||Posted: June 07 2012,12:48
I just found this wonderful blog on optimism in dark times, and feel like sharing it as widely as possible. It is by Mazin Qumsiyeh, a scientist whom I met at Yale several years ago, but who has returned to be deeply involved in the struggle for justice in his homeland of Palestine. It is posted on his blog at http://popular-resistance.blogspot.fr/2012/06/optimism.html.
Overall life is good and people are good. Some people do foolish things once in a while: oppress, kill, steal land, destroy trees etc. But life continues and people survive, adapt, and struggle to get to a better place. Here in Palestine, the apricots (Mishmish) are in season and they are as sweet as can be. Our village is known for Faqous (of the cucumber family) which is now also in season. While Israeli colonizers took most of the agricultural land around the area, we still have some Sahouri Faqous and we still struggle to reclaim our rights. And we are now beginning to get the first ripe figs (called Teen Dafour). The young olives and grapes are still green and growing. Like those grape vines that shed their leaves always come back with young leaves and then bear fruits.
So I am thrilled that thousands of our students are graduating this month. The wedding season is on and my sister, a nurse at a maternity hospital in Bethlehem, relays how they are busier than ever. Community gatherings always have more children than adults (60% of us Palestinians are children). Nothing pleases my sight more than young children walking down ancient streets holding hands like their ancestors did thousands of years ago. 5 and 6 year old friends with their arms on each other's shoulders whispering in each other's ears through the narrow alleys of the refugee camp of Aida. Kids are sharing fruits and balloons in the nativity square. Young girls giggling as they go home from the "Shepherds' field school". They all look like little angels on earth even in the cantons/ghettos of Israeli apartheid.
Those of us who are adults may sometime lose the optimism and energy of childhood. We need to be reminded and retain our optimism. Adults sometimes try to remind us with a bit of philosophical reflections. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
Or our departed friend Howard Zinn who once wrote: "To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places - and there are so many - where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory." (You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A personal history of our times, p. 208. )
But we remain optimistic because we are human beings who believe in coexistence, equality, peace, and freedom. Pessimists are those who believe in tribalism, racism, conflict, and the need for military might. In the long run, we are more numerous than they are and we need to help them see the truth and join us. We remain optimistic because our children and grandchildren are optimistic and we should not try to dissuade them from optimism or from acting to improve their lives. As we free our minds of dark thoughts, we can see the light.