Sunday, December 11, 2005


The Awareness Depot in Florida offers a number of rubber bracelets that can be bought in bulk to promote awareness of any number of diseases and social issues. Capitalizing on the yellow 'awareness bracelets' that Lance Armstrong sold to raise awareness of testicular cancer, it is now possible to buy bracelets publicizing anything one can imagine. The Awareness Depot actually has a page listing what all of these colors mean. For instance:

Blue: 'Education' is blue, but so is child abuse, which can be confusing. Do you support education, or oppose child abuse? Further confusing things, 'water quality' is blue, which makes sense. But, what if you support good water, but are okay with child abuse? Reye's Syndrome and arthritis are also blue, making the whole thing hopelessly confused. But, honestly, how many people are there tubthumping for arthritis awareness these days?

Light Blue: Tsunami Tragedy Awareness is light blue, which is good. Not a lot of people have heard of tsunamis. Gerd is also light blue. No doubt the gerd, or acid reflux, sufferers are going to be pissed about that. Eating disorders are also light blue, so you're covered if you can't eat, or if you can eat, but get heartburn. Pro-choice is light blue, and apparently they want to cover their bases because they also sell pro-life bracelets. Luckily those are white, because it would be embarrassing to wear the wrong one.

Orange: Cultural Diversity is orange, ostensibly because it's too difficult to make a multi-colored bracelet. Interestingly enough, self-injury is also orange- Samuel Huntington will love that connection. So is hunger actually. One would suspect that the truly hungry aren't spending $5.00 on a rubber bracelet anyway.

Black: Gang prevention is black, which seems a bit inappropriate. Similarly, domestic violence probably shouldn't be purple.

Burgundy: Headache awareness is Burgundy. But, who exactly is unaware of headaches?

Purple: Colitis is purple- that is probably for the best. Cancer and lupus are also purple. So is animal abuse, and strangely so is 'foster care'.

Yellow: Equality is yellow, but so is suicide. I guess that's okay- I'm thinking that people who support equality don't really support suicide. Bladder cancer is yellow, which seems classy. Amber Alert is yellow, but shouldn't it be amber? It does go with missing children, which is also yellow.

Green: Environmental awareness is green, which is appropriate, although perhaps mass-produced rubber tchotchkes might be less so. Depression and kidney problems are green. Shouldn't depression be blue? Also, Genocide in Sudan and Eye Injury are green, spanning the distance from the profound to the trivial.

They also have ribbons and stickers, if you're not inclined to bracelets. Also, a lovely rhinestone American flag for those shoppers who have no idea what to get James Brown for Christmas. And, yes, they have lots of crosses, including one emblazoned with the Biblical verse "Got Jesus?" Unfortunately, there is nothing for diarrhea awareness, but there is a 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness' bracelet.

It seems like it's impossible to escape awareness at this point. Every month, there's someone or other trying to make you aware of something or other. Seemingly, there are groups whose entire purpose at this point is to raise awareness of some social problem. And, far be it from me to criticize branding social problems instead of solving them... But, can I offer an opposing viewpoint?

1. When did middle class white people get to be so damned arrogant that they think that their having heard of a problem is a major step towards fixing that problem? Are we really so self-righteous as to think that our 'awareness' of a disease is an accomplishment in itself? We don't have to work to fix problems at all anymore- it's enough that we've heard of them?

2. Isn't 'raising awareness' as an end in itself really a way of saying, "Hey, you fix the problem!" Does 'AIDS' really need publicity? And, if so, does the publicity really alleviate anything?

3. Is there, perhaps, any benefit to unawareness? Should we really be burdened with some sort of total awareness, in which we spend our lives thinking about every social ill imaginable? Are we so terrible if we're more aware of art, beauty and our own families than colitis?

4. Isn't there something softly totalitarian about this idea that our consciousness must at all times be politicized? What exactly is the problem with people who aren't up on the news? Can't I buy a car or truck or hamburger without it being a political statement? Am I the only one who's sick of hearing what people think about every social problem or current event? Doesn't anyone have a life of their own to talk about anymore? How about art nouveau awareness? Or flirting awareness? Maybe a cuddling awareness bracelet? What about dancing awareness?

What about awareness of one's own life or one's own surroundings? Is it really so hard to just be present anymore?

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