Being optimistic about 2017

December 27th 2016

What you see depends on where you sit. There are the pessimists who see President-elect Donald Trump who said in his tweet about the need to engage in a new arms race. There are the optimists, sitting on the other side of the room, who believe the kind words uttered by President Vladimir Putin and Trump to each other mean that there well could be a new agreement on reducing their nuclear armories.

2017 will be a lot better than 2016.

When I wrote my history of Amnesty International (“Like Water on Stone”, Penguin, 2002) I was struck both by the staff and activists how positive they were, despite dealing with some of the worst horrors in the world.

Amnesty staff would not be in their jobs if they did not possess above-average resilience. The wear and tear of constant failure – as it often seems – of dealing with intransigent authorities, the bereaved and the seriously distressed on a daily basis is not a way most of us would choose to earn our daily bread. It is, indeed, surprising that the turnover in staff is about normal for an organization of this size.

Ask a staff member what keeps them going and they certainly don’t say elections in Guatemala, once effectively ruled by death squads, or the death of the child-killer, the Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic. They say: “Look, it’s because I had this letter from so and so’s wife.” or “Did you hear what so and so said last week when he came into the office to thank us?”Read More »