Brother, Have You Heard? A case of me telling you and you telling me what we each need to hear in the Age of Advocacy.

  • Sumo

Advocacy is all about getting someone else to do it. We live in the age of advocacy.

I was going through the drive-through lane at a major-chain fast food restaurant recently, and as I reached the window and handed over my debit card, the employee asked me, “Would you like to put a dollar on your balance today for cancer awareness?”

Now, I cannot fault anyone for wanting to cure cancer or help cancer victims. Raising such support might be the salvation of, well, myself some day. Or anyone. But the person did not ask me to give a dollar to fight cancer or to help victims or to seek a cure for cancer. No, I was asked if I wanted to give a dollar for cancer “awareness.”

Honestly, I’d rather give a dollar to help a victim or pay for real research.

I cannot go down the highway without seeing billboards “raising awareness” for various worthy causes. I cannot open a magazine or flip on a television without seeing commercials advocating the importance of such awareness. We are saturated with such messages. Now, is it possible that I might not be sufficiently aware of the direness of certain ailments in society? Is awareness the need, or is the cause the need?

I don’t mind people passing the hat for certain causes. I just mind the idea that there is an endless cycle of awareness-building that might or might not be channeling real help to real needs. I don’t question that money spent to “build awareness” is indeed used to build awareness. But the unspoken assumption there is that you and I are not sufficiently aware of these needs out there, and that you and I need to spend more money—not, not on aid—on making you and me more aware of the situations at hand.

Advocacy generally goes hand in hand with “awareness.” One advocates to help “raise awareness.” We live in an “awareness raising” age. I attempt to raise your awareness and you attempt to raise mine, and, overall, society and its media are joined in massive efforts to raise the awareness of populations out there that just aren’t that aware. When do the advocates among us define for us just who these unaware populations are, and how large they are, and what the target level is for achieving awareness among them, so that we can track the success rate and know that we have succeeded? And then do we shift and start giving money to the cause itself? But how does all of that work? Till they do that, I’ll reserve whatever help I give for those who tell me they are using the money for the cause, not for awareness of the cause.



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