Does Hope Have a Downside?

Does Hope Have a Downside?

Hope and Society

On a societal scale, again we can find relying on hope to not only be unproductive, but also potentially dangerous. Our postmodern world faces many issues not encountered by past generations. One of the largest issues is that of climate change. For those who believe the scientists and are not climate change deniers, the future can seem daunting. We wonder just how the human race will address a problem of this magnitude while continuing to simultaneously grapple with day-to-day issues like work, family, retirement planning and everything in between. We look with hope to someone bigger than us – scientists, the government, God – to get us out of this mess. The fact that we want and need hope when it comes to the subject of climate change is evident by an internet full of articles about hope and climate change. Again, just as it relates to our individual life issues, hope is necessary to solve large-scale problems, but hope alone is not enough.

In this complex world with its unique problems, we also expect a lot of our leaders. Americans look to their president for sure words of encouragement that will keep us feeling secure. In a 2014 New York Times editorial, British philosopher and professor Simon Critchley stated a different, and more cynical, expectation of the president and was less laudatory of President Barack Obama’s proclamation of hope. “When Barack Obama describes how he came to write his keynote speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the speech that instantly shot him to fame and laid the basis for his presidential campaign and indeed his presidency, he recalls a phrase that his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., used in a sermon: the audacity of hope. Obama says that this audacity is what ‘was the best of the American spirit,’ namely ‘the audacity to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary.’”

“It is precisely this kind of hope that I think we should try to give up. It is not audacious, but mendacious. As the wise Napoleon said, ‘a leader is a dealer in hope’ who governs by insisting on a bright outlook despite all evidence to the contrary” (Critchley, 2014). The responsibility to provide a secure outlook can be daunting for our leaders, and contradictory for us as we look to our leaders for hope but often see a different reality.


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About the Author

Mary McFaddenMary has lived in the Sacramento, California area her entire life. Her undergraduate degrees were in Journalism and Music. Upon graduation she worked for small regional newspapers which launched her career in Sacramento’s city government. She worked several years as an aide to a city councilmember, then moved to the Sacramento Police Department where she worked for over 20 years. Mary worked in a unit providing community policing training to law enforcement throughout California and participated in several curriculum development meetings with the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. She then went on to be a creator and editor for many years of the Police Department’s publications, annual reports and website. While working for the City Council, Mary received her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from The Professional School of Psychology (PSP). She is currently pursuing her Doctorate degree at PSP. Mary’s husband is also a graduate of PSP and they have two grown children. Her education in psychology has been an invaluable part of her professional and private life.

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