Saturday, January 13, 2007

No Purple Ribbon On Me.

The biggest sweep going through pop culture right now is awareness. Campaigns for awareness seem to be going on all the time. Aids awareness. Energy management awareness. Thrombosis awareness. Disaster prevention awareness. Hate In Your Community awareness and on and on.

One such awareness campaign that always gets me in a little trouble is the Child Abuse Prevention Campaign that comes around every October in Ontario. Thats when we all wear purple ribbons in order to raise awareness of child abuse. Where I get in trouble is that I don't wear the ribbon. Here's why:

When I'm deciding if I should do something I look at two things, is it good (or morally right) and is it useful. The useful part may throw people off a bit, but think about what life would be like if we didn't take into consideration the usefulness of our choices.

Here's an example; take this recent news-item about Edward Norton: "Actor Edward Norton is leading a celebrity charge to banish lavishing gift baskets on presenters at top awards shows. 'The Illusionist' star is appalled by the freebies celebrities pick up backstage at events like the Golden Globes and the Oscars, while many people watching the ceremonies at home are struggling to pay the rent and feed their kids. He says, 'A lot of us have talked to the Academy Awards producers about this and I think they're actually going to scuttle the gift baskets and that kind of stuff. I mean the gift baskets, worth amounts of money that a low income family could live on for a year, (are given to) people who have so much already. It gets depressing. You sit there, going, 'This is an embarrassment.'"

Is what he's doing "good." Well, perhaps yes. Its certainly not morally repulsive. But I would argue that there is nothing tangibly good that comes out of it.

But isn't sincerity enough? Why bother about usefulness as long as someone is sincere? Isn't it enough that Ed Norton is sincerely concerned for the poor and refuses lavish gifts as a symbol of his commitment? Well, maybe he is sincere, I like to think so, at least. But his refusal certainly isn't useful. Is anyone fed because he didn't get another Rolex? Well, move over, One-Size-Pie liberals. Nobody is better off because some celebrities didn't get their trinkets. It didn't leave just enough money out there in the economy for little Timmy to buy the cough syrup for his dying mother. No matter how it may make you feel, sincerity has never made saints.

And this is why I don't wear the purple ribbon. Its not useful. In fact, it may even be harmful. Those who have initiated this campaign are ignoring the deep seated reasons why abuse is perpetuated. These are forces and habits that take long and difficult bouts of therapy and often prayer and relapse and support and tears and struggle to break. Ever heard anyone say "This ribbon has done what years of psychotherapy could not. I'm a better man now, thanks to you Purple Ribbon!"?

Awareness is a cop-out. Its the lazy man's solution to avoiding guilt. It promises a clean conscience without having to DO anything. What we need are more campaigns that call us to real action. We KNOW kids are being abused. We KNOW people are living on the streets. We KNOW how people contract HIV. And I'm not going to waste a second of my life on a campaign that doesn't DO something about it.

It's interesting how we don't see a lot of campaigns which call people to abstinence to avoid STD's and AIDS. Abstinence is hard. Compared to it, wearing a ribbon for people you've never met who suffer from life-long diseases and infections is easy.

When I wear a ribbon for a campaign I haven't done diddly for in the way of real, practical, useful help (either buy giving my money or my time) that's when I feel guilty. Its like saying, "Oh yes, I'm aware. Damn aware. And you know what? I'm not going to do a thing about it."

I'll give my money, my time and my voice in the public square to a worthy cause. But I will not give my lapel to awareness.


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