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Good news

Hats off to Fréttablaðið, who today announced that they will be giving out an annual ‘Community Award’ to individuals that have done something to help improve Icelandic society. The first such will be awarded on 23 February. With this action, the paper intends to help highlight the positive things that most certainly are happening all around us, every day, but that just don’t make the news.

I’ve heard it said that sometimes ideas float around in the collective unconscious until someone taps into them and does something to help turn them into reality. And sometimes several people will tap into an idea at around the same time. This thought occurred to me today when I opened the paper, because just a few days ago we had a discussion along this line at dinner. We had the evening news on in the background and some particularly horrific bit of news came on about some mining accident in Bulgaria, or somewhere. [See? I can’t even remember where…] I remarked to EPI that I wonder what would happen if all the media everywhere in the world were to reach an agreement to broadcast only good news for, say a week. Really. I wonder what would happen.

Because the thing is, that what we focus on has a tendency to grow, and if we focus on horrible things and things that evoke fear, that’s what will grow. Whereas if we were to focus on positive things, good things, presumably that, too, would grow. It’s hard to get your head around the concept of hearing only good things, positive things, even for just a week. But – as John Lennon said – imagine if it were done!

So happily it looks as though someone at Fréttablaðið tapped into this very idea because their editorial today is all about this. It’s quite amazing that while statistically serious crimes are down on a global scale, sensationalist media hype that evokes and perpetuates fear is up up up! According to an organization called Human Security Report, violence on a global scale was down 40% in 2005 from the year before, and mass murder had decreased by 80% from the beginning of the 1980s. Yet the media’s preoccupation with such news had increased drastically.

We here in Iceland are not exempt from this media-perpetuated fear. While police reports and statistics reveal that serious violence and crime is down, some kind of free-floating anxiety and fear seems to permeate our society. For instance, a recent survey showed that 80% of Reykjavík residents are afraid of walking around in the city centre at night. However, the survey also revealed that the further people lived from the centre, the more afraid they were of going there. So in other words, their fears were based on something other than their experience, probably to a large extent the picture presented in the media. And in the words of the Fréttablaðið editor: “This is a highly serious matter, because fear impedes our quality of life.”

So this new community award is designed to be a counterbalance to this doomsday reporting overkill. After all, while a mining accident in Bulgaria, or a plane crash in the Congo, or a person being mauled by a bear in Canada is surely a very sad thing for those involved, I’m not sure it adds anything to the quality of my life to know about it. Whereas hearing about, say, how the new president of Bolivia has decided to slash his wages by 57% and ordered all his ministers to do the same so that he can hire more teachers and doctors, just possibly might.

… Thankfully that’s not hard, because it was a gorgeous day. Like a whiff of spring. A slight breeze, overcast at first, but then the sun came out and was just as white-hot brilliant as it can be on the sunniest of summer days. Went for a fabulous walk around the golf course, so rejuvenating. Came back home and kept working, but mid-afternoon I could stand looking at the sunshine no longer so got my bike out and went out for a spin. When I was almost back home I got caught in a downpour that was like a tropical shower – came in looking like a drowned rat. But no matter. We’re in a happy mood today because the news is good and the weather is even better. Currently 4°C. Sunrise was at 10.14 and sunset at 17.09.



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