“Optimism” usually refers to “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something”, “the doctrine, especially as set forth by Leibniz, that this world is the best of all possible worlds”, and “the belief that good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe”. (“Optimism”) In the text of the article “We Refugees” by Hannah Arendt, the word “optimism” means the attitude one should have in order to rebuild his or her life after moving to a new country. (Arendt)
According to Hannah, the persecuted Jews—the group of people described in the article—desired to start a new life after moving to a new country, and as the process is hard, they have to be optimistic: they tried their best to forget about their former life and adapt to the present countries they live in; they avoided any allusion to concentration camp; and they even found their own way of mastering an uncertain future by planning, wishing, and hoping. They began to rely more on objects such as stars, lines of their hand, and the signs of their handwriting for their future. In spite of their outspoken optimism, they use all sorts of magical tricks to conjure up the spirits of the future. However, there is something wrong with their optimism, which is their readiness for death and inclination to suicide, because they think “suicide is the last and supreme guarantee of human freedom.” (Arendt)
I find the keyword quite intriguing because on the surface it seemed that the Jews were optimistic and faithful towards the ending of the persecution and having a new life, but deep down in their heart, they grew tired of hoping every day without getting any solid improvement in their lives. Their optimism turned out to be their reason for suicide, which is quite paradoxical but essential to understanding the real mental activities of those Jews, or in other words, those refugees.
“Optimism” Oxforddictionary.com. Oxford Dictionary 2018. Web. 4 January 2018.
Arendt, Hannah. “We Refugees.” The Menorah Journal 1943: 110-119.