In July this year I wrote a blog with the hopefully provocative title “Do words really make a difference?”. It was a sentence uttered by Rhidian Brook in one of his Thought for the Day pieces for Radio 4.
Lord Sacks was talking to Edward Stourton on Radio 4’s Sunday programme about the role of Chief Rabbi in an increasingly secularised society and what he has learned during his 22 years in the post. It’s not a programme I listen to and not a subject I thought I would be interested in, but Lord Sacks was so eloquent, informative, pragmatic and trustworthy that I not only listened to the original broadcast, I listened to it again on iPlayer.
I use the word trustworthy advisedly as much of his extended interview was about trust.
Lord Sacks defined trust as “..having faith in someone else, to keep their faith with you.” He was talking about trust, or the lack of it, being a root cause of the economic crisis and made an unusual but very simple point: the term credit has its linguistic roots in the latin term credo – I believe, and confidence comes from fides – having faith in one another – essential for a functioning economy. He went on to say that the modern cult of individualism is no way to build a society: “If people work for the maximum possible benefit for themselves, then we will not have trust in industry, in the economy, in financial institutions.”
Having worked in the investment banking sector where the principal driver seemed to be bottom line profit, and now working for a leading company in the insurance sector where there is tangible pride in the social purpose of the business, I related strongly to Lord Sack’s message.
His analysis of words came to a compelling conclusion which I transcribed word for word on the second time of listening:
“I have long laboured to make a distinction between optimism and hope.
Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that if we work hard enough together, we can make things better.
It takes no courage, only a certain naiveté, to be an optimist. It takes a great deal of courage to have hope.
No Jew, knowing history, can be an optimist. No Jew worthy of his faith, ever lost hope.”