Slacktivism

This is a new word I learned yesterday, courtesy of my cousin Drew’s Facebook page.  For the non-Facebook users, a little background:  on Facebook, with a click of the mouse you can “like” something.  This can be anything from a comment to a TV show to a store (if I could find it, I would “like” Publix) to a cause. 

Drew posted something to the effect that clicking “like” on some pink ribbon thing was somehow supposed to increase breast cancer awareness?  One of the first responses said that it’s akin to creating or joining a group called People Against Rape.  Is there a group People For Rape?  One of the next comments called it slacktivism.  While I’ve never heard the term before, I got it instantly.  I had to laugh.  Like clicking I “like” the fight against breast cancer on Facebook was a noble activity.  There now.  My work is done.  I got the sarcasm of it, but I have a completely different take on it.  My next thought was, My, isn’t the younger generation quite a bunch of cynics? 

Then I had to laugh again.  I remembered that sarcasm and cynicism and anomie were the hallmarks of my own generation.  I can’t remember when or why, but I made a conscious decision at some point to stop worshipping the quick-witted retort.  (There are those who may say I’ve never quite mastered that.)  But in contrast to who I used to be, I take people more at face value. 

So I’ll say, aren’t we all slacktivists?  I’m for the fight against breast cancer. I’m for rebuilding New Orleans and Haiti, and protecting polar bears.  I’m against homelessness and famine and animal abuse.  But am I doing anything about it?  Not really.  I haven’t volunteered for Habitat for Humanity (although I would “like” them).  I’m not giving money to any of the causes I support, because I don’t have any.  (I will say this:  I tried to give money to the Red Cross after Katrina, but their website had crashed, so I gave the money to the Humane Society of the U.S. instead.)

I can no longer find it, but I once read an essay written by a woman who was quite bitter about “pink stuff”.  During October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month, you are inundated with opportunities to support breast cancer research, supposedly.  Hershey’s sells Kisses wrapped in pink foil.  M&M’s makes pink M&M’s.  This woman made a number of valid points, including that there are in fact unscrupulous companies who simply capitalize on it.  If you want to support breast cancer research, and want to buy these products, read the package.  Find out how much of your money will be donated.  If they don’t tell you, don’t buy it at all. 

The other point she made was, what is the deal with breast cancer?  What about people with other cancers?    Why don’t they get the exposure, the dollars, the research, the rock stars?  I have my theories, but basically I would say, don’t knock it.  Breast cancer shines a light on cancer, period, a subject that even twenty years ago would not have been discussed in polite company.   

So last week, I had lunch at On the Border, the chain Mexican restaurant.  As they have done for at least three years, they’ve partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  Every hanging lamp in the ceiling was wrapped with a pink ribbon.  At the entrance, you could donate $1, $5, or $7.  For $7, you got a leather wristband with a pink ribbon charm sewn on.  I bought a wristband.  My waiter thanked me.  He told me that his mother had had breast cancer and been treated at M.D. Anderson.  He was so young and handsome, and already touched by cancer.  I was sincerely moved by his willingness to share this. 

So, I am not cynical.  If all you can do is click “like” on Facebook, I appreciate it .  As a person who had breast cancer, I still remember the days when people stopped speaking to me because apparently if they asked how I felt, they were afraid I would tell them.  And/or, they were afraid I would die, and didn’t want to be close enough to me to be really sad. 

Those people, I resent.  That considered, clicking “like” on Facebook to indicate your support for breast cancer research is a step up.  As my sister  (who has a tendency to cut to the chase) said today, “It’s a solidarity thing”.

Yes, it is.

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13 responses to “Slacktivism

  1. masteroftheuniverse

    I like that word a lot. I get a kick out of people on the internet that have opinions about everything, who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. I subscribe to the Ayn Rand idea about charity where she said, “Ayn Rand said in 1964, “My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.”

    Although I have some pet projects, I don’t hold anything against those who do not donate to a cause or charity. I will also admit to calculating my taxes (which will be going up on Jan 1), and figuring out what to give to charity based on those numbers. To me, selflessness is not a great virtue. In fact, I started an all time flame war on a liberal blog when I asked this simple question, “Who is more virtuous, a person who works in a soup kitchen for the homeless, or a person who by the sweat of his own brow creates a company that employs 1000 people, pays fair wages, all the while the company owner gets rich along the way?” The firestorm I created over on that block was like tectonic plates in the Pacific moving 50′ in a half second. Last week week was I was really hammered on a couple of liberal blogs, the invective aimed at me was unbelievable. After awhile, I got tired of it and broke all my rules by telling this lady (I saw her picture icon), that while I might retarded asshole(her words), I could still learn something today, but tomorrow she would still be ugly. Stole that from Churchill, but the firestorm that comment started was world class. I’m not proud of calling a woman ugly, but will admit in my best Southern manners that she does have a lot to overcome. I promise to never do that over here, but your little 2 acres of cyberspace is relatively civilized.

    • Having recently read the newest Rand biography, I’m aware that she herself could be very generous when she chose to be, and completely vengeful when she felt it was underappreciated. Not to denigrate your heroine, but Rand is a poster child for selfishness, which she elevated to the undeserved status of a philosophy. At least in her mind.
      And Jeff, why do you do what you did? Cruise the “liberal” blogs and torment them? What pleasure does this give you? How does this illustrate your superiority? I would be ashamed to admit I called someone ugly…I still think there is a kernel of goodness in you, but damned if you don’t make it hard to find.

  2. I’m doing my part for solidarity by participating in The Sister Study (http://thesisterstudy.com). The initiation thereto consisted of giving something like nine vials of blood and some toenail clippings. Only other folks with really small veins like me (solidarity anyone?) can really grasp just how difficult this was for me. But it’s nothing compared to the grief and pain of those afflicted.

    The nurse drawing those nine vials mentioned another study, this one covering osteoporosis, that she was also working. I should do that one too! Except that one wants eleven MORE vials of blood. After the effort of getting the blood for The Sister Study from me, even she agreed that maybe she ought to reconsider that recommendation. 🙂

    • And dust samples, right? 🙂 Plus the annual lengthy questionnaires. This is definitely a case of putting your money (your veins?) where your mouth is. Due to timing, you got in on the ground floor so to speak. As you well know, the study is closed. I hope we learn something from it. If we don’t, well, that will tell us something too. That’s why they call it “research”.

  3. masteroftheuniverse

    I don’t think that I never mentioned “cruising” liberal blogs to torment them. That would be rather perverse, don’t you think. It’s amazing the words and ideas that get attributed to me that were never said.

    As for Rand, why don’t you read her work instead of a poorly written, biased biography to form an opinion. You’d be surprised to find that her definition of selfish is not what you think it is. I won’t call her perfect, but then again she was just human, like we all are. And her Objectivist philosophy is a helluva lot better than the statist, collectivist philosophy currently in vogue.

    As far as calling someone ugly, that was the nicest invective in the whole thread. I didn’t realize that my little question on virtue could bring out so much hatred and irrationality.

    That kernel of goodness being hard to find comment was extremely hurtful, undeserved, and equal to calling someone ugly.

    Anyways, I’m not superior in any way but do enjoy debate in the Franklinian sense. I do find that there is a lot of intolerence and misinformation out there, mostly eminating from the left. I read the Daily Kos and Huffington Post so I know what I’m talking about.

    I think I’ve about used up my welcome…..again.

    • No, Jeff, you have not used up your welcome with me. I was thinking that you, on the other hand, are probably now remembering why you decided to stop reading me in the first place.
      As a cool-down issue (!), let’s talk about Rand. The biography I read was neither poorly written, nor biased. The author, in her interview on NPR, where I first heard of the book, said she started out researching Rand’s life with an anti-Rand point of view, and came to admire her. Having read the book, I’m mystified as to why.
      Not to put too fine a point on it, I think Rand was a kook. A product of her life and times as are we all, but she took her personal experiences and as I said, turned them into a pseudo-philosophy that was and is very appealing to adolescents who need to make a virtue of selfishness. I think I’m lucky I didn’t read her when I was in high school, I think I would have loved her too. Not to mention that in her personal life, she was a masochist.
      In any event, personal generosity is no way to run a railroad (pun intended). The welfare of a society, a civilization, cannot be dependent on the whims of the rich. The Republicans and the Tea Partiers and Ayn Rand would have us go back to feudalism. We have a system of government in which resources (in the form of taxes) are distributed according to the priorities set by the people. Sometimes that means that the money will go to people you don’t think deserve it. Me too. But there is no better alternative,none.

  4. And also…must everything be turned into a political issue? I was mostly trying to talk about breast cancer here….

  5. “But it’s nothing compared to the grief and pain of those afflicted.”

    In October of 1962 I met a girl on a beach. It was a cool and windy night. (I’ve been quite fond of cool weather on the Destin Beaches ever since) She was an upper class-man, a junior, and I was barely a sophomore. We bonded almost immediately and dated for the next year. Friday she had a double mastectomy.

    I don’t really know that Pink Ribbons, Solidarity and Slacktivism help her much . She says she’s in a fog. I feel so inadequate. She was/is the primary care giver for her husband suffering from 4th stage lung cancer. How’s that gonna work now? Can’t grasp it at all.

    • pt, this is truly a heart-wrenching story. It’s true that pink ribbons, slactivism, and all manner of “walks” cannot help your friend in one sense. I’m reminded of a book I read called “Holding On, Letting Go”, basically a series of vignettes of real people and their friends and families who are dealing with end-stage cancer. The author was leading a therapy session with a group of women with breast cancer, and one of those “walks” was coming up. The walks are both remembrances for those who didn’t make it, and a celebration of “survivors”, which I always think is weird in a way. Like you did something extraordinary to survive. One of the women in the group said, “Are we survivors? Because I don’t feel like one.”
      So again, avoiding cynicism, I choose to take the “celebration” of “survivors” as a way of saying “We’re glad you’re still here”, and that means a lot. So I would say that solidarity still counts, even in your friend’s circumstances. You’ve obviously inquired as to her well-being and that is all you can “do”, but I can’t tell you how important that is. It’s a lonely enough feeling to go through a life-threatening or potentially life-threatening illness. No one can do it “with” you, so to speak. But feeling isolated and rejected is absolutely unbearable. So don’t feel inadequate. You are doing the very best thing possible. Care. Ask. Listen.

  6. masteroftheuniverse

    OK,speaking of breast cancer, my lovely wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which quickl metastasized to her brain, liver, and breasts via the lumph system. When she died,she had large palpable lumps in both breasts and was in great discomfort. Ovarian cancer is a real killer, almost as bad as melanoma. Heck, all cancer is bad and I’d hate to be an oncologist.

    • I know, Jeff. Ovarian cancer is so horrendous because, as I understand it, the methods of detecting it are inadequate until it’s usually too late. I too don’t know how oncologists and other medical professionals specializing in cancer treatment and detection do it either. I believe it’s because they can help some, by relieving suffering, and this gives them some feeling of accomplishment.

  7. masteroftheuniverse

    I’ll say that you really find out who you are when you lose your life-long partner. It really sucks and words cannot describe it. Here’s a pic of my lovely wife the weekend before she was diagnosed, She died 7 months later, almost to the day.
    http://masteroftheuniverse.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/dddd.jpg?w=198&h=300

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