“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Nelson Mandela
It is common practice at this time of the year for many persons to make resolutions. The change from one year to another is seen as a momentous occasion by a great number of persons. As witnessed a few nights ago, many in Barbados joined people the world over in celebrating the change from 2016 to 2017. Some chose to go to church, others chose to go to parties while I am sure there were others who chose to do nothing, just simply watching as the time passed by.
What 2017 will bring is anyone’s guess, but usually there is an abundance of hope at this time especially if the previous year wasn’t as successful as one may have hoped it to be. I wrote on the subject of hope a few weeks ago when I reflected on Barbados’ 50th Anniversary of Independence. Again at this time on our calendar, hope comes to mind. I suspect many will have hope as they look at this new-year. But I equally suspect many will have fears.
What drives these two powerful emotions of hope and fear in human beings? There are perhaps many reasons but one important answer may be the lack of knowing what will really happen. We can predict based on certain parameters but we can never be absolutely sure. In life, there are so many probabilities and possibilities. I guess this is what makes life exciting. Invariably most outcomes are determined by what we put in to reaching the desired goals. That is why I find the above quotation and wish of the late Nelson Mandela so profound.
If the choices we make in life determines, in most cases, the outcome, then what emotions are those choices based upon? Are they based on hope or fear? I think human beings should have a healthy combination of both. Too much of one emotion or the other may not bring a proper balance to one’s character.
In my faith, we understand that human beings should live between hope and fear. From a religious point of view, it is hope of God’s pleasure and fear of His displeasure. It is, like some scholars say, the two wings of a bird. Both wings must function to bring harmony and flight.
2016 ended with much apprehension as to what 2017 will bring. Leadership will perhaps be a much debated topic in 2017. Political leadership as well as other forms of leadership. Leadership in all its forms has come under the microscope over the last year in ways that perhaps haven’t been before. Leadership in Barbados and leadership in many parts of the world including the so-called great democracies.
It is leadership that can and does evoke those emotions of hope and fear in human beings. Some leaders use hope to galvanize and to lead people. Those leaders evoke a passion in people to want to do better, to make choices that would bring about a better society and nation. Others leaders use fear. Their message is one that intimidates. It causes people to want to make choices based on fear of something or someone.
Many persons questioned and still question the success of Donald Trump at the polls in the United States of America in 2016. His message undoubtedly was one of fear. While his slogan was “Make America Great Again”, which should have been a statement of hope, it was premised on everything that was wrong in the US and fear of what will happen. This campaign so contrasted to President Barack Obama’s campaign eight years earlier when his message of hope resonated with the voters and won him not only the electoral-college votes but the popular vote as well.
I watched a documentary on Obama’s legacy recently and it clearly reflected on the hurdles he faced as President in getting his goals achieved. The documentary made the point that these barriers were put in place due to Obama’s ethnicity. Such systems are destructive and offer no hope. Those types of systems result in demagogues rising to power. 2017 and the coming to the Presidency of Donald Trump will be a time for much apprehension among the world’s people. His choices so far for key positions in the Government have certainly not allayed any of those fears.
The outcome of the Brexit vote in 2016 in the United Kingdom was another example of a fear message triumphing over hope. Fear of immigrants and ‘others’ not like you cause persons to make bad choices.
Fear is the trademark of terror groups and they have used it boldly in 2016. Equally racist political ideologies have used the fear created by such terror groups to sell their own twisted agendas. All hope seems lost in these battles.
On our island home, we will also look to political leadership for 2017. As elections draw nearer, the focus will be even greater. Will our leadership evoke hope that will help us overcome whatever our country faces or will despair overtake us? Hope can easily turn to despair and to fear if there is nothing to look forward to. If there is no light at the end of the tunnel, then one can easily give up or give in.
Leaders must bring hope to those they lead. If they bring only fear, then they are dictators. If leaders cannot invoke a genuine love and admiration from those their lead, then their leadership is by intimidation. And in this context I am speaking to all those who are leaders, from political leadership to everyday leaders. In the home, the workplace, the church, and any other organization that requires someone to take charge and guide it. We are all leaders and like shepherds, we all have a flock to guide and take care of, whether that flock is one or many.
Let us therefore resolve that while we acknowledge that both hope and fear have places in our emotions, our choices will reflect our hopes and not our fears.
Blessed 2017 to all.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)