It’s quite depressing that 2008 had to end with this kind of violence in Gaza. On the 29th I signed the petition for a ceasefire that Avaaz initiated. I’m glad to see that by now more than 170,000 people worldwide are calling upon all involved parties to agree to a ceasefire. I am enough of a pessimist to seriously doubt that it will make any difference to what happens on the ground, but still. Sometimes one acts even when one finds it hard to believe that it will make a difference.
Luckily 2008 also had some wonderful moments of hope. For many Americans the election of Obama has been such a moment. One of the most touching Obama-related things I saw was when I visited South Africa during the second half of November. I am involved in a research-action project in Capetown in a township called Khayelitsha. My input in that project is merely philosophical/theoretical, and has so far been from a (physical) distance, so one of the main purposes of my visit was to get to know the women in the townships that are part of this project. One of them, Vivian Zilo has founded the Iliso Care Society which serves nutritious soup to the poorest, and especially to those who need to eat so that they can take their TB or HIV medication. Inside the house of Iliso were several newspaper clips on the walls, some about Iliso, some about local events. But in a prominent central place were a few about Obama, taken from South African Newspapers. Editorials in those newspapers wrote optimistic columns about the significance of Obama’s election not just for the US but for the prospect of a better world, and of course also for the position of black people. Parallels were drawn with what South Africans could do to make their country a better place to live.
Enough Bloggers here and elsewhere have warned us to be realistic about what Obama will be able to deliver – still it was really heart-warming to see how people can be inspired by an event that takes place thousands of miles of where they live, and even if they live in a situation in which many of us would have lost all hope for a significantly better life altogether. The strength and energy and optimism of some of these women from Khayelitsha were striking. So I hope 2009 will bring us more of such hopeful events, more than in 2008, and more than those events where many have lost all hope to reach a just and sustainable solution. Happy new year!