The Power of Hope- Or: How Community, Love & Compassion Can Change the World By Kon Karapanagiotidis

By Thomas Van Essen.


Despite its flaws, ‘The Power of Hope’ is an inspired antidote for apathy, hatred and injustice.

Teacher,social worker, humanitarian activist, human rights lawyer and CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre; there is no doubt that Kon Karapanagiotidis is a man of prolific talents. That’s why it’s fitting that his debut book – part memoir, part self-help book, with a smattering of direct-action manual— is similarly disparate.

Whilst his simple message of love and compassion for the betterment of the community and ourselves is heartening if not inspiring, Karapanagiotidis spreads himself a little too thin and as a consequence his book suffers from a small crisis of identity.

Kon is an immediately likeable character and powerful storyteller. There are no shortages of moments that are genuinely moving. Like many other Australians with a second-generation migrant background, he endured many hardships growing up as an outsider in the seventies. A time that is sadly not dissimilar to the racial prejudice, bigotry and xenophobic reactionary politics that are at present, the rule of the day, with our federal government’s abhorrent, offshore treatment of refugees.

Despite this he still wears his heart on his sleeve and bears no grudges, even to those who would endeavour to see him fail. Like his philosophical mentor, the late great reverend Martin Luther King Jr., whom he quotes with unwavering consistency, ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’ It is because of this bullish desire for action and his unwillingness to give up in the face of adversity, that Kon is a truly inspiring character and force for change.

As compelling as Kon’s story is and his achievements that are a testament to his outstanding character, he seems unsure of what he is trying to achieve with this book. Is it a self-help book or a memoir, or something else entirely? Sometimes he speaks with a clarity and authority that had me utterly transfixed to his words. Other times he appears to be still working things out, as he puts it ‘we are all constant works in progress—always evolving, making mistakes, losing our way, finding it again.’ Who is he trying to convince? His readers or himself? There is an element of beautify to this confusion. It humanises and puts his accomplishments in perspective of his ongoing struggles. But for those readers looking for guidance and direction may be disappointed.

This lack of focus manifests itself in the motivational platitudes interspersed throughout the book’s relatively brief 270 pages. When read in isolation the rhetorical function is clear, but ultimately these requotes disrupt the flow of writing and feel redundant. I suspect is not at fault of Karapanagiotidis and more the fault of misdirection or mismanagement from the publisher.

These are ultimately minor gripes. Taken as a collection of essays, The Power of Hope is a commendable first effort. In a world where the apathetic, sardonic manifestos of Mark Manson and Jordan Peterson can be best-sellers, we could do far worse than listen to Kon’s earnest and ardent calls for compassion, love and community.