Awareness Awareness – Virtual Activism

End Human Trafficking.

End Child Abuse.

End Suicide.

End Apartheid/ Discrimination/ Racism/ Hate/ Violence/ Ignorance/ Hunger/ AIDS/ Malaria/ Tuberculosis/ Animal Cruelty/ Homelessness/ Drug Abuse/ Rape/ Slavery/ Dihydrogen Monoxide Deaths . . .

We have a cause for everything.  Even things, if we are really honest with ourselves, aren’t even problems – just things we don’t like.  We can work ourselves into a frenzy about things that are happening on the other side of the world while remaining blissfully unaware of the heinous acts occurring across the street.

A classic example is death by the chemical dihydrogen monoxide.  This chemical can cause death in as little as 3 minutes when exposure exceeds safe levels and nearly every home in Americas has sufficient quantity to kill adult, let alone a small child.  In fact, this chemical is a leading cause of death among children under the age of 5 – many of them in their own home.  The death rate in the United States has remained constant at approximately 4,150 deaths a year.  Despite it’s well known deadly potential, the primary provider of this chemical is our local governments!  You can read all the shocking facts here.

Okay, enough of that – dihydrogen monoxid (DHMO) is water.

If you go to the DHMO.org site, you can see the abundant use of statistics, emotionally charged illustrations and deliberate omissions – all designed to raise your awareness and to push you into action.  Every now and then, this one will resurface and catch someone off guard and you will see a flurry of activity to once again raise awareness to the dangers of DHMO.

Social media and internet journalism have been a powerful force in shaping opinion, raising awareness, crowdfunding, mobilization and political activism.  Don’t misunderstand, I believe much has been accomplished through these movements – much of it of great value.  However, something has gotten lost.

We have begun to discover the dark side of Virtual Activism – the place where we get to feel really good about doing something really great and yet it costs us very little and accomplishes next to nothing.

I was recently speaking to a man in his 70s (actually, I was a captive audience on a 20 minute car ride) who rode the buses in Selma and later was a paralegal with Amnesty International.  We solved many of the nations problems on that car ride.  One of the things he noticed was the volume of talk on a mountain of issues, but virtually no one with a shovel trying to dig us out.

Many times, awareness becomes just a marketing vehicle for an industry or product.  Check out breast cancer awareness money raised by selling products containing carcinogens.  Or how about the chemical industry giant funding breast cancer awareness while producing and marketing the toxins known to cause cancer.

Why do we need a national organization to put an angel on a tree for us to buy a gift for the child that lives 3 doors down?  Why do we need to spend millions of dollars on awareness campaigns to recruit people to read with children?

Of course we should talk about these issues.  Yes, we should organize and bring resources to bear.  But mostly, we should do something.  It’s too easy to hide behind a donation that is “a little less than $1 a day” or “what we spend on eating out just once a month.”  We are so quick to equate arguing and convincing with impacting.  We have to do more than the least that we could do.

By all means, sponsor a child, wear a ribbon, give up one fast food meal a month, but more importantly find a way to spend 6 to 8 hours a month touching a life.  The opportunities are endless.

End Awareness!

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2 Responses to Awareness Awareness – Virtual Activism

  1. nilknarf1940 says:

    Don’t forget to mention my favorite….studying the issue to death. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve been in a group that studies an issue and then at the end you suggest that we all do something about the issue and everyone looks at you like you’re stupid. I’m a community organizer in Houston and work in family engagement in public education, poverty, and ACA training. I’m 73. Check out http://www.tmoalief.com

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