Hope in South Africa

Hope in South Africa: Overcoming Challenges with Optimism and Action

When Hope is a verb, it brings forth Action

Over 200 years of colonisation; 46 years of apartheid; 30 years of political misrule. Yes, South Africans have been sorely tested, are gatvol, and many have left for greener pastures. But for those who remain, there’s always the glimmer of hope that better days are coming. And this has been the hallmark of human civilisation; an indomitable belief that the future can be better than the past or the present.

Despite frequently oscillating between peak pessimism and hopeful optimism, most South Africans haven’t lost hope, their sense of humour, or zest for life. The daily grind of high unemployment, extreme poverty, pervasive crime and general social malaise have impacted lives and ignited the ire of many. Yet, we still revel in the patriotic gees of the Springboks when they take on the world, feel the glow emanating from the global humanitarian efforts of Gift of the Givers, and our hearts are still spacious enough to exude warmth and hospitality for which South Africans are renowned the world over.

Hope in South Africa
The Protea a symbol of hope in South Africa

Unfortunately, living in latter day South Africa is akin to an extreme sport. It requires grit, determination and creativity to navigate the complexity of the many economic, political and social challenges that citizens face on a daily basis. It’s not surprising that the late musician Syd Kitchen once quipped: “Living in South Africa is not for sissies.” However, when we expand our gaze we realise that humans are resilient, and if we care to look deeply at human responses to hardship, we see incredible optimism on a daily basis. Not only are we endowed with natural intelligence to be innovative, we are also adaptable to cope under harsh conditions. A visit to the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng shows how our ancestors evolved over millennia and survived countless natural and human-made catastrophes – wars, pestilence, natural disasters.

So how does hope fortify us and how do we foreground it in a sea of turmoil? The late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu summed it up beautifully when he once remarked: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

Hope in South Africa
The Rainbow Nation

As humans, our resilience and optimism fuel the belief that life will be better. Afterall, why would voters vote for the same politicians who trot out the same empty promises before every election? Ask any learner studying, a graduate starting out on a career, or an investor looking for opportunities, there’s a general sense of optimism. In spite of many trials and tribulations, hope is what keeps us going.

However, in the modern world, the scale, speed and complexity which define current threats require that hope manifest differently. In this regard, hope must be more than a dopamine booster, a motivating feeling, or a state of mind. Albeit that it enhances one’s mood, what is more important is that it involves practical steps which include setting realistic goals, encompassing strategies, and maintaining the motivation to follow through. This active engagement distinguishes hope from simple optimism. Hope requires one to be proactive, to anticipate challenges, and to apply enabling interventions. A key enabler is our natural inclination to learn, but this is not any kind of learning. It’s critical learning that in the words of Alvin Toffler (1970) allows one to learn, unlearn and relearn.

When hope is a lived reality, it becomes transformative because by its very nature, it brings forth optimism, galvanises collective action and drives progress. Throughout human history, some of the most iconic social changes were inspired by hope.

Therefore, nurturing and living hopefully is not just beneficial, but is essential to human sustainability because it might offer us the only pathway to create a better world.

Rudi Kimmie (PhD) is a human and organisational development specialist. He writes in his personal capacity.

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