20th July 2016

#Humankind (Or Just My Way of Dealing With All This Mayhem!)

A recent tweet made me chuckle: “In twenty years, if you enter a pub quiz and any question starts with: ‘In which year…’ simply answer 2016.”

This sums up perfectly the first half of this year which has literally held every kind of shocking, upsetting and destabilising upheaval we could possibly imagine and many we could and would never want to – and all in seven short months.

And this has, inevitably, led to many of us wondering what on earth is going on. The shocking events in Nice last weekend were a devastating low point – I think the last time I felt shock like that was during 9/11. How could somebody use a blunt instrument such as a lorry to kill so many people? It is literally incomprehensible.

Obviously I’ve had lots of discussions about all of this with lots of people and I think the conclusion I’ve come to is that – while obviously major things are afoot – I think the reason they’re so central to mainstream is that they’re talked about far more than they would previously have been.

Before 24/7 news and social media, if you didn’t read a newspaper or watch the morning/evening news or listen to the radio constantly (and many didn’t) you’d have little clue of anything but the biggest, most devastating ‘breaking news’ (and don’t even get me started on what is and isn’t ‘BREAKING NEWS!’)

But now, when a celebrity dies, a politician resigns, or a new Pokemon is found (#sorrynotsorry), or – obviously – a terrorist attack happens – it’s news on everyone’s mobile phone within seconds – even often when it’s not confirmed or even true. And, inevitably, bad news travels far faster and wider than good.

Talking to a colleague yesterday, she expressed a wish that we could find a way to p@@@ every terrorist off by NOT reporting on their attacks. No media coverage, nobody mentions them on social media and nobody gives them the oxygen they need to breathe. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

While this is completely impossible (sadly), there is a way in which we can start to change things – by remembering that there are FAR more good people in the world than bad. The challenge is, often, the good deeds that happen aren’t particularly newsworthy (if it bleeds it leads is an age old media axiom), but this doesn’t make them any less important.

One extreme example to balance the truly evil lorry driver of last week’s infamy was the motorcyclist who tried to stop the attack by driving alongside the lorry and trying to gain access to the cab, at great personal physical risk – this WAS reported but nowhere near as loudly or widely as the initial act. We can and must change this.

We also should celebrate all the little acts of human kindness we experience in our everyday lives. Pondering for literally 10 minutes while planning this blog, the following popped into my head:

  • In Krakow last month, a frail elderly lady boarded the tram with a large shopping trolley and six people literally jumped to their feet to help and offer her their seat
  • At Christmas, a colleague told a story where an old, homeless man approached her and handed her an envelope before hurrying away. The envelope contained a Christmas card with the message: “Dear smiling lady, every morning you walk past me, smile and say ‘good morning’ – this makes my day and I wanted to say thank you and Merry Christmas!’ Her simple smile and greeting made his day every day and his simple thank you made her year!
  • Just last week I was walking to town and noticed, up the street, a lady of similar age to me end a phone call, dissolve into tears and cave into herself and a nearby wall. I was in the usual ‘Britishness’ process of panicking: ‘Oh no! Will she want me to have seen? Should I say anything? Would she prefer…’ when I saw a young man (20 something) cross the road and go to her aid. He was obviously offering to help and she was trying to gain control of herself while reassuring him. (This act from one so young, also caused ME to have a moment myself so I’m glad he didn’t look at me as I passed, or he would have been slightly alarmed at what was happening to middle aged women in Manchester that morning!)

And this doesn’t even mention the fact that eight out of ten people in the UK (79%) participate in at least one charitable giving or social action activity every year and the estimated total amount donated to charity by UK adults is £10.6 billion. If everyone is ‘evil’ why is this happening?

A colleague has just mentioned a news item she saw in her local newspaper last week where a bus driver stopped his bus to help an elderly lady tie her shoelaces as he was concerned she wouldn’t be able to do it herself and she might trip over them and hurt herself. More of this please, media peeps!

I’m sure I’m not first to say or do this but I’d like to send out a rallying cry to everyone who reads this blog to try to remember to spread GOOD news about GOOD people and GOOD deeds. Do we want/need a hashtag? Maybe #humanKIND? Or do we just get on with it and hope others join in?

And maybe this could help even a few people change from feeling scared and sad as I know many are, to feeling heartened and hopeful.

Over to you…

By Sandy Lindsay MBE, Tangerine Group Chair