People who know me know that I'm not generally very keen on public advocacy. I don't think that most advocacy campaigns do the job they set out to do.
Consider just a few: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Anti-Abortionsists. MADD is pretty vocal, but I don't think they really reach their target audience. At least, when I was younger they never seemed to connect to me. PETA is just downright insane, especially given their 'Got Beer' campaign. And Anti-Abortionists stand in front of abortion clinics and shout awful things to the women who are going in. It seems to me that at the point you're shouting at the people you want to advocate to that you've missed your chance.
I was at dinner recently, and my sister - who's been a vegetarian for many years - tried her hand at advocacy. We were ordering a salad for the whole group, and my sister asked if there was meat on the salad. The waitress said yes, but it was only around the sides, so my sister would be able to either eat from the middle or pick some of the meat off. My sister looked at the waitress and asked 'Would you pick cat off of your dinner plate?'
It seems to me that my sister chose a very poor time to try to advocate her vegetarianism. First off, it's not the waitresses fault that there is meat on the salad - she didn't prepare the menu selection. Second, the waitress made a reasonable attempt to accomodate my sister's special 'needs', and yet my sister still jumped down her throat. Finally, my sister chose to be a vegetarian in our meat-based culture, so I feel that the onus is on her to deal with all the consequences of that choice.
I read on Slashdot yesterday about a group called WAVE America. These people scare the hell out of me. I sent them a fairly lengthy email message about what I feel the problems are with their organization.
I've been thinking about this thing all night. You see, I was one of the kids that this movement aims to harm. Had there been a hot-line for my peers to call, I would have been reported on a daily basis. I had a terrible time coping wiht my emotions, and dealing with conflict. I exploded, and threw tantrums, and was generally a violent kid. Of course, when an entire grade school class teases one student for an entire day, there's going to be a problem eventually. My question is: does this WAVE hotline work both ways? Can a child report the abuses of the 'popular' clique or the violence of the 'jocks' towards the non-athletes?
I've grown up to be a pretty decent guy. I'm a college graduate with a successful job. I've got a number of very close friends. I've travelled the world and opened myself to a lot of different cultural experiences. I wonder how much of this would have come true if WAVE had labelled me as a 'bad element'. I wonder how supportive my parents would have been if they had a corporation telling them that they were bad parents becasue some kid in my class had ratted me out.
This WAVE thing is, I think, a complete travesty. I am so polarized against it that I feel compelled to do something to work against it. I'm considering joining Big Brothers / Big Sisters. I'm considering starting some sort of group activity for kids who like to play computer games on a regular basis: provide them with the fun and excitement they enjoy and also act as something of a role model if possible. I don't know what, exactly, I'm going to do. But I feel I need to do something - to be seen. To be a public advocate like I have never been before.
I just don't want to come across like my sister...