After Awareness

Awareness. In the field of social change, everyone’s trying to build awareness about their issue. But what’s the point? I often wonder, especially when my own awareness is raised about something.

This week, I watched Blackstone for the first time. The show is a very gritty fictional portrayal of a Canadian First Nations community on the prairies. I live on the prairies and have some First Nations ancestry, but I’m no expert. However, what I saw in the first episode was pretty consistent with what I’ve seen of and heard about life on some (not all) reserves.

It’s tough stuff – suicide, addictions, corruption, and more. It certainly does the job of opening the viewers’ eyes. So, okay. My awareness is raised. Now what?

I feel like I should be doing something. But realistically, what can/should I be doing about this? Is it the job of the awareness-raiser (the show) to direct me? Do we even need a specific call to action? Is that the goal?

Or is it enough that I have raised awareness? I might now be a more informed voter. I might interact differently with (other) aboriginal people. I might now be a more responsible citizen in countless small ways. If that’s the case, maybe there’s no need for a big dramatic call to action?

With so many individuals and groups out there clamouring to raise our awareness of a legion of issues, the whole thing can get exhausting. Some people just go numb – switch off, tune out.

I think this conversation about what to do with the awareness might help – if we knew what the step after awareness was, it might feel less onerous.

That, then, leads me to another question: is this a blank that the awareness-raisers should be responsible for filling, or a question we each have to answer for ourselves?

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