Well, I'm sure we all heard the horrible news yesterday... another gun crime, a whole load of innocent children shot while at school, just before Christmas, in a place where they were supposed to feel safe.
Naturally, this has raised the old debate about gun control again - with gun supporters claiming that such dangers mean that people need MORE guns (because I'm sure an armed kindergarten teacher would solve everything) and the other side claiming that this highlights the need for tighter gun controls. Well, it's hard to truly know what to believe, but it seems that there are greater social problems at play, and that increasing gun control is only one part of the solution. But I won't go into that debate here - the arguments go around and around, and we seem no closer to a solution.
Amidst this chaos, in the aftermath of another disaster, it might seem impossible to stay positive. All the self-help books on your shelf can be rendered useless by one piece of bad news. You might be wondering - how can I focus on improving my own life when this shit can happen? How can I think about increasing my own career prospects when innocent children are dying? How can I practice positive thinking when the world is such a terrible place?
Bad news tends to make us feel that the world is that little bit worse, and you'd be forgiven for feeling that society was falling apart. To make it worse, we're hurtling towards the 21st - a day that many believe will bring the end of the world. While I'm sure that this won't happen, I'm not so sure that those less emotionally stable won't decide to go out in a blaze of glory, so we might see even more horrors in our news feeds before the year is up.
So, how DO you keep faith in humanity when everything seems to be crumbling? How can we believe in a positive future when these things keep happening? I don't have all the answers, but here are some thoughts...
1. Look at how many people are shocked by these disasters. Yes, one guy was messed up enough to kill scores of innocent people, and it's awful that our society somehow creatures these individuals. And yet, if society was truly doomed, why are so many people grieving, crying or outraged by it? Look at your friends' reactions - I'm sure that very few of them are untouched by this kind of event. For every sociopath society does produce, it seems to produce a lot of compassionate, good people who would do whatever they could to protect its children.
2. Remember that the news loves disaster. You don't see headlines about all the positive things that are happening in the world, unless you follow websites like http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/. While terrible things are happening in the world, it's true, the sensationalist nature of the news media means that we are shown a disproportionate amount of the negative. If two hundred people raise money for charity, help an old lady across the street or give a friend a shoulder to cry on, but one person attacks someone on the street, which do you think will be reported? The news is not an accurate representation of society - while these things do happen, there are good things happening every day, too.
3. Think about how much more we know about nowadays. When you're tempted to thinkt that the world is getting worse and worse, just think about how society used to be. We no longer crowd in public squares to cheer somebody being hanged, send three-year-olds to work in the mines or burn women suspected of witchcraft. The sad fact is that our technology is developing at a faster rate than our maturity as a society, so those who will commit crimes are given easier ways to hurt others, and this is something that we need to address. Still, a few decades ago you would be none the wiser about a terrible crime that happened across the sea. Now, we are able to find out what is happening in every corner of the globe minutes after it happens, and we know about what's happening across the world. I'm not saying that ignorance was bliss - I'm saying imagine how people might have felt if they'd received news of every single crime that happened back then! We are overloaded with bad news now, so of course it seems as if things are getting worse and worse.
4. Think about what you can do to help. One of the worst things about these crimes is that we feel less secure, that we panic or feel helpless. Doing something to help will give you back a feeling of control, so think about what you can do to help, whether it's singing a petition to increase gun controls, securing your house, giving to a charity that helps the victims of such crimes or campaigning to educate people in your area about a related issue. There are always survivors in these situations - in this case the parents of those poor children - is there anything that you can do for them?
5. Take stock of your own life. News like this tells us "this could happen to you", and there's no denying that it could. But you can't walk around terrified of being shot by a stranger - the statistics are pretty low on that one. We're more likely to die in a car crash or from heart disease, but does that mean you should avoid cars? Look at your own life now. Bad things are happening the world, and they always have and probably always will. Accept that we don't live in a perfect world, and unless you're going to work to make it a better place, you'll have to find a way to deal with that fact. Try to pause for a moment, listen only to the sounds that surround you, focus only on the feelings in your body and try not to speculate about the past or the future more than you need to.
If none of that works, at least try looking at this... Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity. My heart goes out to the families of those children and teachers, and of course I do not mean to apply my "stay positive" sentiments to them at this moment... they need time to grieve, to be angry, to heal. This was for those of us who were not directly affected, but who had our faith in humanity shaken a little.
Keep your loved ones close this Christmas, and remember that for all the bad in the world, that a meal with family, a friend's hug or a mug of hot chocolate in front of the fire with someone you love, is a light in the darkness. While there's light, there's hope. While there are others out there who share your pain, your shock and your disbelief, there are other good people out there. Now let's start fixing society!