1. In some places, like my hometown, when an emergency vehicle (especially an ambulance) turns on its sirens it’s like Moses’s parting of the Red Sea. Everyone immediately pulls over in a choreographed dance. I get a little shiver down my spine every time it happens. Sure it’s largely the product of socialization, but it carries so much respect for one another. *Does dance* We’re all in this together.
2. The fact that pretty much anyone who knows anything about Scandinavia thinks it’s at least a little bit awesome, even if it snows all the time and sun? What’s a sun? Yeah, Sweden is awesome. Know what makes Sweden awesome? The fact that is has one of the lowest inequality rates in the world. If you think Sweden is awesome, at least a little bit, it means you think equality is awesome, at least a little bit (I don’t care if this argument is built on a fallacy! If a=b and b=c then a=c, deal with it). And know what? As part of their effort to achieve equality Sweden also believes in taxes and social welfare. I love taxes.
3. Westboro Baptist Church. Hardy har. But no, seriously. I think Westboro Baptist Church is awesome. More specifically, I think the fact that Westboro Baptist is essentially a highly effective unifying force rather than a divisive one is awesome. I often hear my Christian friends moaning about how Westboro gives Christianity a bad name. Have no fear! As an atheist/occasional antitheist, I can genuinely say that, if anything, Westboro just makes me feel closer to my Christian (and Muslim and Buddhist and Ascetic and Pagan…) brothers and sisters. Sometimes it takes a giant vat of crazy to make us realize that our differences are not insurmountable. In the wise words of Simba (because Disney knows everything) we are one. That Westboro espouses hate and we choose to respond with love is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking things about humanity.
4. I once made a remark to my Belgian roommate about how I thought it was awesome that when Belgium fiiinnnaaalllyyy chose a Prime Minister, the man they chose (Elio Di Rupo) was gay and no one seemed to care. Her response? “Why would we care if he’s gay? It’s his life. If anything’s going to upset people, it’s going to be the fact that he’s french”. Now I’m not saying it’s good to judge people based on any other background trait either, but why do we put so much stock in people’s sexuality and gender identity. These days when you meet someone it’s like “Hi I’m Jerome and I’m gay, just thought you should know”. Thank you for the disclaimer, Jerome, I’ll be sure to act accordingly (wtf). A person’s sexuality is just another small piece of complex and incredible whole, and has no bearing on what they can and cannot do. Why does it matter if your PMs gay? It doesn’t. That’s the point. I long to see the day when saying ‘I’m gay’ is like saying ‘I’m naturally dirty blonde’. I’m so thrilled that in some places this is already the case.
5. Heroic acts of kindness are heroic because they are kind. This is a tricky one to explain. It’s not something I’m sure I really can explain, it’s sort of just the warm feeling that everyone gets in the pits of their belly when we see someone do something nice. When someone does something (extra)ordinarily kind, we don’t say “Thank you for your drive and ambition!” we say “Thank you for your kindness, your compassion, your love”. At some level we recognize that compassion trumps ruthlessness, and love trumps hate. We also recognize that we are stronger together than we are alone.
6. Prison reform is slowly (not entirely) but mostly surely shifting towards a more Norway-esque approach of rehabilitation rather than punishment. I could go on for days about how flawed current prison system is, but the gist of it is this: it’s just dumb. It’s illogical, and it doesn’t help anyone. It’s inhumane, it’s uneconomical, and it does way more harm than good. The Norwegian system, on the other hand, is sort of an experiment in humanity. Yes, prisons like Bastoy are going to infuriate a lot of people. Why should we have to pay to support and comfort criminals? But as the prison’s governor says, “We should reduce the risk of reoffending, because if we don’t, what’s the point of punishment, except for leaning toward the primitive side of humanity?” Just because you’ve done something bad doesn’t mean that you are bad. It doesn’t mean that your soul is irredeemable, that you have no worth, and that you should be punished for the rest of your life. Even if we take humanity out of the mix, from a purely economic viewpoint it still seems like the world is coming (at glacial speed, but coming nonetheless) to recognize that reform and rehabilitation will always be of more value than revenge and punishment. I encourage you to read up on Norway’s system, and to promote a similar approach in your own areas. People are still people, no matter what.
7. The ‘Suspended Coffee’ movement and pay-it-forward in general. Things like this are, by their very definition, selfless. You do it because you won’t receive some sort of praise or reward or pat on the back for it. It’s not about what you get out of it. I think that’s beautiful.