There is a slogan that says you see the light at the end of the tunnel, then there is a hope. The problem here is we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, more the fire who will destroy, really. If the government can stop to build the township, then we’ll see the light in the tunnel not the fire.

—From South Africa

 

We will never have enough in South Africa. Not in this day, not in the next. Because we are dealing with forty years of damage, much longer. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel; I am saying that with confidence. Things are going to come right. In 1974—my father passed away long ago—he and I were driving from the EC and we saw a white person sitting outside in Queenstown and I said to him, “Daddy, one day you are going to sit next to a house like that one.” “Never,” he said. “Over my dead body.”

—From South Africa

 

 If there is a greater sense of equality I think there will be hope for South Africa. If this government decides to focus on the poor and to relieve the issues of the poor, then there will be hope. As long as the numbers of poor are growing, the potential for unrest and for demonstrations and for anti-government sentiments will be growing—if we don’t deal with the issues.

—From South Africa

 

You used the word “hope.” And maybe this is the most important thing of all: leadership. Or the absence of leadership. Because it is about vision and about who inspires it. Where we are today, it is a vision or a snapshot of the future, and it gives people hope that we are on this road together. But in the absence of an authoritative leadership with a good vision, the leadership vacuum doesn’t inspire hope in people. So we lurch from one crisis to the next…. One of the key attributes of a leader is to have a clear vision; without that there is no hope.

—From South Africa

 

I do have hope. I think things can get better. I think we need to do a lot more as government, and as society, but things are more dependent on government rather than on businesses. Yes, they can play a role, and they should play a role. Civil society does have a role, et cetera, but in the end it is government that drives change. So that is where my hope lies.

—From South Africa

 

We actually in December, my wife and I and our kid, we were staying in a container. The container is still standing there. We were staying in the container without windows…. And sometimes when I dream, but when I wake up, there are tears in my eyes, and my wife will ask me what is going on, there are just so many bad things going through my mind. But I still believe in and trust God. There is still hope for us.

–From South Africa

 

You find out that people don’t care, they give up hopes, and if you notice, some start doing criminal activities…. There are people who are just waiting to die.

—From South Africa


INTRODUCTION

Hope is not certainty, which makes it precarious and often painful. It is also precious—for social movements that successfully transform communities into safer spaces usually depend on mavericks willing to embody hope when it may be unpopular, seems unrealistic, or invites derision. They embody the notion that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but the contours of this light may not yet be known. The light may be a fire that destroys or one that guides the way; despite the fact that the human race is experiencing unprecedented peace, the future is not clear. The wisdom of psychology, recovery movements, and peace-building tell us that what we see depends on how we’re looking. So hope mixes personal perspective, life experience, and the chronology of expectation. “Don’t ask me to put a timescale on it,” one hopeful Northern Ireland respondent qualified his feelings about the future. Violence has, perhaps surprisingly, declined, and the very fact of research into compromise may itself be a sign of hope:

Responses here run the gamut from optimistic to despairing, and many places in-between; and nearly everyone agrees the change they hope for will be slow in coming (if it comes at all).

Of the three research locations, Northern Ireland respondents seemed far more hopeful than those in South Africa and Sri Lanka. For Northern Ireland, children are often seen as sources of hope that the next generation might be different, safer, better than before.   Respondents in South Africa, by far, voiced the most hopelessness, as well as the fear that this hopelessness could translate into an actively dangerous state. Unremitting poverty has encouraged criminal activity, leading to a situation where, as one South African respondent said, “There are some people who are just waiting to die.” Yet even in South Africa there was a wide range of perspectives, with one respondent saying he believed nothing to be impossible in the country. In Sri Lanka, the recent and tenuous end to violent conflict leaves many people in limbo, traumatised by the violence they have only just experienced and fearful that it might start again.

 


1) I wish that I should be hopeful, but most of the time I feel the future is uncertain. As I see the struggle of the people and the government position and…how the country is moving, it does not give me any hope for the future. I prefer just to live for the day.

—From Sri Lanka

 


2) So for me, I really see a very bleak future for the country. We can never deny that fact in this country – I am not an economist, but if one makes an analysis [of] how things are happening, we know that for any country to develop it depends entirely on who is holding the finances of the country. And we must say that in this country the greater treasures still lies in the hands of the minority. And it is that minority that decides how the country will be governed.

—From South Africa

 


3) I am very anxious about my future: the present situation of military occupation, changing demography, and forced colonization of our lands by the military. There is clearly an attempt to destroy the traditional homeland of Tamil people, the culture and language of the Tamil people. There is an undercurrent of trying to make this country a Sinhala and a Buddhist country. You don’t have to be intelligent to see that. So there is no hope.

—From Sri Lanka

 

Our hopes for new Sri Lanka as one nation and one country are still shattered.

For me, I am not hopeful about the future. Maybe families, they may have hope, that is a smaller unit, and they are mostly moving life, and with education and in that aspect, they are okay. But as a whole, the country, what is happening, continuously the question is raised whether it is safe to live here and many say it is not safe. Many have already gone. That is the hopelessness and uncertainty that is there.

At present, hopes have become disappointments. Also, this hope would not bring us any good further, so hope for the future is impossible.

I do not think that I have any clarity about my future. No hopes with me. I am now in a sickly condition. I feel emptiness. Actually, when I heard that my son was dead, I thought, Only the four walls of this house remain. That thought will not go away from my mind.

—From Sri Lanka

 


4) I am hopeful…. Not all victims groups agree with me, but it is something that I firmly believe. That all victims groups will eventually become community groups as they develop. Don’t ask me to put a timescale on it but I do believe that is the future. I would not like to think in thirty years’ time somebody would be sitting here in my chair, and by that stage we would have had forty years of peace, and they are still talking about bloody victims. I think that is wrong. I firmly believe that if victims groups wish to survive, eventually they should evolve into community groups. And I do believe that once victim groups from all sides take that step, I think then that we will really see the dividend.

—From Northern Ireland

 


5) Q: To be hopeful, what is needed?

A: I am thinking, why people are living? That is important. This is something that needs to be discussed. If we ask they will tell different things. With religion, people must be helped to hope for tomorrow. They must ask: “If we have children, what should we do? What is there in our religion?”

If we take age, I am thirty. Half of my life is gone. I must look back: half of my time is over, and what have I done that should have been done? How much of time left?

People say, they think, “I must build a house someday.” What is the meaning of “someday?” They say “someday” till their death. They will do what they hope when they go with the walking stick.

People do not have aims and goals. They must get rid of “someday.” If building a house, they must begin today.

Ask people what their talents are. Maybe a small thing. Maybe something like making ekelbrooms. If you ask someone what his talents are, he starts thinking. One does not know one’s own talents. One must recognize one’s talents and then see. Then must do it.

What could be achieved? What could be realized? How much time one has? Not “someday.” If we instill this hope then people could change.

—From Sri Lanka

 

 

Economically, we are shattered, so there should be support to revive our economy. There should be some sort of measures to reduce their stress. Others should help these people to inculcate positive thinking about life and to change their perception of society and its nature. There should be continuous awareness programs on world affairs; how does the world progress? And how do we live in the world? What do we need to do? And what are our setbacks? I personally feel these kinds of programs will help these people to revive their hopes about life and their future. There is a possibility for a change in their mindset that we as human beings have a purpose to live and we too can live in this world.

—From Sri Lanka

 


6) Q: So even though you have been through a lot, it hasn’t really done anything to your capacity to be hopeful?

A: No. In a strange way, to be widowed in the way that I and so many other women did, it makes you a better character. It gives you a great ear for listening to other people. And you have a wealth of emotions and you learn. Whenever you come through widowhood and all the problems and the decisions that you have to make when you live on your own, you always plan “A,” and then you think about it, what plan “B” would be like, in making decisions. But it gives you a better listening ear for other people. When other people open up their hearts to you and talk about their problems, and not necessarily because of the Troubles, but just about something else, I think you are a better listener. In fact I always say that listening is better than talking, to someone who has a problem.

So I find in an unusual way that it has had its advantages. It is a strange thing to say and I don’t think “advantage” is the word to use.

—From Northern Ireland

 


7) I still feel hopeful. Maybe not as hopeful as when Mandela was released and we were having our first free and fair election. But still hopeful because I think it is a slow process; it is a slow process and I still think that eventually we will get to the stage where people can really live together and it doesn’t matter.

I mean I do have some few white friends, very few. And it has been very difficult, because when we were growing up, my father used to say—my father was part white—he used to say the only good white person is a dead one.

So it was in the beginning very difficult. They would not necessarily come to your house, and you would not go to their house. You would meet each other in a neutral place. In town, for a cup of coffee, something like that. But you wouldn’t visit each other.

—From South Africa

 


8) But there is a major hope out there. And when you see youth and children together, one of the ways that I see it is through the dance group. They dance and they dance with Irish dancers. They were away in Monaghan before Christmas. And there was a group, there was a Protestant pipe band and there was a Catholic pipe band. There was a group of Irish dancers and then a group of Scottish Highland dancers…and they all came together and they done a dance event. It is the bit where you see your children…. The hope is good.

—From Northern Ireland

 


9) I think there is hope. I think nothing is impossible in South Africa. Yes, there are problems with reconciliation; there are problems with crime, corruption, in terms of delivery. There are all these problems, but I don’t think we cannot overcome these problems.

—From South Africa

 


10) Q: What are your hopes for the future of Northern Ireland? And for yourself?

A: Well, for the country I would just want more of those awful horrible walls to come down. Those dreadful walls. Someone told me there were thirty-seven in Belfast. But there are now forty-eight, which to me isn’t progressive enough. That is awful, dreadful and ugly. We are concentrating in the immediate far too much on the Titanic and George Best’s pictures everywhere and Hurricane Higgins everywhere. You know they were great athletes and that is lovely. But it is a very negative outlook to say we are famous for George Best, Hurricane Higgins, and the Titanic. I like to think that we could become the land of saints and scholars.

—From Northern Ireland

 

 

Q: I just wanted to ask you, are you generally a hopeful person? What are your hopes for the future?

 A: Well, I would like to see that we would have an all-Ireland state. I see it in sort of political ways because as far as I am concerned there is no border now. With the new connections they have got, we are all working together. To me it is near enough an all-Ireland without saying it in words. Because I think that would put people off.

Because now we have got roads working together. You can see all the border towns are going to have cross medical.

I can see now without them coming out and saying it is an all-Ireland state. But you can see the way it is going. The roads, our health, and before long the education. And they are the main sort of ones. And then you are going to see employment. We always did work; work was plentiful up here. People from the South would have come up here first. Plenty of work down South; people would have gone down South. At the minute you can see people coming into Newry. All the fringe areas on the border are all doing well. Because the simple reason people are coming across to do their shopping and that. So you can see economically it is going to bring it about more.

—From Northern Ireland

 

Well, according to Sinn Fein, we are on the road to a united Ireland. Which of course is complete deluded nonsense. And they know it and the vast bulk of people who vote for them know it. You cannot unite Ireland unless you unite its people. So the only way that there is any future, ultimately, is that people must come together and agree on a system. And this is what is happening now I suppose, north-south institutions. The new police service, a new bill of rights, and a whole range of things that have changed forever, will actually, I suppose, take the toxin and take the poison out of the conflict we have here. But ultimately there is going to have to be some authority and some agreement as to how people ultimately live in this part of Ireland. Or as the Unionists would see it, this part of the United Kingdom.

Personally, I don’t care what you call it as long as it is equal. And as long as it is fair. I don’t actually care. I mean the idea of a green post box or a harp on top of my wages as opposed to the crown, it doesn’t actually float my boat one way or the other. As long as it is fair and it is tolerable. But I do think that it will unite eventually, but not in my lifetime. This is a long way down the road. Because I think people will unite eventually.

—From Northern Ireland