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A great time to be alive

The Eleventh Hour (see below) is a documentary on the environmental crisis. I haven’t watched the film and I’m not going to blog about it, but there’s just something from this trailer that caught my attention when I first saw it, and that I still think of from time to time. It’s the quote from the interviewee at 1:58 in the video:

What a great time to to be born, what a great time to be alive, because this generation gets to completely change this world.

This has stuck with me since I first saw the trailer in 2007, because it was just such a beautiful perspective on all the troubles around us. It does not wallow in self-pity, nor does it try to blame anyone. It does not dwell on all the problems that plague us in this modern world. Instead, it focuses on the positive, on the fact that we are here, and we can do something. Instead of discouraging people, it empowers us. And it applies to so much more than just the environment.

Today I spent the whole day at work researching a miserable topic that showcases the very, very worst of human nature: greed and cold-heartedness and blatant cruelty, poverty and corruption and apathy, fear and exploitation and neglect… the very, VERY worst. Reading through the case studies and statistics just made my heart sink to the pit of my stomach, and I left work feeling tired and disheartened at all this proof of how horrible the world and its people can be. Then I met up with people from TOC (and other volunteers) to help out with the collection for the homeless (as arranged through the Facebook group There are no homeless, just happy campers run by Joshua). And it just changed everything, to see all these people who care and aren’t afraid of showing it. All these people who just want to do their bit, whatever it might be.

As I bid them goodbye after we delivered food, plates/bowls and NTUC vouchers, the thought came back to me again: “What a great time to be alive, to be able to do something to help!”

I am not a very big-sized person; I am 21 but am often told that I look like a kid. I can’t act intimidating even if I try; I just end up looking like a slightly-disorientated pigeon. I shy away from direct confrontation and constantly feel the need to be nice to everyone, including animals, toys and other inanimate objects. I’m not physically strong, or naturally sharp-tongued. All this adds up to one thing: I am pretty damn useless when it comes to bullying or manipulating people into getting things done. I can’t make people do things, or convince them with my sweet tongue to change their minds. I am neither forceful nor cunning. But there is something that is on my side, one thing that allows me to try to make a difference in my own way: I am part of the media industry, as well as the online blogging community. I can make films, I can take photos, I can edit videos. I can write, I can create and maintain a blog. I can spread the word on Facebook, on Twitter, on websites such as TOC. And in this Digital Age, this ability gives me more “power” and capability than I could ever get physically or verbally.

What a great time it is to be alive, and to be part of the media! Since I cannot forcefully make the world change all by myself, all I can do is tell the stories that need to be told, in any way that I can. And to extend that thought even further… what a great time it is to be part of the media, and in Singapore! Sure, there are probably many out there who would rather I wasn’t here, or wish that I would just sit down and shut up, work in something more safe and normal like, I don’t know, banking (no offence to the bankers out there). Sure, there isn’t a lot of freedom of press here in Singapore, and the mainstream media constantly makes me wring my hands in despair. People often shy away from speaking to the media and it can be very hard to get things out there in Singapore. Censorship (or self-censorship) is everywhere. All in all, Singapore is not actually the best place for journalists and filmmakers to be.

But it is precisely because of all this that makes Singapore a great place to be for someone in a media-related role, because media-people are exactly what is needed right now.

It’s a strange contradiction, yes, but true. Right now, all over Singapore – all over the world, in fact – people are searching for alternative views. They are turning to blogs, news sites, YouTube, etc. They are no longer confined to just the mainstream media, they are no longer limited to what their country offers them. They have a veritable smorgasboard of sources, and they are wanting differing opinions and views. The public is now extremely media-literate and they are constantly hungry for more. Which is exactly why media-people are needed in Singapore right now; we might not be able to get our stories published in the mainstream media, we might not always make a lot of money, but we are here to tell the stories that don’t get told, to film or photograph the people no one else sees, to write the words that no one else wants to write. And through our pictures and our words, perhaps we can help things move towards change and improvement. Perhaps in this way we can help people.

So hello, Singapore, it’s nice to meet you. I’m not political, I’m not strong, I’m not clever. But I am alive and I am here. And most importantly of all, I see you.

Kirsten Han

Kirsten also blogs at Kixes.

Trailer video for The Eleventh Hour: