IF YOUR social media timelines looked anything like mine two weekends ago, you’d have noticed that it was full of rainbows.
Facebook had introduced a feature which allowed users to filter their profile photos with rainbow-esque stripes. Twitter automatically showed the “rainbow flag” emoticon when someone used #LoveWins, a hashtag which took the Internet by storm following the US Supreme Court judgment on equal marriage (or gay marriage, to some) on June 26.
The six-coloured “rainbow” is a symbol of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) pride. But whether it was set up in anticipation of the Supreme Court judgment or just to mark LGBT Pride events happening across the US that weekend, we will probably never know.
However, what emerged from that weekend was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, aided no doubt by a healthy dose of cultural imperialism.
One of the most significant things I noticed was that not all the people who displayed the filter identify as LGBT; many were allies who had fought for years for equal rights for all.
Then of course there were others who jumped on the bandwagon to show their support for the cause.
Some just like the happiness that comes with colourful things and wanted to spread positivity and love.
At the same time, there were also many horrible things happening around the world, including terrorist attacks on three different continents on the very same day.
I was very upset by those incidents, as I do with any form of hate, and it was so easy to get angry. Yet, all I felt that weekend was love.
Granted, there were still many things being spewed on the Internet that would normally drive me up the wall and cause me to proverbially vomit blood, but that whole weekend, it was the love people were showering that drowned out the negativity.
It made me wonder why we do not spend more time spreading positivity.
There is no doubt that it is infectious and overwhelming. This weekend was proof of that.
It was a reminder I needed. Just a few days ago, I sat down with my friend Yuen, telling her how difficult it is to constantly stay positive and using that to drown out negativity.
We also talked about how that strategy did not seem to be working.
For the past few years, we have been working to spread positive stories about our country by getting Malaysians to talk about themselves and their lives to show how much we have in common despite being so diverse.
The two projects – 50x50 My Malaysia and LimaPuluhTujuh – really did not ask anything of the participants and audience other than to share lovely stories about each other – the people who make this country.
Amid bile and vitriol being spouted out from politicians, “community leaders” and the general public, our hearts and souls could do with being fed more positivity and love.
But it is hard work and each year, I tell myself: “No more, it’s someone else’s turn.”
Then the next year comes and I throw myself into it again. To give up would mean being disloyal to my friends, acquaintances, colleagues and other people whom I admire and have taught me valuable lessons for so long.
Zain HD, a good friend who is one of the biggest influences in my life with regards to this kind of work, taught me that we don’t always need to have a major reaction to the work we do for it to be impactful.
Sometimes, it is just worth doing. Many times, it is worth just bringing people together for no particular reason.
That was the ethos behind many projects by RandomAlphabets, the collective Zain and I had been very involved in for several years.
But it was also about bringing people together to spread joy, unity and solidarity.
In 2009, when we felt that there was not enough celebratory feel for Hari Merdeka, we conceptualised the Merdeka Train Party.
In 2010, when religious tension was high after attacks on places of worship, we organised Tali Tenang.
In the dark days (literally – people were asked to wear black to “mourn” our country’s democracy) following the 13th General Elections, we asked people to attend #SayaMahuPicnic in the bright colours of our Jalur Gemilang.
Those moments proved that positivity and love trump over negativity and hate.
The response to the US Supreme Court judgment on equal marriage caused rainbow ripples across the globe.
The post I wrote about how #LoveWins at the end itself was so well received; it was read five times more than the people who normally read my blog.
It was a timely reminder about how strong we can be in drowning our hate when we all come together. It’s hard work, but by golly, is it worth it!
- Niki is currently working on this year’s Malaysian stories project. For updates, sign up for his fortnightly newsletter at www.tinyletter.com/nikicheong.
- The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.
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