A plea for perspective

1 03 2010

I recently wrote a blog on the tyranny of happy people.

In it I argued that pretending that everyone can get what they want so long as they believe in it enough is not only nonsense but potentially damaging as it absolves us from addressing, and taking responsibility for, the flaws in society that make it almost impossible for some people to lead a happy life.

In February, as with every other month forever, there were many national catastrophes around the world and tales of individual suffering. Yet if you look at Facebook it is full of vacuous soundbites.

“Today I am creating a better world for myself and everyone around me”

“You are here on this Earth to have an amazing life!”

“We are not here to find ourselves but to create ourselves.”

These took me less than two minutes to find – facebook is full of them. These inspirational quotes are fine, we all need a boost sometimes, but the people who post such pieces seem to operate in a vacuum.

Analogy: I am/was a microbiologist. Bacteria are remarkable organisms, not least because of their ability to rapidly develop immunity to antibiotics. No matter how well they adapt they will always be killed by bleach.

And my point is? I suspect that had I been indoors in Haiti’s capital on the morning of the earthquake no amount of positive thinking could have prevented the roof from falling in on top of me.

Yes, we can affect those around us by acting and thinking positively but we should also look beyond our middle-class, middle-Britain lives and see the bigger picture.

In the3rdi magazine this month is a feature about the event Funny Women are mounting on International Womens Day.  Box office proceeds raised on the night will be donated to V-Day UK which is hosted by Tender, a charity that aims to prevent domestic abuse and sexual violence.  In 2010 V-Day’s spotlight is on the appalling sexual violence being used as a weapon in an economic war against women and girls of all ages across Eastern Congo (hundreds of thousands have been brutalised).  Shockingly a woman or girl is being raped every half an hour in the Congo.

We need to use our priveleged position, one of relative comfort, plenty and security to allow us to look outwards to other people and other places who may not have our advantages. Positivity and uplifting quotations are all well and good, I use them myself, but they are better when linked to an action and not just repeated as a mantra.



2 responses

9 03 2010
Sharon Barrett

I appreciate these comments, Karen — I tired of the quotes all over Twitter that are meant to inspire me, but to what end? I wish people would skip the quotes and tell me about their actions (though that depth is hard to fit in a tweet, I suppose).

10 03 2010

Thank you Sharon. I set up DO JUST ONE THING to encourage people to take action. We have over 100 people joined but not many committing to take any action.

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