I spent the week in Ottawa Writers Festival. For a few days, I have been immersed in a sea of ideas, words, and worries. Anxiety and concern were reflected through lectures, workshops, and panel discussions. But at the end, I came out hopeful and optimistic. Why? So much worry over the future, the horrors of the past, and the confusion of the present were more than enough to make a person suicidal. But I came out from the sessions with hope. Lots of it. The fact that people of such intelligence and sensitivity would employ their talents and invest their energy in understanding the present and finding solutions for seemingly hopeless situations strengthened my hope in the future of humanity. It is not easy. At a time when governments, like Robin Hood only with a faulty compass, are taking from the poor and giving to the rich, When those who work the hardest lose most sleep worrying over the future of their life time earnings and children, at a time when the conservative minority government is presenting a change of door knobs and fixing the elevators as part of a stimulus package (in Canada), optimism is not an easy direction to take. At a time when pretending to be sleep is much safer and far more profitable than watching with eyes wide open, it is very hopeful to see those who observe consciously and write about what they see. Humanity is not dead. Not yet. Humanity sees, fears, and writes. There is no excuse for hopelessness. Chris Hedges, the author of “The Empire of Illusion” talked about the importance of realistic evaluation of current state of affairs as a means of finding solutions for problems. He talked about the times when he was covering the war in Yugoslavia or other dangerous places, where he had to make a realistic evaluation of what awaited him at the end of the street he was driving on. What kind of weapon was waiting for him made all the difference in his strategy to ensure his survival. It was amazing. A person, who seemingly has no reason to bother with a war in a remote country, dives into it, covers it, and comes out of it alive and fully conscious. I mean conscious. There were many more amazing sessions. I urge anyone in Ottawa or the vicinity to attend. One thing that bothered me was lack of participants from different ethnic groups. I never ran into an Iranian though there might have been someone present. There was definitely an Iranian writer, but no Iranian audience in sight. The same went for other ethnic groups and visible minorities such as East Indians, Chinese, Sudanese, …. I was rather surprised. I thought first that perhaps for the first generation immigrants, the language barrier was an obstacle. But what about the second and third generations? Perhaps lack of interest in literature or lack of information? I hope the latter is the case.