July 13, 2008

Enough Bad News, Let’s Spread Some Good News

By Joan Lau

MY brother forwarded me an article from the New York Times yesterday. It wasn't a piece of scintillating writing that Leslie thought I would enjoy or some earth-shattering bit of news. No, it was something that made me a little happier than I was before I started reading it.

The story of Matt Harding's dance video on YouTube is an amazing one. In two weeks, the video got more than four million viewers and the number is growing.

The guy is not particularly good-looking and his dancing is pretty lame, but reading the story and watching the video took me out of my not-particularly-smiley day and that was great.

Watching Matt do his dorky dance all over the world Japan, India, Rwanda, Brunei, and many, many other places - you are inspired to get up and imitate his dance steps. Well, almost. Still, it's funny and fun.

I think Matt put it all together for fun and now he has even got a corporate sponsor who pays for his trips abroad, just to get more shots of him dancing. Isn't that amazing?

Matt didn't even start this with any particular intent; it was just some bits of home video edited to music.

Still, looking at the video you cannot help but smile. It's so nice to get an email these days that is not about some conspiracy theory or other.

Yes, these are challenging times, nothing but bad news everywhere it seems. Climate change, political shenanigans, rising prices, accusations, violence.

Fear and loathing is the name of the game. I look at the comments on blogs and news portals and I wonder: Why is everybody so full of hate?

I understand the need to vent and even rant but there is absolutely too much glee in this. I think then that it is time to do something about this: start spreading some good news for a change.

Don't have any? Of course, you do. All you have to do is look out for it or better still, make some of your own.

I have a friend who used to email me songs. It started when I was working late one evening and he found out I was alone in the office. So he sent me a song.

It's a small gesture but I didn't feel so alone that evening and I ended a long day in the office with a smile. This is, of course, not the same as people who forward or mass email jokes. I absolutely cannot stand those.

They clog up your mailbox and instead of a personalised message from a friend, it feels like spam. Junk mail!

Apart from using email for work correspondence and to keep in touch with friends, I try never to forward alarming news that has not been verified. Same thing with SMSes.

Nasty rumours and alarmist information spread like wildfire. We should think before we forward an email or SMS to another person.

One of my favourite ways of spreading cheer is giving books. My friend Georgie loved his trip to Morocco and SMSed me bits of information about the places he visited while he was there.

He knew I always wanted to go to Morocco, too, so I appreciated the messages. Made me feel like I was almost there.

I gave him The Caliph's House: A Year In Casablanca by Tahir Shah a few months after the trip. I thought it would make him remember Morocco and it did.

Random gifts of books, music, inspiring thoughts and, of course, articles from newspapers or magazines are wonderful. Receiving them makes you feel like you matter and as for the sender/giver... it feels good too, right?

I am not advocating that we live in a perpetual state of denial and not be aware of what is going on around us. But I do think we need to temper all this angst with some positivity.

Instead of spewing negative and venomous comments every chance we get, let us take a step back and consider if what we hear/read is real before we launch our attacks.

So maybe we can't change the fact that petrol prices have gone up, or that injustice is around us. But we can be change agents.

Is there something in your neighbourhood you are not happy about? Instead of complaining, maybe you can get together with your neighbours and change it yourselves.

Some parents in my community were not happy that their children were growing up in mono-ethnic schools so they got together with other like-minded parents and organised a multi-ethnic activity for their children. It happened to be football.

Today, that little group has grown into a league, and now it is not just the children who mix around other races. The parents are also interacting with each other as they volunteer for the league.

This small feat of social engineering has been so successful I wish it was replicated all over Malaysia.

If this were America, those founding parents and their children would be the subject of a made-for-TV movie. It's perfect Hallmark channel fodder, don't you think?

I am very conscious of the fact that being an agent of change is not easy. Many times you will find yourself going against convention. People might shun you or at best, laugh at your attempts.

But enough is enough. It is time we all changed our attitude and start spreading the news... the good news, as generated by ourselves!

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