On raising awareness vs. actually doing something

Lots of unique things have “gone viral” in the last year. Netflix helped documentaries like “Super Size Me,” “Food, Inc.,” and “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” make lots of us rethink our food choices.

TOMS Shoes have turned lots of teenagers and college students into wannabe activists (which could be a good thing) just by choosing to purchase one brand of shoes instead of another.

The latest cause is the KONY2012 campaign from the folks at Invisible Children. They’ve taken heat from some and responded in turn. I’m not here to add much to that conversation, frankly because I don’t really know what I think yet.

Sometimes these causes get questioned, whether it’s how TOMS might adversely impact the local economy (Who’s gonna by local shoes when the Americans will bring us shoes for free?) or how Invisible Children spends its money. Apologists are quick to reply with, “Well, I like their way of doing it imperfectly better than your way of not doing anything.” Point taken, but that logic is a tad leaky.

Sometimes waiting to do something, and doing it well, is better than re-tweeting and “liking” the first human interest story that comes across our screen. It cuts bother ways. Folks will critique the humanitarian agency/company de jour. Those same folks might feel justified in doing nothing. Other people watch a compelling Youtube video and now all their friends and family are bombarded with their latest cause. Both of these approaches lack wisdom and compassion.

The first party- the guys who doesn’t do anything- he cannot let the fallibility of a strategy exempt him from doing his part to right a wrong. Maybe it’s not his life’s new calling, but he is now responsible for what he knows. This is directed at Christians. To whom much is given, much is required. If you know the right thing and neglect to do it, for you, that is sin. Find a better way. Fast from a meal and pray. Write an article or explore an internship. Do something.

The second party- the guy who jumps onto the latest cause bandwagon with ease- he needs to love people with his emotions and his mind. Chill the accusatory tone and haughty attitude towards those who want to test the waters before jumping in. There might be limestone 3 feet under the surface of the water. It’s good and right to investigate the implications of the charities before we throw our support behind them.

And this gung-ho activist needs to check himself, too. Is he really doing anything that helps? Perhaps spreading the word on social media really does help, but it’s about the laziest and lowest level of help imaginable. Same goes for buying a wristband or a t-shirt. I wonder how many of my generation will give up on the American dream and actually do something with their lives to make a difference.

Buying TOMS shoes is one thing, but going to medical school and living in the jungles or slums of South America to fight disease is another. Or how about devoting your life to counseling orphans in war-torn countries, helping them to cope with the hell they have lived through and aiding healing so they aren’t as susceptible to being the victim or perpetrator of crimes like Kony?  Nobody is going to be making Youtube videos about you then; you might be mostly forgotten. Will it still be a good cause?


About Brian Phillips

Brian lives in Spain with Kassie and their kids.
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