I keep seeing all these campaigns to raise “awareness” for all sorts of issues and I found myself wondering why we are raising “awareness” instead of campaigning for change or progress or something more, oh I don’t know, helpful?
Let’s face it…
We have all seen the memes where there is some poor starving African child who is being delivered a box of paper thumbs up Facebook likes, and we laugh at the stark reality that our “likes” don’t actually help anything. We are “aware” of all sorts of things that are wrong with the world, and yet that doesn’t fix them. What if you went to the hospital with a broken arm and were told “Well, now that you are ‘aware’ that there is a problem with your arm it is no longer a problem and will get better on its own”! This seems more than a little bizarre, yet our society as a whole seems to think they are truly helping somehow when they have performed some stunt to raise “awareness” for a cause.
I first started to realize that we have gone horribly wrong when that ever so popular “Ice Bucket Challenge” went viral for ALS. Now here’s the thing: From a rather informal poll I took, most people seem to be unaware of the actual details of how the Ice Bucket Challenge was supposed to work.
The original challenge was that once nominated to participate in the challenge you had 24 hours to donate a certain sum of money towards the foundation and if for whatever reason you refused to comply within that 24 hours you were to AS A PENALTY pour a bucket of ice water over your head. The challenge eventually evolved into the pouring of the ice water merely allowing you to donate a lesser sum of money, yet you still had to donate money, you were just announcing to the world that you were either poor or stingy.
Wait what?! The pouring of the ice water was the PENALTY for not just donating some money?! By publicizing the fact that you chose the bucket you are effectively saying to the world “I’m a cheap bastard and will endure a short amount of pain because I don’t care enough about people who are in serious pain all the time to donate a small amount of money to them”.
While it is true that an increased number of people did indeed also choose to donate some money to ALS during the time period of the Ice Bucket Challenge fad, sadly the number of donations was nowhere near proportional to the number of people who honestly believe that they helped by filming themselves pouring ice water over their head.
So, this begs the question: Why are so many people so proud of the fact that they chose to dump ice water on themselves? How did they think that this was actually helping something?
Here’s the truth…
The majority of people don’t donate to causes privately for one very good reason: They want to have that public pat on the back, the acknowledgement by their peers that somehow, they are a “good” person because they “helped”. The whole charity fundraiser game is a racket, it is all bread and circuses, lets make people feel good about themselves for having “helped” when all they really did was “donate” barely enough to cover the costs for the event in which they just participated so that they can then possess some swag that makes them feel somehow superior to the people who didn’t participate in the charade.
With ever increasing numbers of charity runs, charity balls, charity baseball games, charity challenges, and frankly charity “any reason to give out some swag that you can wear later and feel good about yourself” we have lost sight of the real issues and causes. Sure, “awareness” is a key starting point, but by now we are well aware of the various types of cancer, autoimmune diseases, and lets face it, even mental health issues, but where is the follow through? Why aren’t we encouraging people to get involved in actual change?
I would like to issue my own challenge:
If you truly care about a cause, don’t participate in these one day only, awareness raising, ridiculously ineffective publicity stunts for your own personal glory. Find a way to actually work to solve the issues at hand, help work with the people who are affected by the issue, research what works and what would actually help, get involved and help change the system yourself (sure it may take more time or effort than proudly pouring a bucket of ice water over your head, but I guarantee the high will last longer too).
If that is too much for you (let’s face it, most of us are lazy and just want immediate gratification), just donate some money directly to the cause, don’t buy into the thought that somehow by completing an “all night relay” your money is more helpful than it would have been if they had received it without having to pay all the costs for hosting such an event (not to mention you would save all that time that you would have wasted going to the event and you can spend that time doing much more important things like, oh I don’t know, making a real change in the world).
~ Elena <3
PS: Because I know that you want me to cite my sources, here are just the first three of many, many articles which support my points: