Big Smile, No Teeth: When you don't know if to laugh or cry over the news

  • Living
  • Sunday, 11 Aug 2019

Keeping up on current events this week has me searching for how to deal with negative news cycles.

Two mass shootings in the United States that highlight illogically weak gun laws and also a growing white supremacist movement stoked by like-minded people in online communities is pretty rough to swallow.

Then there are the ongoing protests in Hong Kong that make me fear things won’t end well for the people there what with China’s history of not condoning protests.

And, like every week before, and probably every week until the end of life as we know it, there is more bad climate news. Scientists warn we’re abusing our land which is exacerbating climate change.

There is also the news that predictions about the destruction the changing climate will bring are much too conservative and things will happen faster.

Meaning our world is going to slide into the toilet faster than we’ve planned for. And July is confirmed as the hottest month ever on record! So ... hooray for that?

Nope, that’s not something to celebrate, it’s another symptom of a world that is changing much too rapidly for most species to adapt to. Also, it’s nothing to celebrate because from now on I suspect that record will be broken at least once a year.

Plus Russia is arresting mass numbers of protestors, India and Kashmir seem headed for bigger problems, and money is still the driving factor behind everything, meaning injustices will continue to be perpetrated because someone is profiting off it.

This is where I am.

It’s not fun times.

So how does the World Wide Web tell me to deal with all this negativity?

First piece of advice? Relax!

I have to say, I’m actually pretty relaxed. At least on a physical level. It’s not like I’m reading the news and hyperventilating – though maybe I should be. You may be thinking that I’m freaking out on some cognitive level, but there, too, I’m fairly zen.

I’m seeing the news, I understand it, but it’s sort of like I’m in some kind of cognition coma, in that none of the news actually affects me on a level that is deep enough to cause me undue stress, to the point I can’t eat or sleep or something. Nope, I’m eating and sleeping well – right into the apocalypse.

Next bit of advice? Laugh!

No need to try hard to follow that. I’m laughing every day. Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz supposedly once wrote, “We laugh because the alternative is to cry, and I’m following that to a T.

When I read about how corporations and governments are shirking their responsibilities to fight climate change because of short term economic profit, all I can do is laugh.

It’s like watching a giant primate you can’t control eat drain cleaner because he thinks it’s delicious, and all you can do is watch, but you can’t help thinking that at some point – sooner rather than later – that drain cleaner is going to burn a hole right through his gut and kill him dead. But he still won’t stop. And you have to laugh because of the pure idiocy at work.

So, laugh? Got it covered.

What’s next on this checklist to make me feel better?

Practise realistic optimism.

OK, let’s work some realistic optimism on the Hong Kong protests.

It’s true. Sometimes even massive systems come down seemingly spontaneously and it’s not until we look back that we see the cracks were evident. Like the fall of communism in Europe with the Revolutions of 1989.

Maybe communism in China will change and Hong Kong people will get the rule they want. Or maybe, more realistically, China doesn’t mind making Hong Kong redundant by focusing on the development of places like Shenzen and Shanghai and is willing to let Hongkongers protest until they get tired or businesses leave for the mainland and Hong Kong is, economically, a shadow of it’s former self. Whichever comes first.

Let’s work some realistic optimism on the climate crisis now.

The best case is Elon Musk stops focusing on living on Mars and builds some kind of contraption that pulls carbon dioxide from the air and stores it in safe, environmentally-friendly bundles like, say, puppies and kittens. And we all have to own more cats and dogs to store all this carbon that is in our atmosphere.

OK, maybe that’s not “realistic” optimism but you have to admit that’s pretty optimistic thinking.

In the worst case scenario, I suppose every July we can come out and sit in lawn chairs, sipping lemonade in great anticipation as we wait to see how much we break the all-time hottest temperature record by. See? The climate crisis can be fun!

In the end the best advice I found for dealing with negative news cycles is to just go find something that is positive.

So I’m off to peruse Dogs of Instagram for the next six hours. Hopefully, videos of dogs sleeping next to babies and playing with kittens will do the trick. Otherwise, maybe I’ll just forget the laughter and go straight to the crying.

Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at and check out his stuff at The views expressed here are entirely the writer's own.

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