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Finding hope in a world engulfed by despair

Gerry Chidiac


Lessons in Learning

As we start 2024, a prevailing sense of despair engulfs much of the world, unlike any we’ve experienced before. What was there to celebrate on New Year’s Eve when all we see is death and destruction, accompanied by the threat of an impending global war?

Feeling such deep despair is part of being human. Mohandas Gandhi said, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it – always.”

I’ve always been awed by Gandhi’s confidence. How did he know his movement would successfully bring down the mighty British Empire when he started with so few followers? How did he know what steps to take to achieve the goal of independence for his people?

Gandhi was aware that there are many more good people than despots and that good people simply needed to be guided and empowered; they needed to understand their goodness and the power that they held. Gandhi tapped into a tremendous human resource by drawing our attention to what the sages have always taught us.

Our Indigenous neighbours, for instance, emphasize the significance of embracing sacred teachings, principles that have allowed them to thrive despite centuries of cruel and violent colonization. The abovementioned quote from Gandhi underscores two fundamental principles: truth and love. However, the questions that arise are: How do we discover truth, and what does love really mean?

Truth is a constant quest. Sometimes, we think we have found it, only to realize later that we were deceived. Therefore, we must be humble enough to know what we do not know. We need to constantly watch, listen and learn, knowing that one whom we may think to be insignificant can be our greatest teacher. To succeed in our quest for truth, we must also be honest, especially with ourselves. In this quest for truth, we grow in wisdom.

There can be no love without truth, but love is not an easy path. Sometimes we have to do what is difficult, sometimes we face criticism, sometimes we even face apparent defeat. It takes courage to embrace these realities and continue to live with our integrity intact.

What is also interesting is that not only do good people share their wisdom, but despots also follow each other’s plans. The Nazis adopted many of the genocidal practices used by the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide. They also developed their antisemitic Nuremberg Laws based on what they had learned about the racist Jim Crow laws in the United States. When establishing the Apartheid system in South Africa, lawmakers looked at the Indian Act in Canada as a model. It seems odd that none of these people recognized that they were writing themselves on the wrong side of history and were predetermining their ultimate failure.

The despots are again projecting their hatred onto the good and the innocent. They are telling us that war is the right and only solution to the global predicament we currently face. It is reasonable for us to be fearful because the ones espousing this viewpoint control the most powerful weapons.

Amid these bleak circumstances, we witness countless individuals across the globe, possibly numbering in the billions,  embracing truth, even in the face of the threats and perils that loom over them. They are embracing love and compassion toward their suffering neighbours and accepting the consequences of doing so with courage. These people know they are placing themselves on the right side of history.

Is there a reason to have hope as the world enters 2024? Yes, but it requires our unwavering commitment to the potency of truth and love, as well as our steadfast courage in confronting diversity.


Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. Check out his website here. Find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter @GerryChidiac

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