Hope’s a better pick

WHILE many of us are happy that we have had the general election and that, as of this week, we have a Parliament, there are some who remain cynical about the democratic future for Fiji.

While the Methodist Church in Fiji prepares to implement its connexional plan and way forward for the next decade to half-century, there are some who are cynical about whether this is a genuine shift toward a renewed, reformed, inclusive and tolerant church.

A cynical view is a jaded negativity, a lack of faith and hope, and a general distrust. This is where cynicism is different to scepticism. Scepticism may approach an assertion with questions or caution, but will look for something else, something stronger to either alleviate or affirm their caution before outright dismissing it. Scepticism, when done right, always offers an alternative, cynicism tears down and leaves the rumble to sit.

Secondly, the phrase “ever going to work” shows a true danger of cynicism; namely, the hopelessness, the resolve that things cannot be brought to rights. As Phillips puts it: “Cynics fill the air with endless complaint, revealing all the while they have nothing positive to contribute.” Which is a cop out, as comedian Steve Coogan points out, “Cynicism is easy and, although people think it’s very clever to be cynical, it is, but ultimately it’s unsatisfying”.

One writer puts it this way: “By refusing to be hurt or disappointed again, cynics refuse to risk the very things that heal, inspire, and transform. If hope is not possible, fear becomes a very good option.”

Unchecked cynicism is destructive; it corrodes the core of community.

Cynicism inhibits our capacity to trust: In protecting ourselves we come to suspect the worst of others. We obsess about limiting our liability and minimising our exposure. We plan for the worst-case scenario. While such thinking may be appropriate for litigators, it poisons the relationships between individuals.

Cynicism destroys our faith in humanity. The cynic sees people as inherently and irredeemably corrupt. This tradition, inherited from Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Nietzsche, has its roots in the Christian doctrine of original sin. Psychology holds out even less promise; as Freud put it, homo homini lupus — we are to each other as wolves.

With our faith in humanity diminished, and our trust in one another annulled, cynicism then destroys our hope. It convinces us we have no role in shaping the future, no chance of making a better world for ourselves and our families. Cynicism eliminates the possibility of a greater plan and vision for what the world could be. All we are left with is the world as it is.

Earlier this year, speaking on climate change, America’s President Barack Obama said: “Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or started a business, or fed a young mind, or sent men into space. Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice.”

Our nation’s journey has been one from the idealism of independence, to the cynicism of the coup-culture, until at last we are standing at the threshold in hope of a new dawn.

Hope and hopeful imagination are the response to cynicism. The power of imagination is to envision what is possible in the face of what is probable.

David Aikman, the Time magazine journalist, describes hope as “the heart’s deepest longing”.

Prayer is an articulation of hope.

Whether in conversation to God, or an affirmation of positivity, this Fiji Day articulate your hope for Fiji.

Articulate you hope for God’s blessing on our beloved nation.

Articulate your hope in face the effects of climate change – rising seas, more intense cyclones, drought and flood. The hope that we will keep our covenant as good stewards of the land, to use the resources you have given us for the greater good as well as ourselves.

Articulate your hope that justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Articulate your hope that the spirit of reconciliation, tolerance and understanding to fill our people; so we’ll grow united in love and appreciation for who we are as Fijians.

Articulate your hope that we will extend a hand to each other in selfless giving even when we feel we are the ones in need.

Articulate your hope for our leaders — national, religious and within the community — that they will have the heart and wisdom to govern humbly and justly.

Articulate your hope that our nation will be a place where mercy and peace – the fruits of unconditional love will thrive in abundance.

This Fiji Day, allow yourself the opportunity to imagine in hope, a bright, peaceful future for our nation. Celebrate our achievements and celebrate that imagined future.

May we resist cynicism and reject resignation; believing instead in our capacity to change ourselves and through imperfect and partial steps to transform the society and nation in which we live.

As we celebrate our independence, let us reflect on the fact that the time has arrived when we must put our differences aside and freely make the commitment to join hands and walk together into the future. We must recognise and celebrate our interdependence as a people, as a nation. That is what it means to be a truly be an independent country.

“Simplicity, serenity, spontaneity.”

* Reverend James Bhagwan is the secretary for Communication and Overseas Mission, Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma. The views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.