OPINION: There is bankruptcy of hope in our politics

Thursday September 19 2019



Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

Soon it’s going to be election season and there will be politicians vibrantly preaching about the remarkable achievements in the last five years or no achievement if from the opposite camp.

This is what we see and hear at each election cycle. We already heard the fifteen things that the current government has done. Basically we will hear the track record and should we cast our votes based on track records?

Our psyche, our very survival needs hope the way a fish needs water. Track record is a statistics of the past, not of the future while hope is the vision of the future.

Hope is not based on statistics; hope is not about problems already resolved but problems that need to be solved. So I humbly submit that in the coming election season I do not want to hear about the track record.

I want to avoid hopelessness and instead concentrate of construction of hope. I want to hear about potential growth, improvements and salvation of the future.

I want to hear about sustainable and benevolent form of hope that can bring us together rather than tear us apart. I want to hear about hope that is robust and powerful, yet still grounded in reason and reality, hope that gives a sense of gratitude and lasting satisfaction.

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The opposite of happiness is not sadness but hopelessness, the endless gray horizon of resignation and indifference, the feeling of why do anything at all. This is cold bleak nihilism, the uncomfortable truth that explains the root causes of the paradox of progress.

We live in an interesting time; one side of the coin is that materially things are arguably better than ever before, progress has continued uninterrupted.

People are more educated and literate than ever before, violence has decreased, racism, sexism, discrimination and violence against women are at their lowest points, and we have more rights than before.

Half the planet has access to the Internet. Extreme poverty is at all-time low worldwide, children are dying less and people are living longer, there is more wealth than ever before. We have eradicated small pox and have managed to cure a number of diseases.

The other side of the coin is that symptoms of depression and anxiety are on an increase in the young as well as older age group. Since 1985 men and women have reported lower levels of life satisfaction perhaps because stress levels have also risen in the same time period.

Drug overdose is now more common; feelings of loneliness and social isolation are up. Social trust is decreasing as fewer people than ever trust their government, media or one another. More people today are on medication for chronic anxiety and depression than ever in global history.

Global environment and climate change is in chaos, nuclear weapons have increased, and extremism continues to grow in both the right and left, both religious and secular.Basically, we are the safest and most prosperous humans in the history of the world, yet we are feeling more hopeless than ever before. The better things get, the more we seem to despair.

This is the paradox of progress, the wealthier and safer the place you live, the more likely you are to commit suicide. Hope sits on three tenets, first a sense of control; this is when one feels that he or she is in control of their own life, that one can affect his or her fate.

Second is belief in the value of something. Value refers to one finding something important enough to work towards, something better that’s worth striving for.

The third tenet is “community” which means one is part of a group that values the same things and they all work towards achieving the target.

Without a community, we feel isolated, and our values cease to mean anything.

Without values nothing appears worth pursuing and without control we feel powerless to pursue anything. All these three tenets are inclusive.

The question is what is happening in our world that is causing us to feel worse despite everything consistently getting better? It’s because there is a crisis of hope and thus it is the right of every citizen to get, to see hope from our leaders.

The politician who can sale hope during campaigns should get maximum votes. Hope is articulated in the election manifesto of each political party and thus every citizen should read and understand this important document before casting their sacred vote.

Similarly politicians should be able to show case and communicate their election manifesto. Is it not high time that political parties should distribute their election manifesto freely and widely for voters to read comprehend and discuss to see if there is any hope or if there is bankruptcy of hope.

Zulfiqarali Premji is a retired MUHAS professor. His career spans over 40 years in academia, research and public health.