It is a beautiful thing to create, to produce, to go out there in the world and make a contribution.
But it is just as important, if not more so, that we help others to do the same — that we teach others to create and produce, that we encourage them, that we support them and help them to succeed.
Why? Why not just worry about our own creations and productions? What’s so important about helping others to succeed?
If you think of your work as a contribution to the world — great or small — then you can say you’ve made X amount of difference in making this world a better place.
But if you help 5 or 10 people make their contributions, you can say you’ve made perhaps 5X or 10X amount of difference in making this world a better place. You multiply your contribution.
And if, in doing so, you teach others to help still other people create and produce and make contributions, you’ve just added an exponent to your contribution … X squared, X to the power of 3 or 10 or whatever the number might be. OK, I’m not great at math, but you can see the point: the amount of difference made in this world not only multiplies, but keeps on multiplying beyond you.
Unfortunately, many people seem to have a problem with this concept. They tear people down, block them, hoard the goods for themselves, and are jealous of the success of others. We need to break free of this jealousy and meanness. We need to learn to be happy for others, and what’s more, to count their success as our success and feel proud of the contribution we’ve made in helping others make a difference.
So go out in this world and create — make something brilliant, whether it be a piece of art or a book or music or a wonderful new invention or a world-changing business or whatever it is you do in the world.
But go beyond that. Teach others to be brilliant and make a difference. Encourage them to create, support them, give them a boost, help them succeed. And teach them to do the same with still other people.
The world will thank you for it. And even if you never receive thanks, know in your heart that you’ve done some good, that you’ve lit your light in this world that will last beyond your mortal years, that will continue to grow and burn brightly long after your dust has returned to dust and blown away in the wind.
Let’s be absolutely clear, it wasn’t experts speculating, it was guessers guessing – and they were terrible.
I went to bed in a terrible world and awoke inside a worse one. At the time of writing, details of the Norwegian atrocity are still emerging, although the identity of the perpetrator has now been confirmed and his motivation seems increasingly clear: a far-right anti-Muslim extremist who despised the ruling party.
Presumably he wanted to make a name for himself, which is why I won’t identify him. His name deserves to be forgotten. Discarded. Deleted. Labels like “madman”, “monster”, or “maniac” won’t do, either. There’s a perverse glorification in terms like that. If the media’s going to call him anything, it should call him pathetic; a nothing.
On Friday night’s news, they were calling him something else. He was a suspected terror cell with probable links to al-Qaida. Countless security experts queued up to tell me so. This has all the hallmarks of an al-Qaida attack, they said. Watching at home, my gut feeling was that that didn’t add up. Why Norway? And why was it aimed so specifically at one political party? But hey, they’re the experts. They’re sitting there behind a caption with the word “EXPERT” on it. Every few minutes the anchor would ask, “What kind of picture is emerging?” or “What sense are you getting of who might be responsible?” and every few minutes they explained this was “almost certainly” the work of a highly-organised Islamist cell.
When it became apparent that a shooting was under way on Utoya island, the security experts upgraded their appraisal. This was no longer a Bali-style al-Qaida bombing, but a Mumbai-style al-Qaida massacre. On and on went the conjecture, on television, and in online newspapers, including this one. Meanwhile, on Twitter, word was quickly spreading that, according to eyewitnesses, the shooter on the island was a blond man who spoke Norwegian. At this point I decided my initial gut reservations about al-Qaida had probably been well founded. But who was I to contradict the security experts? A blond Norwegian gunman doesn’t fit the traditional profile, they said, so maybe we’ll need to reassess … but let’s not forget that al-Qaida have been making efforts to actively recruit “native” extremists: white folk who don’t arouse suspicion. So it’s probably still the Muslims.
Soon, the front page of Saturday’s Sun was rolling off the presses. “Al-Qaeda” Massacre: NORWAY’S 9/11 – the weasel quotes around the phrase “Al Qaeda” deemed sufficient to protect the paper from charges of jumping to conclusions.
Some remained scarily defiant in the face of the new unfolding reality. On Saturday morning I saw a Fox News anchor tell former US diplomat John Bolton that Norwegian police were saying this appeared to be an Oklahoma-style attack, then ask him how that squared with his earlier assessment that al-Qaida were involved. He was sceptical. It was still too early to leap to conclusions, he said. We should wait for all the facts before rushing to judgment. In other words: assume it’s the Muslims until it starts to look like it isn’t – at which point, continue to assume it’s them anyway.
If anyone reading this runs a news channel, please, don’t clog the airwaves with fact-free conjecture unless you’re going to replace the word “expert” with “guesser” and the word “speculate” with “guess”, so it’ll be absolutely clear that when the anchor asks the expert to speculate, they’re actually just asking a guesser to guess. Also, choose better guessers. Your guessers were terrible, like toddlers hypothesising how a helicopter works. I don’t know anything about international terrorism, but even I outguessed them.
As more information regarding the identity of the terrorist responsible for the massacre comes to light, articles attempting to explain his motives are starting to appear online. And beneath them are comments from readers, largely expressing outrage and horror. But there are a disturbing number that start, “What this lunatic did was awful, but …”
These “but” commenters then go on to discuss immigration, often with reference to a shaky Muslim-baiting story they’ve half-remembered from the press. So despite this being a story about an anti-Muslim extremist killing Norwegians who weren’t Muslim, they’ve managed to find a way to keep the finger of blame pointing at the Muslims, thereby following a narrative lead they’ve been fed for years, from the overall depiction of terrorism as an almost exclusively Islamic pursuit, outlined by “security experts” quick to see al-Qaida tentacles everywhere, to the fabricated tabloid fairytales about “Muslim-only loos” or local councils “banning Christmas”.
We’re in a frightening place. Guesswork won’t lead us to safety.