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Hope Must Not Die

There’s a famous line in the movie that regularly tops the ‘best ever’ polls, The Shawshank Redemption – ‘…hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.’

Apart from agreeing with the polls – Shawshank is my favourite film – I have been thinking about that line a lot lately, and it seems others have too.

Writers and social commentators as different as the renowned American essayist Rebecca Solnit and the British journalist Andrew Marr have both pondered on hope in a modern world where there seems to be such a lack of it. War in Europe, other wars across the world, climate change, economic gloom, the cancer of popularist leaders, trade wars, never-ending famines and flooding… the list goes on.

Here in the UK, hope is fighting a continuing battle against horrendous economic forecasts, a conveyor belt of Prime Ministers, chronic inequality, regional disparity, increasing strikes and public service systems that seem to be collapsing in front of our eyes, not least the NHS.

How can hope survive in the face of such an onslaught of bad news and fears of even darker times ahead?

Rebecca Solnit in an article recently confronts the stark fight hope has with the insight that despite how bad things always look there is always a chance of better things ahead as has often proven the case. She cites the great strides and victories local climate change activists, especially indigenous peoples, have achieved even in the wake of great odds. Solnit sees hope thriving in the example these people have shown – the example it is almost our duty to follow.

On the home, political front Andrew Marr acknowledges that the current waves of gloom from the economic downturn, the utter calamity of the Truss premiership, the often corrupt Government and the breakdown in public services and institutions is daunting. But he says we all cannot just give in and points his guns straight at the Labour Party as the expected next government now they are standing so far ahead in the polls.

Labour, Marr argues, must deliver hope for the future - this is its challenge. When new governments have taken power, especially those like Atlee’s after great social upheaval such as the war, or when faced by political and social breakdown, like Thatcher’s in the 70’s, new thinking and fresh, radical ways of doing things need to be introduced. Labour cannot submit to the gloom.

After years in his Shawshank prison hell, the central character Andy Dufresne finally breaks out to find new life and hope on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Andy always kept his hope alive even when hope seemed lost.

Britain and the world sorely need hope today. We need its oxygen and its regenerative quality. We need its vital blood supply to lift our hearts.

We need to keep hoping hope never dies.

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