This month called on my social awareness muscle to get strengthened. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really been on top of the news – watching it daily or reading the papers. I haven’t been completely lost in my own world and unaware of events around me but I could definitely look outside of myself and my life a bit more. I have, obviously, been aware of some things going on around me in my community, my country and the world but I’ve never particularly followed through on certain issues and I guess never really thought that I could make much of a difference. That, I think is what Social Awareness May has taught me.
It got me thinking again about a friend of mine who, with his wife and a team of people, runs a charity that tackles anti-trafficking and modern slavery. I had the opportunity to visit them last year and was in absolute shock at some of the statistics and stories I heard. This was all before actually meeting some of the girls who he and this team help. What have I done about it since? Not a lot! I’ve donated some money and told a few people, but that’s all really. Why is it that some people are so moved by an issue that they actually stand up and take action? William Wilberforce fought to abolish slavery, Marie Curie advanced medical science, Martin Luther King became the inspiring leader of the non-violent civil rights movement, and others such as Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Ghandi and Mother Theresa took action to change the course of history. But yet I, and so many others, don’t. What is it that stops us?
Sometimes I can be pretty quiet and I like to think through and form an opinion before speaking. But I know that often my stance is one of, ‘Well, there are so many voices out there, why do I need to add to them? If I’ve got something to say I’ll say it.’ It IS true – there are a lot of voices out there, but the problem with just taking the backseat and letting others get on with things, is that I start to believe that I can’t really make a difference and so I don’t bother. I stop MY light from shining a different perspective, a passion, bringing momentum to something. I basically coast passively and let myself be unbothered and unaffected by things. (You could say ‘remain dispassionate to everything’)
Social media is a bittersweet platform for expression. Our opinions are alternately voiced and heard or ignored and knocked down. Generally we post carefully crafted information, mostly about ourselves, but actually both within our peer group, and beyond, it can be a hugely powerful tool to at least plant seeds and spread awareness of current vital issues. I have a friend who seems to post on Twitter and Facebook all day long (I exaggerate but I do wonder where she gets the time). I try to keep up with the articles she posts, as they’re all very interesting and I have generally never heard about these issues. Yet at the same time it just makes me think about the effectiveness of it and the message it puts across. It wasn’t until last week that it all finally clicked in my mind.
Said friend and I went to a screening of a film called ‘The True Cost’. This documentary is about the impact of our insatiable consumerism, specifically within the fashion industry and notably our cheap consumerism or demand for “fast fashion”. The film explored the huge cost to our planet, to the people who make the clothes and to the people who wear them. I left the film feeling greatly impacted but what have I done? Nothing. What has said friend done? Tweeted all the articles she’s come across on the subject and gone and made her own laundry detergent. Some people just get off their butts and do stuff! Perhaps the difference is that I don’t believe that my ‘tweeting’ about it, or making the effort to change a few things in my life will truly help. This realisation suddenly opened my eyes to see the importance of reading articles on such issues and tweeting, retweeting, telling friends and coworkers and anyone who will listen or won’t listen quite frankly. If we ALL just sat around nothing would get done. It not only plants seeds in peoples minds but also inspires people to be someone who shows they care through their actions.
What have I learned in Social Awareness month…? Just get on and do stuff! Do whatever you can and believe that it will make some kind of difference. Every big movement started with tiny steps and if we all made tiny steps we’d get there a lot faster with things! Next month brings on ‘Passion’.