Always look on the bright side of life

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I was thinking that, perhaps, most of you are like me and are becoming quite tired of bad news, controversy, political idiocy in high places, floods, fires, and all of the daily content of news and current affairs in the media. Of course, you can’t just run away from it all (at least, that’s what I’m told, though I really don’t see why we can’t do just that!). These issues continue, and have continued, through the decades and centuries, ever since people first began to communicate with each other.

Perhaps that’s the problem: when we communicate, we realise how differently other people feel about things, how vastly divided we are in our ideologies, philosophies, and favourite sports team. The important things. I have always believed that there are, in fact, very few things which need to be taken seriously, in that they are all centred on the way we treat each other and how respectful we are of one another’s characters and personalities.

The world goes on spinning, and even in this issue, we give space to more discussion on timely topics, for which I expect to receive ever more criticism and complaint. Why? Because some people seem to think that anything that disagrees with their opinion is not only wrong, but should not be given space in the media in which to propagate and be aired in public. As I say, it seems our communicating with each other is the central problem we face.

But let’s, if only for a moment, focus on something positive, something we can all agree is worthy of praise and comment. I was wondering what that might be, and it was not at all as easy as I expected. I did think of the U.S. Women’s World Cup-winning soccer team, who managed to win the trophy for the second successive tournament. It was wonderful to see their spirit, the way in which the event brought people together and the manner in which these women brought joy and inspiration to so many, especially young girls all over the world.

Co-Captain of the team, Megan Rapinoe, and her team-mates showed strength, physically and morally, standing up for causes they believe in deeply: from gay rights to equal pay, and did so in a way that was dignified and touched with wit and a mischievous humour. Their declared intention to stay away from Donald Trump’s White House was of a piece with their beliefs, and Megan herself stands in sharp opposition to much of what Trump stands for, being a smart, witty, intelligent gay woman. Her personal success at being the leading goalscorer in the World Cup, contributing many of the goals that won them the competition, as well as being named Player of the Tournament, was an inspiration and a clear message to many.

The entire Tournament was wonderful for many of the same reasons: all of the officials were women. In the media, the commentators and pundits were almost all women – informed and experienced themselves, they provided insight and background for the millions around the world watching women’s football for the first time. As a soccer fan, I loved it.

Fine, soccer is not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s not the real point here. What is important about it is that hugely positive event took place in the eyes of about a billion people all around the world: people from so many different nations, cultures, traditions and colours came together to play in a professional and serious tournament, and yet managed to make it fun, inclusive, enjoyable and inspiring. That must be valued in this world of ours.

And it was not just the World Cup that we can look to with optimism and a shared joy. In our own community we have seen a revolution in our local politics, an increase in the level of volunteerism and community activism. We have, in this issue, a story about two women who have accepted the challenge to raise funds for women in a far-off land. This is the best way we can communicate: with shared activism for others. No-one in the hospital in Cambodia will ask about the colour of the skin of those who raised funds for them. They won’t care whether they were male or female, gay or straight, conservative or liberal. That is as it should be.

Too often, we can become so committed to a cause that we become what I call professional victims, people with a grievance that blinds us to the good in those who disagree with us. The Irish had to overcome that self-identification as victims of history and oppression in order to become a mature and progressive people. That was not at all an easy thing to achieve. Indigenous people here and abroad have to avoid that temptation too. So do so many others with a genuine historical reason to be angry. Anger will take you so far: those secure in their own identity are the ones who can achieve change. Time to be positive: it’s not all dark out there. There is good reason to look on the bright side of life sometimes.

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