Cartoons, Drugs, Scams and the People Who Follow Trends

I got smacked by mallets and saw the light. How do you suppose this happened? It wasn’t a gradual thing but more of a smack to the cortex. If you have been living under a rock or don’t have a facebook account, I will clue you in. The issue that has arisen in my mind has to do with the posts going through Facebook like wildfire. The post I am speaking about is this one “Change your FB profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on FB until Monday, December 6th. Join the fight against child abuse copy & paste to your status and invite your friends to do the same.”

What is wrong with this Picture?

Ok so what is so wrong about people posting cartoon pictures? At first I didn’t see anything wrong about it and had been rocking my profile pictures since Weds when the posts started to circulate. In fact I have been rocking it so much since Weds, I have changed my profile picture from one cartoon to another more than 30 times. Sometimes changing my cartoon picture 3 times withing a 30 minute period. I like cartoons and was an avid fan since I was 5 years old. So now we come to Saturday, I replaced my profile picture with my default picture, I took down my cartoon as you may put it. I did this not because of the tweets on twitter or comments circulating on facebook but because looking deeper, I find it funny that people are doing this, a placebo instead of actually doing something. A good point brought up is, whoever started the cartoon post perhaps wanted to get a bunch of cartoons as profile pictures and maybe used used child abuse awareness as a motivator to get people to do it.

How did I come to this conclusion?

I am one of the types of people who do what others ask, if you have a political or socio-economical situation where you need to broadcast a message to the world and need support for a cause, I will be there to back you up. Be it for Gay rights, undocumented students trying to go to college or even a child being abused. I will do what is in my power to get the message or point across. I am a Chicano Studies major and have made it my mission to do my part when something can be done.

So today while on twitter, many tweeps posted some interesting points of view. Someone said:

“Slactivism = changing your profile picture for a cause. Activism = Doing something REAL. Be active.”

Another said:

“I seriously doubt someone will stop abusing a child because they saw spongebob as a default pic”

The tweet that actually got me thinking was:

“Instead of making your profile pic. A cartoon for child abuse awareness how about you donate to charity instead!? I seriously don’t understand how that would help stop child abuse. Everyone knows it exists do something to actually stop it.”

So I contacted the young lady who posted the latter tweet, and in our discussion I started to think that Americans seem to be couch activists. This is not a thought that came lightly but somewhat of a revelation while passing direct messages with my friend Christina. It seems everything that goes on is done via a couch, through a phone, internet, or proxy by someone else.

Cartoons are innocent, people do things to help others all the time

This may be true to some extent, let me give you one example where people so something and have no effect: Drug awareness week in elementary schools. How is this couch activism? Let me explain my reasoning behind this; fifth graders get educated on how drugs are bad via talks, videos, presentations and perhaps a visit from a police officer with a dog for one week. They receive a red ribbon and at the end of the week they pin their ribbons on a fence to symbolize drug awareness. Insignificant as this is, what does a 5th grader know about drugs, how does this benefit or combat drug abuse by posting the ribbons? By the time these 5th graders go into high school, do you think they will remember back to when they were in 5th grade and perhaps remember the day they made a pact to stay drug free? No they will grab that blunt and smoke the hell out of it. Instead of fundraising and perhaps donate the money to a charity who devote their time to drug abuse treatment or even going into middle schools and try to educate students before they head to high school, the mentality is get them while they are young.

That same example can be used for Aids awareness, alcohol awareness, or any awareness you can think of where you have to wear a ribbon, bracelet or have to post a picture of a ribbon. A great example of the latter can be summed up in a few words. Virginia Tech Killings, people changed their profile pictures and posted a black ribbon, I know I did it but did this change school violence or changed gun laws? I doubt it did any change in anything but it made people feel like they did something. Another example is 9/11, people put up a flag and put stickers on their cars that said “We will never forget.” Did any of this help you feel safer so you don’t get bombed by a terrorist while you are on the toilet? No but it sure made people feel better at the time.

Lets not forget PBS, yea even then you are a couch activist. How so? Well PBS or Public Broadcasting Stations have these fundraisers a few times a year so they can get you to support them while receiving a dvd or music you will probably not listen to after you receive it. Little did you know PBS is funded by big corporations who actually tell these stations what to say and obviously what not to say. They claim they are publicly funded but why have big corporations support them?

The same logic can be said with programs that promote Animal Cruelty, feed or school a child in a 3rd world country. Instead of going out and donating your time to an Animal Shelter or perhaps adopting an Animal, people send money to organizations who frankly I dont even know if the money goes to the relief they advertise. Here goes the Haiti Relief fund where people donated money to “Haiti” because a mass of singers and actors around the country had a show, but frankly the money went the Bush/Clinton fund and people are still waiting and living in tents in Haiti; I want my 10 dollars back, you can have your cd I purchased back Itunes. Instead of actually donating to non profit organizations such as Doctors without Borders or other organizations who were actually in ground zero, people felt it was better to breakout their credit card just because Justin Timberlake was singing “Hallelujah.”

So wearing a ribbon or a bracelet is bad?

I never said it was bad, all I have questioned are the motives behind the usage of such items to promote or support a cause. I fully understand that there is only enough hours of the day to only get a certain amount of work done, no one can participate in every charity or help in every cause, I get the fact that we are not super heroes as much as we all hope we were, that is not the case. The question arises that how many people are doing something about it, I’m not saying to donate time at a charity or donate money. Simple tasks can be done which dont take alot of time off our busy schedules: talk to a child, perhaps your own and listen to them, ask them about their day, what they did, how they felt, what they can do to make the next day better. Volunteer at a day care or read a book at a library. Talk to your neighborhood children and relate to them. I am aware there is child abuse, and no amount of cartoon pictures will hide the fact it exists. I took my pics down because I am not doing anything other than writing about the fact people put up pictures, retweet or share a status and leave it at that.

What about the organizations out there who don’t use ribbons and bracelets who have strong supporters?

There are causes who actually do something and don’t use anything to have people show support, for instance the Aids awareness walk in Los Angeles. In order to participate you have to raise a certain amount of money, that amount plus anything above that is all donated, its a great thing but in the end you have raised money for the cause and get to walk 6 miles through a nice part of L.A, you are off the couch and actually doing something.

Habitat for humanity has people building homes for those in a socio-economic situations who could not own a home on their own. The participants donate their time, companies donate materials and together houses are built.

Meals On Wheels Association of America is the oldest and largest national organization composed of and representing local, community

based Senior Nutrition Programs in all 50 U.S. states, as well as the U.S. Territories. Some programs serve meals at congregate locations like senior centers, some programs deliver meals directly to the homes of seniors whose mobility is limited, and many programs provide both services.

None of those organizations use pins, banners, ribbons or bracelets to promote or have the public show their supporter for them. I understand that this is a fundraising tool for some organizations to raise money and in turn people promote the organization and get more people interested in the cause. But the matter still stands in how cartoon images can be served as promotion or awareness.

My cartoon is up, I am aware of the issue and now what?

Now back to the original issue, instead of donating a toy for the toys for tots program, people rather change their icons and post a picture of a cartoon because thats what it is required to “make” a change or “awareness” in child abuse according to the post going around. By changing your icon, a child is still being abused or neglected, nothing has changed. Instead of donating a toy or even donating some personal time to be in a child daycare where children who have suffered child abuse go to recover, people rather follow chain posts.

How many people do you think actually did the cartoon picture change in hopes it would actually do some good. Not trying to throw those individuals under the bus because they have the right mentality and want to make a change, and perhaps this is what they can do or think is a positive way to do it. Those people are ok in my book. I am speaking about those who just want to go with the flow and think putting up a cartoon picture is cute and by no means are being sincere about helping children.

Perhaps people are trying to use the cartoons as a form of escape from their current reality. A time warp to a time when they were a kid and reminiscent on those good times they had or perhaps how they wanted to be treated as a child themselves. It can also be argued that it makes them feel like people out in the real world do care regardless what they are trying to escape from; they think that by joining the throngs of people, somehow their issues will be masked by the cartoons they put up.

What if I’m an abuse survivor? Cartoons may help people find support

Children use cartoons to escape to other places and worlds by the use of their imagination to go to a far off land. A child may imagine being somewhere else as an escape from the current reality they are in such as an adult might do by drinking to a drunken stupor. When a child had been abused or molested, chances are they don’t stop noticing the true picture or current situation, but they may find cartoons as an avenue to escape their current reality and perhaps make the pain they have be lessened.

This still doesn’t answer the underlying question of how putting a cartoon as an icon helps the child mentioned previously escape their reality and heal accordingly. How does posting pictures of a favorite cartoon help? The pictures are being posted by adults or teenagers, not children watching cartoons to escape the reality of being abused. It could be argued that women or even men who were abused or molested as kids themselves might use this opportunity to find a support system in cyber space. It can also be said that those adults posting a cartoon may know of a child being abused or molested and don’t know how to help or are too scared to even try to do something. People believe that by following what the masses are doing, they are doing something helpful. In a way it is like wearing a blindfold and staying indoors, just because they cant see what is happening outside does not make everything imaginary or is not occurring.

So you have all the answers then?

I am not going to paint a pretty picture and say I am Captain America, I have my own faults and I know I put my blinders on too just like everyone else. Some will say that by putting up a picture, wearing a ribbon or a bracelet, you show support for the cause or charity it symbolizes. That may be true to some degree, I know this first hand because I used to support labor unions when I was doing my undergraduate work. I went to rallies, boycotted companies, I held talks, had town hall meetings and heard from those affected how the work being done had impacting their lives. We were causing gradual change in their lives and the lives of the people we were talking to. By others chanting, waving, honking or even saying thank you, we indirectly were changing the lives of those effected. The fact was we were the intermediary channel for that change, people supporting our cause were fueling our effort by their actions and in turn were changing the lives of the people we were advocating for.

Lets set up an experiment, if I put up a picture of a dog will that help other dogs in the streets find food or shelter. I have to go out and find a dog and feed it or go to a shelter and adopt a dog. If I wear a pink ribbon and say its for breast cancer awareness but don’t do anything past that, how am I helping? If I go around talking to young women and educate on cancer and how to prevent and recognize early stages or raise money to fund a cure, thats help, thats awareness. In order to arrive at a solution to a problem, steps have to be taken to achieve that solution in the first place.

I heard it could be a scam

I haven’t heard that as a fact but the idea has crossed my mind. Perhaps it was some pedophile trying to be funny or someone bored trying to see if they can trend a topic. Perhaps it was a legitimate form of awareness by a group or organization who is trying to bring awareness to child abuse. Perhaps it was the toy companies trying to sell more toys or a television executive trying to make people watch cartoons. Take your pick, what ever you come up with can be the answer.

The question arises as to what people are doing and what the legitimate reasons they are posting their cartoons.

Maybe there is someone out there who is using their cartoon for good

On the flip side, a friend of mine who chose to change her profile icon to a cartoon thought about what I have previously asked and acknowledged that the picture will not change anything, but it is the actions we take behind the meaning that change the world. In the discussion, her own past history of being in an abusive relationship with the ultimate end of her marriage because her husband was abusing her own children. She was scared then and is still scared now. The imagery behind the cartoons holds a personal symbol to her own life. She changed her icon knowing all this because she is in school studying to becoming a social worker and ultimately work with children and women who have suffered such abuses themselves. She is taking the icon of a cartoon and doing something on her own.

So if you took down your cartoon, why say all this?

Perhaps by writing this, young adults and those of wiser thought who read this will understand the implications we all have when we follow a trend. What ever the trend may be, we all have the power to educate one another and perhaps one day make a change by our actions; how ever small or insignificant they may be, we all have the power to make a change. A prime example is those people who see a homeless person asking for money but instead of giving them a few cents they say “sorry nothing here”. Instead of saying “hey I dont have lose change on me, would you want a cheese burger” or perhaps even give them the left over food you were going to trow away, people go on about their life with blinders on.

In the end, it’s easier to believe in “Slactivism” instead of actually trying to make a change by doing something yourself. Those who see trending topics and go along with it. Those doing the heavy work see thousands of people “support” what they are doing but are they really supporting or just doing what is trendy? At the end of the day you feel better for doing something yourself instead of sitting on the couch and using your blinders and hope the issue went away. It is easier to say you are helping to change the world but deep inside hope that someone else does more than their share to cover for the lack of yours.

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