Did I excite you? Draw you in? Psych you up? Whet your appetite and leave you hungry for more? Some other fancy writer-ly phrase?… Well, regardless of whether I did any of that, I’m going to disappoint you with this post, dear reader, for it is not a continuation. Why, you may ask. I have a reason, but I have no intention of telling it to you … ever. Why won’t I tell you? I have a reason for that too, and I similarly refuse to share it. Sue me! I did warn you, after all, that this blog would be an exercise in frustration. I am counting for my audience on my belief that there is a section of people out there who enjoy this kind of frustration. If you are one such, then stop reading now and go jump off a bridge. My aim here is conversion, not satisfaction.
So what is this about? Merely a mental meandering I wish to share with you. In particular, it is about this irritating word I keep hearing – ‘awareness’, usually followed by a hyphenated ‘building’, ‘program’, ‘activity’ or ‘campaign’. I have a history in education, you see, and from that murky soup of experience I gleaned an insight – you can take the horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink (actually, you can, but if you do, then expect to be visited by a gang of half-naked women in fake animal costumes – no, that is not meant to be an incentive!). As blasé as that insight is, it is central to my argument. You see, there is only so much awareness can do. And yet on any social issue, awareness is the only activity I hear people talk about. All people – from the old and traditional to the young and supposedly innovative.
Take smoking. We have been running awareness programs on the dangers of smoking for generations now. We have ads. We have drives, programs, campaigns and all manner of other words that essentially mean the same thing. We have mildly disturbing pictures on cigarette packs and there’s pressure now to increase them to moderately disturbing as the brave new solution. I still see smokers everywhere.
We’ve done awareness to death in so many subjects. We’ve shared stories for the emotionally inclined, numbers for the statistically inclined and random anecdotes and quotations for those with no conception of proper evidence. We’ve shown pictures, videos and godawful PPT’s. We’ve brought the affected people to their saviors and taken the saviors to the people they’re meant to save. We’ve told people, shown people and even involved people. We’ve tried letting people stay and bond with the poor overnight. We’ve even tried (expensively!) simulating the problem and letting people ‘experience’ it themselves. Well, I say enough!
Conduct your awareness activities for the unaware. For the rest, just accept that just because someone knows of a problem doesn’t mean he’ll automatically feel the desire to solve it. Some people will care, others won’t and no amount of increased ‘awareness’ will change that. Knowledge does not equal action.
Those more ‘intense’ awareness activities mentioned above are usually attended by those already aware. Where there are gaps in their awareness fill them. But for that which they already know, save yourself the cash and focus on just telling them what they can do. That is where the program I have joined comes in, as well as many other similar such programs. Sure, it involves increasing our awareness of some things we don’t know (and some things we believe we do), but more than that, it’s about doing something. It’s time, I feel, to curb a lot of this wasteful expenditure and focus on those who have, or can, turn. Leave the rest to their own devices. They are aware. That is enough. Unless you have an idea for some fancy behavior-modification program. That is another topic and I shall not bore you further by getting into it.
Now where was I? Ah yes! I was ascending somewhere. Well, I’ll give you a hint of what’s next – there were stairs involved… 😛