Archive for July 16, 2011

Raising Awareness of Stupidity

Every year some person I’m friends with on Facebook (usually someone I don’t know very well and/or haven’t seen in 20 years) implores me to participate in raising awareness for –whatever–. You’re supposed to change your picture to a (red/pink/yellow/plaid/safety orange) ribbon or put something mysterious in your status like a color or a number or something. But shhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone what it means! The color is actually supposed to correspond to the color bra you are wearing! Why? This apparently raises awareness about cancer. Yes, having a giant “in” joke that half the population isn’t in on will totally make people think about oft-fatal diseases.

What’s the freaking point of raising awareness, anyway? I mean, sure. Everyone knows that breast cancer happens. Everyone probably knows someone or at least knows someone who knows someone who has suffered from this affliction. Yeah, it sucks. What are you going to do about it? Be like, hey everybody! Breast cancer exists! Are people suddenly going to perk up when they realize that your status of “8.5 inches” corresponds to your shoe size and donate their life savings to the Susan Whatsherface Fund?

Oh, I see now. Your status doesn’t just mean that you’re feeling like a Golden Lion Tamarind Monkey today. Oh my goodness, the Golden Lion Tamarind Monkey is going extinct because we’re being all mean to the rainforests and stuff? I’m going to hitchhike to my nearest rainforest and throw myself in front of a bulldozer! Bye!

My guess is that “raising awareness” is basically a license to allow people to feel smug. In my younger, more optimistic days I used to get involved in all kinds of activism. I manned petition tables. I made posters warning of the dangers of everything from deforestation to war. And even deforestation caused by wars. I presided over postcard drives (we didn’t have none o’ those newfangled emails back in those days, no siree), handed out pamphlets (to Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman once no less!) and all sorts of stuff. What good did all that do? We probably wasted enough trees on useless petition forms and postcards that we could have built our own rainforest. Leonard Peltier is STILL IN FUCKING JAIL! I remember that one. We had rallies, wrote letters, got other people to write letters & sign postcards. We plastered the college campus with posters. And Leonard Peltier is STILL IN FUCKING JAIL. Back then people were always saying, “it’s been 14 years, and we’re so close! He’ll be out by the end of the year!” Well it’s been 34 years now and all the awareness we raised (if any) did squat.

Yes, I’ve been to my fair share of pointless rallies. I’ve even been to the monster rallies in D.C. where there were tens of thousands of people present. What good did it do? The newspapers reported drastically under-counted numbers of people when they did mention them in a paragraph on page 5. Oh yeah, I did get a pictures of Pete Seeger and Raul Julia before they died. So yeah, celebrity sightings are pretty much all I ever got out of activism.

So, even if you do seemingly pro-active things like make people actually do things to get the word out to The Man that stuff sucks, it doesn’t do shit. What popsicle’s chance in hell is some obscure reference on a social networking site going to have on reality? NOTHING, that’s what. It’s about as effective as bumperstickers. It’s particularly effective as that one bumpersticker I saw on a nice new SUV in a Whole Foods parking lot several years ago, the one that said,


If you’ve spent more than 30 seconds with me, you’ve probably heard me rant about how much this bumpersticker annoys/offends me and is a symbol of everything that sucks about activism. Don’t say anything that might give someone an idea on how they can fix the world! No, don’t say anything constructive! Just put on your gas guzzling car a sign that says I AM FEELING SMUG BECAUSE I AM SPENDING $100 ON A LOAF OF BREAD AND SOME ORGANIC POP TART-ESQUE THINGS THIS WEEK, BUT THEY’RE ORGANIC SO I’M SAVING THE WORLD. Basically bumperstickers are an attempt (sometimes in a humorous way) of saying “fuck you, I’m not part of the problem.”

That’s kind of what these Facebook awareness raising things seem to be about. Hey, if your mom dies of  rainforest depletion-related cancer, don’t blame me! I was aware of it!



July 16, 2011 at 4:29 am Leave a comment


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