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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Awareness events fall flat

Published: September 13, 2012
Section: Opinions

Throughout the year there are various weeks that recognize the ills and misfortunes that plague society. Here are a couple of the more well-known events: Suicide Prevention Week/To Write Love on Her Arms, Day of Silence, True Beauty Day, Bullying Prevention Month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Coming Out Day.

The advancement and promotion of these causes are admirable; there is no denying that fact. One of the obstacles that these events deal with is that in the face of so many days or weeks a year where the population is supposed to be commemorating, discussing, and promoting awareness, all these days become jumbled together into one, giant meaningless cauldron.

Despite the good intentions of these various events, they fall short every time. While it is nice to think that every month our community can come together to sympathize with whatever societal problem the U.S. or the world has, these weekly disruptions don’t end up helping.

In a sad twist, Brandeis lost one of its own only days before Suicide Prevention Week; yet, no initiatives have been seen on campus thusfar.

Our society is pervaded with useless events that don’t fix problems in our society. We receive mass invitations sponsoring these events on Facebook; yet, they are nothing more than a shallow symbol. These events, while they may stem from good intentions, fall flat when applied to the real world. Clicking “attend” on the Facebook event too easily satisfies many people. When that fateful days rolls around, there is truly nothing to distinguish it from the rest of our days.

Instead of simply promoting awareness once a year for a specific cause, it should be our goal, as a community, student body and younger generation to integrate these worthwhile causes into our daily routine. Once a year on True Beauty Day, instead of being told that I should love my body, no matter what shape I am, that message should become intertwined with our daily lives. We should stop seeing images of sickly models on our billboards. Instead of pretending to tolerate our bodies annually, we should try to embody the spirit of what that day wants to accomplish—self-tolerance and the belief that you are beautiful no matter what your appearance.

Today, more so than ever, it is our right and our duty to speak out against injustice. A day of silence to commemorate and bring “attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools” is a juvenile attempt to bring awareness to our community. Instead of acting like children seeking attention by sealing our mouths with duct tape (as many do on this day), we should instead openly speak out about the disgraceful bullying and harassment that many of our LGBTQ friends experience. That means that instead of simply remembering those bullied on April 13 each year, our communities and schools should run anti-bullying programs year-round. We shouldn’t just kick it into high gear once April shows up.

I understand that these days people are merely trying to raise awareness and do the right thing. Just because it is popular to wear yellow or write “love” on your arm during Suicide Prevention Week, doesn’t mean that for the remainder of the year it is OK to neglect to remember those in our society who face daunting challenges every day, challenges that trouble them and lead them to take drastic steps.

As a collective, our society needs to stop buying into these annual events and instead become more active and partake in more worthwhile activities.

The problem isn’t that we have the events, it’s that we only have the events. It’s not that these days are meaningless; they are needed for awareness purposes, to highlight problems that the ignorant among us might not know about. It is our response to these days; how we uselessly “attend” these events and then promptly forget about them the second the sun sets that is the real problem.

There is such compassion, dedication and good intentions within our community. It is our responsibility to harness these intentions and turn them into something more than a 12-hour event.

Many organizations on campus host one-day drives or weeklong events in the hopes that the student body will gleam a little bit of knowledge from their planned activities. These organizations should be cognisant of the fact that while they spend their time planning away in their corner offices in the SCC they are losing the big picture: to aim their everyday actions and thoughts at conveying the important messages of the causes they hold near their hearts.