheralded. Optimism it isn't about the fairytale of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is actually a commitment to work for all the issues of concern that hold your attention and which you recognise requires a lifetime commitment from you. It is the desire of change that holds optimism afloat. To let go would make the world too dark a place of living.
*Photograph on Robben Island in South Africa