Israel Palestine Infos
April 26, 2012
Confession of an Optimist
I AM an Optimist. Period.
No ifs. No buts. No perhapses.
SOME TIME ago I bumped into the writer Amos Oz at a wedding and we talked about this curiosity, my optimism. He said that he was a pessimist. Being a pessimist, he said, was a win-win situation. If things turn to the better, you are happy. If things get worse, you are still happy, because you have been right all along.
The trouble with pessimism, I told him, was that it leads nowhere. Pessimism relieves you of any urge to do something. If things are going to get worse anyhow, why bother? Pessimism is a comfortable attitude. It even allows you to be contemptuous of the optimists, who still struggle for a better world. Optimism is for simpletons.
But this is exactly what it’s all about. Only optimists can struggle. If you don’t believe in a better world, a better country, a better society, you can’t fight for them. You can only sit in your armchair in front of the TV, tut-tutting at the stupidity of the human race, and particularly your own people, and feel superior.
Whenever I confess to being an optimist, I am showered with disdain. Don’t I see what’s happening around me? Was this the state you imagined on May 14, 1948, when you listened to Ben-Gurion's speech on the radio and prepared yourself for the night’s battle?
No, I did not imagine a state like this one. My comrades and I envisaged a very different state. And still I am an optimist.
WHEN TALKING about this, I am always reminded of a certain point in my life.
It was October 1942, and the world was shaking.
The Hagana, our main secret military organization, was making frantic preparations. Like the heroes of Masada some 1900 years ago, who committed collective suicide rather than fall into Roman hands, our fighters would gather on the Carmel hills, there to fight and sell their lives dearly. I had just turned 19, and was living in Tel Aviv, a town nobody even considered defending. We knew it was the end.
The moral of the story: even in the middle of a completely desperate situation, one does not know enough of the facts to lose hope.
BUT THERE is no need to go back 70 years. Enough to look at recent events.
The same would have happened to anyone at the beginning of last year who prophesied that the Egyptians (the Egyptians of all people!) would arise and throw their dictator out. An Arab Spring? Ha-ha-ha!
to give a
Neither did any of them foresee the Iranian revolution that drove out the Shah.
WHAT DOES that prove? Nothing, except that nothing can be foreseen with any certainty. Human events are shaped by human beings, human beings shape human events. That may be a good reason for pessimism, but also for optimism.
We can prevent disasters. We can bring about a better future. And for that we need optimists who believe that it can be done. Lots of them.
That is a very convenient pessimism, absolving us from all guilt, allowing us not to do anything.
Can this situation become worse? In my long life I have learned that no situation is so bad that it cannot get worse. And no leader is so detestable that his successor cannot be even more so.
That said, there may be powerful forces at work, unseen and unheard, that will change things for the better. It’s like a dam on a river. Behind it, the water rises, slowly, silently, unnoticed. One day the dam bursts, quite suddenly, and the water submerges the landscape.
This will not happen without us playing our part. What we do – or do not do – is a part of the changing pattern. Hoping and believing is not enough. Doing and acting is of the essence.
So here we are, the incorrigible optimists.