Action vs. Advocacy

I'm going to apologize ahead of time if this offends anyone, but in the end, if I cared I wouldn't write it. I grew up with nice people who treated each other with kid gloves and were very polite... then I went and worked in the oilfield where you got your ass beat for being soft... then in the Army, I learned the real value of the mantra "If the shoe fits, wear it". So, if you find yourself offended, it might be because this hits a little close to home. 

I have had a running dialogue with a guy I know about this topic, and I have been pretty unenthused with his overall efforts to "help" others because he has been firmly in the "Advocacy" camp since he decided to "help" others. I know his heart is in the right place, but watching his enthusiasm for talking about a problem left me feeling like I was dealing with some kind of shit-heel car salesman every time we talked. Now, I almost felt bad for the gut feeling I had about this guy... because I KNOW he's a good person and wants to help. He kind of called me out for my lack of patience with him, and I took some time to think about why I was so viscerally influenced by his efforts to do things for others.

In America right now we have a HUGE push for advocacy. Awareness is some kind of tag line that people think means "doing good" when truly, advocacy is just talking. It reminds me of the 20th century push to remove production jobs from America and turn us into a think tank/services rich economy. It was as if we were yelling "let those unwashed masses do all our heavy lifting, we invented A/C let's sit in it." Right now it feels like our efforts to "help" others are very similar. We do things like host bake sales, or fund raise by getting companies to donate a portion of their already allocated budget to our charity of choice, or we run in races to "raise awareness". That's totally doing something, right? Wrong. 

Typically, everything we are focusing on is something really convenient for ourselves. To be honest most of our options put a premium on our own experience. We run races with pictures, or we carry flags, or dress up in costumes at events that raise and send money to organizations that are actually just funneling this money to people we will never meet or get to know or impact or be impacted by. At very best we have an imaginary relationship with the people we are helping through Social Media. Sometimes, because we haven't taken the time to TRULY understand the issue we are advocating, we are likely doing more harm than good with our misguided, first world efforts.

While I was in Special Forces, we often conducted After Action Reviews of our training both as students and instructors. Fairly regularly we would point out that offering criticism of a problem without offering a path to fix it was about as useful as masturbation. I feel that awareness efforts are often exactly that. So, we know that suicide is bad (why was this person feeling like they had no one to turn to? That their problems were insurmountable?), we know that cancer kills (newsflash: we are all dying, get busy living your unknown days), we know that homelessness/addiction/divorce is lonely (Why do these choice and circumstance driven actions drive people even further from the support of a loving community?)... but what are we doing to fix those problems? What IS the real problem?

I see people at the heart of almost every problem we as a society are faced with. People both individually and as a group are amazingly capable of creating massive problems that make them feel awful and then not being able to get themselves extricated from these problems and they just wallow in them. So, when we address a problem, should we not simply address people? What hurts? What can I do right now to help you? Nothing? Ok. I'll come back later? A meal? Ok. lets take care of that. A hug? Yeah, I can do that. Sometimes it's not a complicated deal. Sometimes it is... but we should be concerned with fixing problems, not just identifying things that make us feel bad. 

So, for us at the Dead Rabbit Society I am really pushing ACTION. Get out of your comfort zone, meet someone who is truly in a bad situation, get to know their struggles.
Let's stop talking about problems and start fixing them... at our local level. One person at a time. One problem at a time. Stop attention seeking awareness and start building your own "area complex" and effecting the problems that affect your own community.

If you like the sound of this and don't really know where to start, don't worry... neither did we. But, we are doing something now. Come check out our overactive FB group and take some notes at all the great things being done for people in need, and all the relationships Dead Rabbits are building with people in their own communities.


  • Daniel

    Wow!!! Best musings I’ve read in a long time. So very proud to be part of DRS and the many wonderful people who do care and go outside their comfort zone and make a difference.

  • Megan

    I love this (and you for writing it) and if you are offended it’s because you don’t want to do the dirty work.

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