I care?

There's a rather heartwarming story over at Breitenbach Und Brown about a German single mother suffering from cancer. She doesn't believe anyone cares. Truly tragic. She has slipped through the cracks of society.

Marcus' response was to ask the community to say that Yes, We Do Care Actually. The responses were diverse, but overwhelmingly positive in nature... and yet, how many of the respondents walked past a homeless person that week? Most of them, I'd wager. Her conceptual problem was actually worth more than the 'real' (physical) problems around us.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not here to spoil everyone's fun. A community bonding around the concept of care can only be a good thing, and might in time lead to better places. What I'd like to investigate is the mechanics behind this ordering of priorities. Just what is going on here?

Engagement at its best - the 'activation' of a community, you might say. The spuriously attributed "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic" has been put to work. This woman's plight got the same narrative treatment that the 11/9 families got, that the tsunami victims got. That thousands of homeless people, wage-slaves (proper wage slaves, not you lot), and trafficked sex workers have been denied. Caring about them does not allow you to take part in writing the plot twist of someone's life. It's more like throwing a handful of detergent in a swamp and watching for some result.

Not only watching, but watching alone. Or at least anonymously. Giving to most charity goes unheeded by one's community - the charity will thank you, but your peers will not know. And it's just not polite to bring it up in society, since bizarrely it's given the same conspicuous consumption status as a big TV. 'I care' made the responses public, and consequently people wanted in.

But the offering is not just to be in on a community. It's a chance to stand out from it too, as witnessed by the wonderful creativity of the 'entries', which read like a charitable postsecret. People have unconsciously sensed the chance to make an impact, no matter how small, and at the same time to stand out. Many people have hosted their gestures of caring on their own blogs, to maintain an 'ownership'.

It's an advertising tour de force. Low involvement cost, community payback, individual fame, an emotional narrative to feed into... it's everything people are looking for, and the fact that it captured the attention of some very busy people is testament to the power of the movement. Let us hope that movement can be harnessed. Wonderful things may happen.

It's handraising at its best.

(Thanks Angus)

Is dissecting an honest movement with noble intentions shameful? It might be. But if it makes charities and social marketing ideas take flight... who cares?

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