Friday, October 12, 2007

Causes or trends?

OK. This post will most likely get filed in the “Andre ain’t s@*t” category. I’ve got a few more of these up my sleeves so I’m prepared to deal with the onslaught of opposing diatribes. In this case, I'm hoping that my delivery won't be the source of a major breakdown in communication. We shall see. So without further ado, let’s get on with this:

I was in grocery store the other night to grab a few items (interesting how going in to grab one item wound up being about a hour’s worth of impulsive shopping. But I digress.). As I made my way through the store I was amazed to see pink…literally everywhere. From cans of soup, to apple juice, to laundry detergent, product after product adored pink labels used to recognize and support Breast Cancer Awareness month. Initially I have to admit, I was a little moved by the noble efforts of vendors and the store in general to promote awareness regarding this serious and life-threatening affliction. Even if most of the products themselves were laced with preservatives, mad calories, and (apparently) salmonella, it was still clear to me that the vendors were all doing their part in fighting breast cancer. This, coupled with individual efforts to support the cause (Sylvia, for instance, just wrote an amazing post about it) left me with a restored sense in people’s humanity.

But (here it comes)…

The more I thought about, the more incensed I got. With absolutely no disrespect intended to breast cancer victims around the world, I’m absolutely sick of days, weeks, or months that are set aside to commemorate well…stuff. It’s for that very reason that I’m done celebrating Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, 9/11, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Rape Victims Month, or any other trendy things the greater society can come up with. Please don’t read into me incorrectly: I’m certainly not implying that it’s no longer necessary to be aware and concerned about those things. I just don’t think that putting together some cheesy commemorative event or series of events is the best way to disseminate important information about these causes. As long as we walk this Earth, our hearts and minds should be on the problems of the world; not just during a particular month or when some particular celebrity endorses it.

Before I go any further (to take a break from any tension that might be building at this point), let me point out that I take no issue with people’s interest in identifying the problems; particularly as the hit close to home. Many people who meet certain problems with apathy often do so because they haven't experienced that particular problem in their lives. I get that. But I still find myself having some issues here that I need to get off my chest.

For starters, a major issue I have with these awareness-raising efforts is the limited scope of focus throughout the greater society. Frankly, there are far too many causes out there to arbitrarily assign a month or a week's worth of awareness to each one. I suspect that we simply identify the catchiest causes and make them the center of attention.

But ultimately, I suppose that the greatest issue that I have with our tendency to turn causes into a trend (well, I guess you can say that’s a part of the problem too) is that causes like AIDS awareness, breast cancer awareness, Black History, Hispanic Heritage, etc all fit into the category of things that should be inseparable from our understanding of the world in the first place. As I just mentioned, these are problems that need to be addressed everyday; not just for a month at a time. We buy potato chips in the bag with the pink ribbon on it, learn the words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, put an American flag in our yard, donate a little blood, and attend a Hispanic movie festival and think that we’ve done a great thing in the world. That’s all fine and dandy. But I submit to you that it’s not about what you do for breast cancer awareness in October. It’s about what you do in May. It’s not about using February to celebrate the contributions black folks have made to society. It’s about what you do to recognize them in September. It’s not about how holy you are on Sunday. It’s what you do Monday through Saturday that counts. We don’t honor America (the troops and otherwise) by wearing pins and putting magnetic ribbons on our cars. We do it through our day-to-day conduct (I feel you on that one, Senator).

My point here is not to attack or condemn the merits of Breast Cancer Awareness month or any other similar efforts of recognition. I’m simply pointing out that there is a general lack of concern about pressing issues in the world until some marketing and feel-good stories get attached to them. And even then the attention generated for that cause/event is pretty limited to a particular time period. The problems themselves aren’t limited to a certain amount of time. Why then, have our concern for these problems been shaped that way?

Your thoughts?

-ACL

16 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

HeiressChild said...

hi andre, actually i don't think the causes are limited to just that one particular month, but a month is usually chosen because of something major that happened it it, or to commemorate the death of someone associated with that cause, or even because that's when the initial promotion kick-off takes place. i know that people promote awareness for breast cancer, AIDS, heart care, etc. all year round.

i think what's important is that whether it's once a day, once a month, or once a year, people are being made aware of these issues, and something is being done about.

pink was chosen for breast cancer awareness because it's a nurturing color, and breasts are used to nuture (babies). the heart association uses red, perhaps for the blood flow. i think they're more causes than trends. i don't think people follow after these events just to follow, but it's usually because either they've been thru it themselves,or a family member or friend has been thru it, and sometimes it's just because they have an interest.

we honor our birthdays once a year, and we know that every day is mother's day, and every day we learn about black history, but personally i see nothing wrong with setting aside a particular day, week, or month to honor/promote an event. i see all of these as causes to promote more awareness and not as trends, as in it's the fashionable thing to do.

HeiressChild said...

p.s. excellent post and good thoughts.

KC said...

Good points, Heiresschild.

As for you, Dre. I think I'll just leave you alone with your thoughts on this one my friend.

Andre said...

@ Sylv: "i know that people promote awareness for breast cancer, AIDS, heart care, etc. all year round."

Maybe I'm just thinking of all the aggressive marketing that takes place during certain time periods. I never seen pink stuff all over the place until October. I never see Black history stuff until February; and so on. The commercial element of said commemorations is -- as far as I can tell -- pretty trendy.

"i think what's important is that whether it's once a day, once a month, or once a year, people are being made aware of these issues, and something is being done about."

I guess I just maintain that if these things are so important, infrequent attention being paid to them is a diss. Chances are, the average citizen not directly affected by breast cancer, for instance, will forget about this campaign on Nov. 1 at 12 am. Unless, of course, somebody famous is diagnosed.

As always, thanks for your comments and your objectivity. :)

@ KC: Not exactly an "Amen Corner", but I guess your comments weren't too scolding either.

The H.C. said...

Hey Dre,
I don't know why you have a problem with breast cancer awareness month. Protecting breasts is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT issue in the world and I'm going to go home and wrap my entire house in pink ribbons. Without breasts I'll have to look women in the eye and..... and.... Dammit man, that's just too hard. Seriously, I get where your coming from though, how far are we from Colon Cancer Month? And by the way, just so no one thinks I'm taking this too lightly, I'm a cancer survivor myself.(Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma 1992)Good post Dre!

Nic said...

An interesting list of similar weeks & days spent "observing" various causes can be found on Wikipedia by querying "Annual observances in the United States" (I'd post the link, but links tend to get cut-off in the comments portion of BlogSpot). Some of them are just plain silly, others not so much.

My biggest gripe pertaining to this is that I can never tell if a company is using, or even exploiting, a cause/illness/etc as a marketing ploy in order to advance their profits. In addition, how do I really know that company X is donating X amount for every X product sold to whatever X charity they're currently supporting on their label? Then again, maybe I'm just a tad bit too suspicious. {shrug}

But in the end, I suppose I can't gripe too much w/out coming off as being incredibly insincere as even if these companies are giving the bare minimum, it's better than nothing, & far more than the $0 I would have donated otherwise.

"But I submit to you that it’s not about what you do for breast cancer awareness in October. It’s about what you do in May. It’s not about using February to celebrate the contributions black folks have made to society. It’s about what you do to recognize them in September. It’s not about how holy you are on Sunday. It’s what you do Monday through Saturday that counts."

Spot on.

-n

j.alex said...

At the risk of wearing the same bullseye as you probably are right now, I have to say that your argument was well put.

Anonymous said...

Hi Andre,

My mom told me you are applying to Georgetown, I am writing to say to you, why settle for second best? Apply to GW, the Georgetown. LOL!

Kay (HeiressChild's daughter)

Anonymous said...

I meant to put the other Georgetown but I was writing too fast.

So again, the "other" Georgetown. Still funny though!

Andre said...

@ HC: I got the joke so no need to apologize. :)

@ Nic: I'm with you. I tend to raise eyebrows when I hear how companies allegedly donate x dollars for every y dollar we spend. Meanwhile, for every y dollar we spend, their shareholders are likely bringing in far more than what's being generated for true causes. What ever happened to corporate responsibility to the greater society even above and beyond their CEOs and shareholders? But that's another issue.

My ultimate point is that I hate seeing issues that effect people EVERYDAY getting neatly packaged into a 'flavor of the month' trend.

@ J. Alex: If you're agreeing with me, you're also wearing the bullseye. Sorry, my friend. It comes with the territory...

@ Kay: Tryin' to push G Dub on me, eh? Well, I think I'll consider visiting the campus some time soon. With me enjoying Georgetown, I'm sure that I'll also like George Washington. I'm not very familiar with the area, but I don't think I'll use that as an excuse not to give it a try.

But, interestingly, I recently visited the University of Illinois-Chicago and that school shot its way up to #1. Any other school has to damn near give me a ticker tape parade to lure me more than UIC did.

All the same, thanks for the suggestion. I'll take it under advisement. :)

HeiressChild said...

i wanted to see what you wrote in response to my daughter. *lol* good response. i thought you were already sold on georgetown though. illinois is kind of next door to you, isn't it? so, i'd expect them to want to keep you out that way. i'll tell her your answer. she & i were up on our computers while we were talking on the phone until almost 4am this morning, reading blogs and upgrading our websites.

i put my bow & arrow down, so you and j. alex are safe--well, with me anyway. (joking of course!)

Joanne said...

Andre, let me first commend you for the way in which you shared your viewpoints. As always, though we may not agree on all points, I'll always think you truly have a gift for communicating your thoughts in a clear and lucid matter.

I can see your viewpoint, but I also think that Heiresschild was right on the money. I don't see anything wrong with setting time aside with recognizing all the various causes out there. In doing so, we provide a voice for the voiceless; hope for the hopeless. Most of the true supporters and advocates don't just limit their involvement in these causes for a single day, week, or month. Instead they devote their time, talent, and treasure to the things they support and understand the most. Nothing wrong with that.

Greeneyes said...

*Gathering woman villagers


*lighting torches


*looking for Andre under .........

I understand your post and position on the point but totally agree with "heiresschild" also,
there is so much struggle in the world that every issue needs to outshine the next just to get noticed anymore , sad but true.


Hope your well and never in need of one of those ribbons !
Greeneyes

Andre said...

@ Sylv: Chicago is about 4 hours from me; while DC is closer to around 8. So -- for someone who HATES driving -- either city is too far. Still, if moving out of my comfort zone means getting a top-rated education, so be it.

"she & i were up on our computers while we were talking on the phone..."

All this time I thought that Jos and I were the only people who did that. :)

@ Joanne: "I don't see anything wrong with setting time aside with recognizing all the various causes out there."

My issue has never been with setting time aside. It's when that's the ONLY time devoted is when I take issue. Again, I maintain that it's not what you do in October during awarness month that matters. It's what you do for the rest of the year.

@ Greeny: "Hope your well and never in need of one of those ribbons !"

If people's "support" of a cause is limited to putting a ribbon in their car, I hope I never need one either.

Anonymous said...

U can't quite call it GDUB just yet. Only true Washingtonians can do that. And I mean those of us who sweat "buff and blue" LOL! Hope you enjoy your tour. I used to give campus tours back in the day. It really is a beautiful campus.

Megan said...

"If people's "support" of a cause is limited to putting a ribbon in their car, I hope I never need one either."

Very good point.