Putting the world to rights in five minutes
Our planet is in a mess—environmentally, economically, socially and politically. Hardly a day goes by without some horrific news about villages buried under landslides, politicians arrested for corruption or suicide bombers blowing themselves and everybody nearby to bits. Despite amazing advances in technology during the last century, we don’t seem to have learned anything about how to live together despite our differences. Even the modern sciences of psychology and sociology have no blueprint for improving relationships.
While I can’t condone acts of violence, I sympathize with disaffected youth who see no future for themselves and resort to extreme acts to let their feelings be known. After all, as a radical student in the UK in the late 1960s, I protested about the Vietnam War and threw rotten tomatoes at Margaret Thatcher, ‘the milk snatcher’, when she visited my college—South Bank Polytechnic, now known as South Bank University, in London.
Things don’t look too bright for the future of our planet either, with leaders like Donald Trump and Theresa May to guide us. Topics like Trump’s travel ban on Muslims from certain countries and May’s stance on Brexit are guaranteed to spark off arguments among American and British subjects, and even going on holiday is a nerve-racking experience these days, running the gauntlet of inefficient security systems at airports worldwide.
I get grumpy myself at times—who doesn’t?—but for years I’ve believed that negative attitudes and stress are the quickest way to an early grave, so I try to reduce these conditions to a minimum. In that respect, I feel blessed to live in Thailand, often dubbed ‘the Land of Smiles’, which may sound like clever PR by the tourist board, but it’s actually true; most Thais do go around smiling.
I suspect that it has a lot to do with a Buddhist upbringing (95% of Thais are Buddhist), as in general they don’t bear grudges or grumble when things don’t go their way. Instead, they are always eager to help someone out (it accrues merit towards the next life) and are ready to smile or laugh at any opportunity. Sanuk, or having fun, is a guiding principle for Thais in everything they do.
If I don’t get inspired by Thais smiling all the time, I remind myself of a song performed by the members of Monty Python at the end of the film ‘Life Of Brian’. The characters in the film are in a difficult predicament; in fact they are being crucified, but they cheer each other up by whistling along to a tune called ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. So why not give a listen, and whistle along yourself: just click HERE.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.