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Living With Hope

Friday, December 31, 2010

I have called for changing the national conversation from the focus of just restraining the negatives to one of growing the positives of our humanity as the route to the sustained development of the T&T society. I have called for the development and implementation of a human development plan to help bring out the best of our people and the realisation of a great society that will be the envy of the world. I firmly believe that there is goodness in every human being and as a society our challenge is to develop systems that will nurture and bring out the best in our people, particularly our youth. We cannot continue to leave it to chance.

I have had the opportunity to live in two of the more violent societies in the world, Jamaica and South Africa, and I have travelled periodically to Colombia, another violent society. Out of those experiences, I have learnt that state violence, by itself, is not the solution to curbing indiscipline and violence in a democratic society. The poor and the powerless are the ones who always bear the brunt of such an approach, leading to further breakdown in the civility of the people.

When we hunt and treat our fellow human beings as animals, we must not be surprised if they chose to behave as animals and wreck havoc on the rest of the society. In fact, in the long run, state-sponsored violence always generates more violence within a society. Hence, the excessive use of force by our protective services is not the solution and it should never be encouraged. We must never forget that hu-man beings can move from a state of civility to total barbarism in a very short period of time. Although we understand civility intuitively and deeply long for it, we are still in a society in which barbarism lurks, often under the guise of civility since some of our big-gest criminals are well dressed, well spoken, drive luxury cars and live in up-market neighbourhoods. Yet, with only a few exceptions, only the poor and the pow- erless are arrested, found guilty and do prison time.

As we close 2010, most of the daily news is about the barbarism of humanity—domestic and industrial conflict, violence, gang wars, banditry, murders and corruption. Our hope lies in the inherent capacity of the human being to be good and to build a society of harmony. We know that we can do better. We can sense it—hence, our frustration and our moral outrage. Our challenge is to find effective and sustainable ways of keeping the barbarian in ourselves and in others at bay. Hence, we must continuously strive to grow our positives.

The people of T&T are not naturally evil. Those who live in Morvant/Laventille are not naturally evil. Those who live in Caroni are not naturally evil. Those who commit crime are not naturally evil. Those who maim and kill their human brothers are not naturally evil. They are all potentially good people who have gone astray. We must find ways to pull them back into the world of civility and at the same time we must nurture our youth towards the display of greater personal responsibility and self-discipline.

As a society, I will like us to begin the New Year with a strong sense of hope that we can overcome the many challenges now facing T&T. With hope, one of the seven leading positives, we open the door to finding creative solutions to our many problems. As Martin Luther King Jr tells us in The Trumpet of Conscience, “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” In February 2007, as I reflected on the importance of hope in our lives, I wrote the following: “Hope is the single most important ingredient for energising the human spirit.

“Hope is to the human spirit what oxygen is to the human body. Without hope there is suffocation of the spirit—most often a slow drawn-out process in which the body although physically alive is spiritually slowly decaying. Thus many, if not most, humans end up living in a state of helplessness, hopelessness and despair— living a life in a state of permanent emotional pain. “Without hope, the human potential remains hidden, moral values have no worth, purpose is obscured, and happiness is only a frustrated dream.

“Without hope, you are without perspective on life—you exist in a state of sustained confusion. Life appears confusing and jumbled—without direction. You live in fear —anxious, insecure and uncertain. Life appears pointless. You wait to die in the emptiness of life, yet you are afraid to die. “Hope is the essence of life and living. It says that there is a reason to be alive. It says that there is a lot to live for. You look forward to a better future. You welcome the future. You are excited about being alive. You have a sense of purpose. You know that you are not alone. You see the beauty of life. You see beauty in the lives of others. You willingly extend love to others. You are conscious of your morality. You strive to live a life of value. You see the importance of others in your life.

“With hope, you sense and feel the value of your life. You know that you can make a contribution and you are excited about making that contribution. You value your life and you are thankful to be alive. You live to express your potential—to share your gift with others and to share your life with others. “With hope you are positive and optimistic. You are energised with the human spirit.” In order to sustain hope we need to have clarity on our humanity and where we are heading in our development process—we must have a dream of a better tomorrow to keep us focused. Hence, with hope we have an optimistic feeling about life, even in the face of challenging circumstances. We feel and believe that better is always possible. We have perspective on the world and we are balanced and spiritually anchored.

In closing 2010, I wish to challenge the media to take the lead in championing the development of a great society in which the positives prevail. I challenge our politicians, on both sides of the isle, to let go of the politics of self-interest and party interest and to champion the development of a society in which harmony prevails. I challenge our religious lead- ers to preach a message of hope and love that will unite us across our religious and cultural differences.  I challenge our universities to champion a national conversation on leadership that will advance the cause of human development and societal advancement. Finally, I challenge every citizen of this potentially great society to dream of the better society that we can all create if we can just allow our better angels to prevail.


Dr Theodore Ferguson is the developer of the Leading From Above The Line programme. The next free one-day introspective retreat is on January 9 at the Asa Wright Nature Centre. For further information, please visit: or call Hyacinth at 662-5967 or e-mail to mailto:[email protected]


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