"We want to raise awareness for global warming"
"Help raise awareness for juvenile diabetes"
"Help us raise awareness for...."
How many times a day do you read or hear the term "raising awareness"?
What is "raising awareness" and why the heck do some people think it actually does any good at all?
Rather than tear into the idiot who thought the idea of "raising awareness" was a better idea than actually doing something, let's have a brief history lesson.
Think back about 20 years or so. There was this guy named Bob Geldoff. He was the front man for a forgettable band called the BoomTown Rats. They had a minor hit in the late 70's called "I don't like Mondays". But that is beside the point.
In 1984, the country of Ethiopia was suffering from a massive famine brought about by a number of environmental and governmental factors. Geldoff saw the suffering of millions of starving of people on television and decided to do something about it.
He gathered together a "Who's Who" of 80's UK bands and recorded a rapidly penned hit called "Do they know its Christmas?". It sold millions of copies, spawned a host of imitators worldwide and eventually resulted in a huge multinational concert called "Live Aid".
And then there was the money. All of these recordings and concerts literally raised millions of dollars (and awareness, but with something more concrete behind it), for famine relief in Ethiopia.
Rather than rest on his laurels, Geldoff put together a first rate charitable organization of accountants, aid workers and countless volunteers who actually made sure, year after year, that the money reached the victims it was intended for.
The ordeal took its toll on Geldoff and although he was knighted for his efforts and received global fame, he did not make a personal dime off of this tremendous effort of time and will. In fact, I am almost certain he declared bankruptcy later in life.
Suppose instead, Geldoff decided just to raise "awareness"?
"Hey everyone, there's like people starving, let's all think about it, umm okay?".
That's all "raising awareness" really is - nothing.
What Geldoff did took time, commitment and strength. Geldoff had to be responsible and build trust ("Who is going to trust a washed up rock star with millions of untraceable dollars?"). What Geldoff did took heart. And a heck of a lot of work.
Geldoff knew he had the world looking over his shoulder and most wanted him to fail.
Raising awareness on the other hand, is easy. Build a web page. Take out some ads. Appear on Oprah. Make a bunch of people share a vague sense of guilt. If you can pull it together, have a concert or throw a ritzy party. Tell guests you are trying to raise awareness.
And despite all the hype, most awareness campaigns are disappointing (See:RED, ask for Bono) because the organizers don't actually ask people to DO anything except THINK about a problem.
Wow. Heavy man.
But let's identify what "raising awareness" really is. Awareness is, IN MOST CASES, a futile effort at self indulgent, self gratifying, feel good activity and not about real work towards solving a problem.
Real work means getting your hands dirty, digging a well for an impoverished village, making beds for AIDS sufferers, carrying sick babies and cleaning floors on hands and knees.
Awareness advocates want to leave the real work to "someone else".
That 14-year old suburban kid working in the soup kitchen once a month does more good than all the glitterati, hand waving, talk show whoring, global "awareness raising" idiots do in a lifetime.
Perhaps if awareness activists have some free time on their hands, they can find Bob Geldoff and ask for some pointers? I am sure he would look forward to showing them what real work is.
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