A number of things have cropped up recently to remind me that I have been meaning to write about my feelings about the effects of positive and negative attitudes to life. A year ago the UK was shocked by a wave of rioting in that erupted in a number of English cities following the shooting, by police, of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. Any death is extremely regrettable and explanations need to be clarified to enable family and friends to gain closure, but that explosion of very negative reactions didn’t seem to be a productive way to work for a better world, except perhaps as a job creation scheme for police, glaziers, builders and decorators. But I believe that being forced to spend scarce resources on restoration of vandalised property simply makes it even less likely that things might actually be improved.
A year on and the UK is experiencing a different wave of emotion. As Team GB members amass Olympic medals at an impressive rate, we are now presented with a number of extremely positive role models to demonstrate what can be achieved by positive attitudes and dedication to self-improvement.
Running alongside the Olympic achievements of all competitors, regardless of nationality, there seems to be a growing number of reports about so-called internet ‘trolls’; those individuals who spend time posting nasty and offensive comments on social media sites. This has caused some people to stop using such sites due to abuse, and others to find the Law attempting to impose sanctions on their activities. Whilst I will never condone such offensive taunting posts, we should be grateful of the general agreement that free speech is tolerated in the UK. If we start seeking to impose legal sanctions on some people, we run the risk of others seeking to direct similar sanctions against ourselves if our views are deemed offensive. Whilst it is easy for somebody not directly affected by such on-line attacks to say so, I believe that the best way to deal with them is for everybody to absolutely ignore them. They should be ignored, not replied to, not commented on and certainly not re-posted. Like all bullies, surely the principal reason for instigating such attacks is to elicit some reaction – if absolutely no reaction at all is generated, there will be no incentive to continue. I hope that this generalised criticism is not seen as hypocritical as I do not think that I am identifying any particular individual. By all means, Social Media site providers may well continue to suspend accounts if their terms and conditions are breached, but I strongly believe that is as far as it should go, with the full weight of the Law being reserved for physical attacks and threats.
To a lesser extent, the ability for people to go on-line and criticise things without fear of consequences, by writing extremely negative reviews of things, either via their own personal blogs, review columns in on-line publications or via sites such as ‘Trip Advisor’, can be very damaging too. Businesses who are subjected to a few negative reports from people who appear to have nothing better to do than deliberately seek faults can face ruin, and artists who have negative comments posted about their output can become disheartened to the extent that they might give up on their ambition.
When I started writing reviews of gigs and albums I made a pledge to myself only to publish positive ones. If a solo artist or band has invested much time, energy and emotion in producing an album or providing a live performance, I do not believe that I have any right to ‘slag them off’ simply because I don’t like what they have done. In virtually every case I have no doubt that they have done something that I wouldn’t have the skill to do. From a purely selfish point of view, I can’t see any reason for me to give up any valuable time and energy to compose negative comments. That is not to say that I will never offer constructive criticism, but only when I feel convinced that there is room for improvement. If I have been impressed by something I will be molre than happy to spend time seeking to be supportive, if I haven’t been impressed, then that’s as far as I will go. Privately, if appropriate, I might offer explanations to those directly concerned if I were ever asked why I hadn’t commented, but I wouldn’t see that as being something for public consumption.
If all those who invest lots of time and energy into compiling and posting negative reviews would direct that effort to something more positive, we might even find that society gradually became a more caring and compassionate place to live.
Although I haven’t spent very much time watching live Olympic events, I remain absolutely convinced that participants offer a very positive example of how progress can be made – only by effort, commitment and determination. For others their potential success might not lie in sporting endeavour but a similar attitude can still go a long way to help. Finally, it has been extremely heartening to note that competitors when interviewed generally appear to be so much more genuine, nice and considerate than many of the excessively paid professional football players that I have seen on TV. I pray that any Olympic medallists are kept well clear of the PR consultants that advise professional footballers, and that all attempts to politicise Olympic performances are strongly resisted.