Thursday, August 07, 2008

This thing called 'hope'

This thing called 'hope'
TUI RAKUITAThursday, August 07, 2008

A perusal of the dailies in Fiji throws up two major aspects of our attempt to refashion our society.
On one hand we have the NCBBF and its charter whose stated objective is to 'guide' the process of governance within the State in a positive way in the hopefully not too distant future.
On the other we have 'market advocates' who think that the priority of this transformation has to begin from the generation of economic building blocks.
If we were to equate our endeavour in terms of a building that is to be constructed, then there is no doubt that both the interim Government sponsored NCBBF and the market advocates would imagine themselves to be the 'foundation' of this national edifice.
There is a third component that is missing from the equation above.
It consists of families (children-parents), schools (students-teachers), churches (parish members-priests) and the community at large (community members - leaders/chiefs).
The roles that these groups bring to the process of nation building are often not clearly articulated in the clamour for recognition from the advocates of both State and market driven reforms.
It has always been tacitly assumed that they (families, schools, churches, etc) supplement the roles of the other two.
In other words, they play an important but nevertheless a secondary role in nation building.
In light of our recent historical past, this may be the opportune time to reassess this conventional order of things.
If the State is generally understood to be the locus of the exercise of legitimate power or authority and the market to be the realm of the production and distribution of goods and services, then this third sector that I am referring to is where social values are engendered. If coordination/cooperation in the first two is grounded in contractual arrangements that are legally enforceable, what takes place in this third sector is usually driven by a trust internally generated between the leaders and the led.
This third way may seem like an archaic arrangement given the times that we are living in, but is it really?
If, to paraphrase a renown political philosopher, the State stands for the production and the distribution of power and the market is in the business for producing and distributing wealth, then the third sphere we have been discussing is there to produce and distribute hope.
In other words, if power and wealth are said to be the 'building blocks' of society than hope would be the 'nuts and bolts' or if you like the 'glue' that will prevent the whole edifice from crumbling.
This last variable has been theorised in terms of empowerment, solidarity, civil society and social capital.
Central to these units of analyses is an examination of the relationships that inheres between individuals and with their respective societies.
The gist behind such arguments is that no society is possible without the coalescing of individual aspirations into a shared hope for 'the good life'.
The specific character of this 'good life' can take many forms and ultimately depends on our normative horizons.
The hope that plays so vital a part in making all these grand visions possible are created, nurtured and distributed to individuals in families, schools, churches and communities via a process of socialisation.
This is why the roles that parents, teachers, priests and community leaders play are so important to the nation.
It also explains why there is much repulsion in society when there has been 'an abuse of office' concerning these positions.
Consequently these abuses are always depicted as a 'betrayal of trust' with a concomitant loss of hope in the general population.
There can be no lasting relationship if there is no hope that is grounded in trust.
In such a situation, there is a loss of respect for each other; friends become strangers, competitors become entangled in a 'war of retribution' with hope metamorphosing into an endless cycle of scepticism.
That was what I was alluding to in an earlier article when I referred to a scenario where hope despairs hence losing its sting.
This ultimately is why it takes longer for a country to rebound when hope and trust within a people are in tatters than say 'contractual setbacks' as a result of abuse in spheres governed by State and market dynamics.
In democracies built on a capitalist framework like ours, hope is partially kept alive in notions such as social justice and parity.
In light of this, the question needs to be asked: Where are the people entrusted with the production and distribution of our hope? Have they been silenced? Have their messages lost their currency in the face of modern fads and the pressures for a 'quick fix' solution? Are they complicit in the tragedy that has befallen our nation?
These are some of the questions that struck me as I look around and see the desperation on the face of our youths, the misery in the face of our parents and the loss of faith that governs relations between people; strangers and friends alike.
The same questions come to the fore in the face of an overwhelming reliance on the State to produce solutions to every problem that we have, as if the State is equipped to come up with a wonder drug that will serve as an elixir to all our problems.
That kind of role is normally reserved for magicians if not lawyers.
In the days of old, it used to be the alchemists that ruled this kind of stage-managed perceptions.
Contemporary problems, be they personal, communal or national cannot be allayed simply via assurances of a better electoral system, more investments and good governance although they do contribute in no insignificant measure towards it.
These assurances are to be accompanied by a message that all is not in vain.
This message is to be taught in the homes and schools, preached from the pulpits and reaffirmed in communal settings.
In order for the messages to be effective, the institutions of the family, education, religion and tradition must be strengthened and not undermined.
In light of a culture of 'normlessness' that we see manifest in our nation, the question of hope 'losing its sting' is a real one and points to a bizarre form of complicity between this culture and those in whom we have placed our trust.
- Tui Rakuita is a lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, University of the South Pacific.

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