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Challenging world views by our team of spectators

Hope for 2023: resilience in the face of doom

20 Dec 2022 - 21:42

“Maybe you can write something hopeful”, my editor emailed me. “You know, some development in your field of expertise that might indicate some things could actually get better in 2023.”

Unfortunately, my field of expertise is strategic foresight on international security issues. In the best of times, this means that I actively look for potential threats. In times like these, however… well let’s just say I do not have to look very hard. Not much is going well and most of those things that are not going well are unlikely to improve any time soon. The big issues – climate change, the war in Ukraine, global economic turbulence, the migration challenge, political tensions in the European Union – are not going to get resolved in 2023. In fact, some of them may get a lot worse.

And so it is true: sometimes it is hard to remain hopeful when faced with all this bad news. It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the alarming statistics, the continuous images of war and the incessant crises on your newsfeed. It is very easy to become cynical.

And yet, while contemplating this issue of hope in the face of doom, a phrase popped up in my head, one that I thought I must have read somewhere, but could not immediately place: “Et l'espoir, malgré moi, s'est glissé dans mon cœur.”1  Which could roughly be translated as: In spite of myself, hope slid its way into my heart.”

Even amidst this onslaught of crises, hope is actually pretty easy to spot

Much to my own surprise, I realised that I actually am still hopeful that it might get a little better next year. And as it turned out, the thing that makes me hopeful, is hope itself. To see this human capacity for hope, other people’s hope in action, the resilience of hope, the very force of hope.

Even amidst this onslaught of crises, hope is actually pretty easy to spot. It is in the picture of the Ukrainian women, sheltering in their bombed out residential building in Kiev, who nevertheless had somehow managed to make a cake to celebrate a child’s birthday. It is in those pesky teenagers gluing themselves to artworks, now demanding attention for global warming, by any means necessary. It is in the volunteers putting up fridges in locations around town, stocking them with leftover food from restaurants, free for people who can no longer afford to eat. It is in the unassuming elderly Dutch couple whose kids had long left home, and who use their old rooms to house a Ukrainian family of four. The 78-year-old woman has recently started a Ukrainian language course to better understand their guests.

So when tasked with finding a hopeful angle on the course of current affairs, I failed. I do not think the Russians will settle for peace soon. I am afraid next year we could see another wave of vulnerable refugees who desperately need our help. I believe there is no escaping the coming economic recession. And I do not count on Viktor Orbán becoming any less of a homophobe bully in 2023.

But perhaps when we focus on the outcome of these events, we are looking for hope in the wrong place. Perhaps instead we should zoom in on people’s resilience in the face of these events; the hope that underpins that resilience. When looking at that resilience, at the force of that hope, I find I cannot but feel hopeful for the coming year.

  • 1The phrase turned out to be from Phèdre, a tragedy written by the French playwright Jean Racine in 1677, which i cannot imagine I ever actually read.


Goos Hofstee
Research fellow at the Clingendael Institute