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Raising Awareness: Why We Shouldn't Take It For Granted


A dangerous thing can occur when you start learning about what's really going on in the world. The problems start to seem so complex, and you're just one person, doubts begin to creep in. You sincerely want to help change the world, but from all this knowledge you start to believe that the world is too out of control and too big to change, so you end up not doing anything.

What aspiring change-agents can easily forget is that there is a large amount of meaningful groundwork that still needs to be laid. Many conscious people may take it for granted, but there is still a lot of important information people aren't aware of yet. Some of it may seem quite basic from our perspective. A friend recently admitted, "I take for granted that the mainstream media implicitly neglects serious philosophical concerns about the crises we collectively face, as a species, as a unified human family. I apologize for my demeanor in assuming this was common knowledge."

Yeah. It's good to remember. All of us at one point in time were not aware of all the knowledge we're aware of now. All of us were asleep at one point too, to put it generally, and remembering this builds our own empathy and humility when getting into discussions with people. It also helps us remember how important this first step is in the process of building the mass-movement necessary to realize our idealistic dreams.

Just imagine what would happen if an entire city had seen The Corporation. Just imagine what would be possible if everyone in the country was aware of how unhealthy the mainstream media was for our health and started turning to independent sources in droves.

It really does start with getting informed, and there's lots of subject matter to cover. Our country has to come to terms with the true history of the United States. It has to learn about basic ecology. It needs to understand the basic truths about peak oil, the monetary system, the Federal Reserve, the truth about capitalism and governments. Our society needs a new story to belong to. The old story of empire and dominion over the earth has to be looked at in the full light of day - all of our ambient cultural stories and values that we take for granted and which remain invisible must become visible. And all of this knowledge and introspection, questioning, and discovery is essential for a cultural transformation that addresses root causes. This knowledge is vitally necessary. Taken together, this knowledge, which is documented throughout the 700 videos on the Films For Action website, will lay the foundation on which the next paradigm will be built, post empire.

After becoming familiar with these understandings over the years, it may be easy to internalize, accept, and then be occasionally shocked at how crazy our culture still is. Lots of 'givens' that activists take for granted still need to go mainstream.

That's where you come in. Don't complain about the mainstream media failing to inform people. Become the media. Become a walking, talking distro of quality information that your friends can trust. Who needs FOX and CNN, after all, when you've got your friends?

Host film screenings, forward articles and videos, buy and burn copies of documentaries to give to your elected officials and school faculty, promote Films For Action and other independent media. Get the information out in to your community and you will be laying the foundation for a local movement for mass societal, environmental and economic change.

All you have to do (the first easy thing) is plant the seeds. The community (as the seeds grow) will help with watering, weeding, expanding the garden, harvesting and so on. Social change is a social effort, after all, and you won't be doing this alone. I've often said, why struggle working on these issues with a small group of 10 to 15, when we could be working with a collaboration of 15,000? If we lay the foundation, recruit an army of "culture gardeners," things are going to start happening organically, both organized and spontaneously, all across the cities where we live.

People that are new to this culture of creative activism often ask me, "Yea, I'm on board. I get it. But what can I do?" If we've been involved in this work for some time, part of our responsibility is to offer people tangible ways they can plug in. But the second thing we have to convey is: no one can answer this question but you. Everyone is an expert on their own life. What's your passion? You are the best one to decide the best use of your time and efforts. No one is going to know better than you what your unique gifts and skills are.

And hey, if it takes you some time to figure this out. That's okay. Simmer on it for a minute. Let it stew. While you're figuring things out you can always continue disseminating information. I spent about two years learning about this jigsaw puzzle called changing the world before I figured out a path of action that I could really commit myself to. Of all the issues I could work on, I decided that the problem of the media was the number one bottleneck impeding the progress of every other issue. Focus on education and raising awareness. Break this bottleneck and the rest will follow.

A lot of people knock raising awareness as being too abstract. But when you consider it as a strategic first step in the larger picture, taken concurrently with other actions, I don't think we can underestimate its significance.



Ken Lassman 7 years, 3 months ago

Nice format, linking the topical key words with films that address that issue. Addressing folks' perception of the way things work with information that challenge their assumptions is a bit like religious prosetylizing; it's relatively easy to "preach to the choir" but easy to be shut off when you take the message outside the circle, don't you think?

I think this is true with any view that is counter to the prevailing perceptions, whether it be fundamentalist, radical, traditionalist, anarchist, etc. I also think the key is to keep an open door for discussion, lest folks isolate themselves in their perception of "truth" and I think that your Film for Action project appears to walk that fine line nicely.

Keep up the good work!

David Klamet 7 years, 3 months ago

During the Viet Nam war activism succeeded in making a significant change. People were losing their sons. All they had to do was make their wishes known and eventually congress and the president came around. Activists did raise the public awareness that was the major factor in bringing that about. That, however, did not require the individual behavior changes that are needed today.

Activism, as it existed in the 60's does not play the same role today. Now, there is no such clear and simple goal. People are firmly attached to their cars, and in general their current lifestyle.

Weaning them away from the conspicuous consumption, as can be clearly seen, is an uphill proposition. Most (but definitely not all) of those that buy hybrids do so because it has become stylish to do so. (Isn't style the primary reason we buy cars). The rest buy them for what may be the best reason, to save money on ever rising fuel costs.

However the best and most practical solution, public transportation, only succeeds in those urban areas where population density is high.

Even town like Lawrence, with a lot of social and ecological awareness cannot make our bus system a viable alternative, or at least persuade people it is. I say this as someone who voted for the T. I hate to say that it is pretty much a failure. I am doubtful that it will become viable in the foreseeable future.

Activits, it seems to me, avoid defining a few clear and achievable goals, instead they work towards "raising awareness". Is it because if a few clear objectives were identified, it might be apparent that no progress was being made?

Organic produce, in it's current form, could never feed the mass of humanity. But no one considers the possibility of a compromise where the amount of fertizers, etc. is limited but not eliminated. That is a middle ground that might attract significant numbers.

Finally, I'll make a point about local activism.

The protests agains the "bypass" did achieve in slowing down the (probably inevitable), completion. And caused millions of dollars to be wasted.

Why didn't those activist groups, instead negotiation for as much expansion of those wetlands as possible? If the wetlands are a good thing, wouldn't more of them be better?

In spite of this, progress may be happening. National Geographic aired a show "Collapse" which I recently watched. It seemed appeared to me, for the most part, to be unabiased, presenting reasons for hope and for grave concern.

(Not the full episode. I saw it on Netflix, hopefully it is available from other sources) http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/collapse-based-on-the-book-by-jared-diamond-4436/Videos#tab-Videos/08608_00

Ken Lassman 7 years, 3 months ago

David, Jared Diamond's book, "Collapse" is a worthy read for anyone contemplating making systemic changes to a society, faced with a clear and present danger. It's cool that they've made a movie version of it--perhaps it would be a worthy addition to the Films for Action shelves.

In Diamond's "Collapse," some cultures were able to actually change the basis of their way of doing things, while others were not, and Diamond does an excellent job of showing how hard making that change can be. Most cultures chose collapse even when the hazards were clearly presented, and I'm not sure we'll be any different. A complex culture has incredible momentum for keeping things the same, and yet we are seeing that drastic change can occur, as evidenced by the collapse of communism, the current unrest in the arab world, etc. Of course, as we are also seeing, drastic change creates opportunities for totalitarian responses to the desire to disengage from the status quo as well.

Any way you cut it, change is probably going to accelerate, not decelerate in the near future. Providing Films for Action is just one tool for improving self and societal awareness that can only improve the chances for dialogue about those changes and perhaps even improve our ability to ever-so-slightly steer the processes of change.

devobrun 7 years, 2 months ago

At what point does activism and awareness raising merge with propaganda? Dave's opinion is that "Collapse" was relatively unbiased. Fine, but maybe it isn't. Maybe Dave's opinion and that of the movie are similar. Thus, the movie seems unbiased.

We live in a society of competing awareness-raising. It is well known that various charitable organizations compete for the feelings of American givers. The American Cancer Society, The American Heart Association, Jerry's Kids, etc all compete for your charitable dollar.

If each of us was aware of everything, we would be quite paralyzed. How could you live on the Oregon coast after seeing what just happened in Japan? How can we here in Kansas continue to live here after seeing what happened to Greensburg? We should live in fear of Lupus, M.S., heart disease, and on and on and on...... Give to the restless leg foundation. Pass more laws regarding helmets and seat-belts. My conscious has been raised so high that I can't find it anymore. So I ignore it.

And yet the average age of death in the U.S. is about 80 years. We live longer and better than at any time in the history of humans.
That statistic that I just gave is current. It is unbiased. It is quite possibly propaganda.
But it stares at you and gives lie to all the gloomy "awareness raising".

20,000 people have died in Japan due to a massive earthquake and tsunami. None have died from nuclear radiation. Yet the press and the world's "awareness" is focused on the reactors and their danger. Priorities mixed up a little?

Ken Lassman 7 years, 2 months ago

Maybe you should read Collapse and decide for yourself. I think you would find out that Diamond took pains to be as objective as possible.

I'm not sure what your point is about awareness, but I find that knowing more about a topic does not paralyze me and I don't ignore it either.

I suspect that the focus on the nuclear power plant in Japan is due to the fact that it is still a very volatile situation and has the potential for causing more evacuations, perhaps for quite a while. It also may be due to the estimates that the costs involved in resolving and cleaning up the mess are edging up into the hundreds of billions of dollars. That tends to attract a lot of attention, especially when here in the US it is the taxpayer who will pick up the lion's share of the cleanup costs if things get that out of control. I suspect if you ask a Japanese citizen affected by both the tsunami and the power plant, they'll say that they want to know everything that is going on at the nuke as well as the cleanup efforts--not misplaced news coverage priorities at all.

devobrun 7 years, 2 months ago

Well, Doug, I'm not likely to read Diamond's book because I had to fight nausea while reading "Guns, Germs, and Steel". His method of communication in that work is neither journalistic, scientific, nor novel. The entire premise of his work is to start with socially acceptable conclusions, then support them. It is called logical positivism. It is not history, but it draws upon historical records. It isn't science because there is no hope of testing any of his hypotheses. It is narrative.
It is just the sort of hubris that modern scientists engage in. They seem to be scientists because they draw on scientific observations. They are on faculty of universities as scientists, but their work is utterly untestable and therefor not scientific.

Sells a lot of books, though. And the style of writing includes opposing views, so that it seems to be fair......but it is all set up.

Diamond doesn't know. He's guessing and your buying it.

"I find that knowing more about a topic does not paralyze me and I don't ignore it either." Yet given the plethora of ribbons, and the regular guilt trips regarding "ecology", you must respond to all that information by doing precisely nothing. Because if you lived your life in a state of awareness of all the things for which your should be aware, there would be no time to do anything about them, except think about them.

Thinking is not doing. Here's your clue: Most dire warnings are overwrought musings of people engaged in justification of their existence. Ignore them. You will live and then you will die and when you get cancer at age 80 it is because you are 80 and not because your awareness was too low.

Nor was it because of: Chinese herbal supplements, chips, chloramphenicol, chlordane, chlorinated camphene, chlorinated water, chlorodiphenyl, chloroform, cholesterol, low cholesterol, chromium, coal tar, coffee, coke ovens, crackers, creosote, cyclamates, dairy products, deodorants, depleted uranium, depression, dichloryacetylene, DDT, dieldrin, diesel exhaust, diet soda, dimethyl sulphate, dinitrotouluene, dioxin, dioxane, epichlorhydrin, ethyle acrilate, ethylene, ethilene dibromide, ethnic beliefs,ethylene dichloride, Ex-Lax, fat, fluoridation, flying, formaldehyde, free radicals, french fries, fruit, gasoline, genes, gingerbread, global warming, gluteraldehyde, granite, grilled meat, Gulf war, hair dyes, hamburgers, heliobacter pylori.....to name just a few cancer causing reasons to be aware of.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

It sounds like your logic is:

Things that cause cancer don't actually cause cancer.


devobrun 7 years, 2 months ago

Double-blind tests with proper statistical analysis is different from all the things listed above. The above are just a few of the things that might cause cancer. They are the things for which your awareness should be raised, but whose cancer causing mechanism is unknown. They are the chemicals and activities that were dumped into a spreadsheet and correlations run. No controls, no follow up....just fear.

It is bad science. The kind promulgated by Jared Diamond and many others in this "awareness" campaign from "experts".

Diamond's motives include money. He does quite well on those books. He also lends credence to all the soft-science endeavors like anthropology and geo-bio-physiology and other such nonsense that yield so many political imperatives. The sky is falling, so says Jared. And the government bureaucrats, advised by experts, will save you.

Pretty neat way of doing science and it all begins by raising awareness.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 2 months ago


Diamond is not talking about the laboratory setting, he's talking about human societies, which is about as far away from the double-blind verification or circuit board certainty as you can get. As social animals embedded in living landscapes within a dynamic planet that is probably part of a living and certainly dynamic universe, your certainties provide little guidance.

Life is fired point blank, but this does not make anthropological inquiry, as flawed as it is, a futile exercise as you suggest. The choices that Diamond outlines in his book are based on the same kinds of informed gut decision that a general makes on the battlefield, where not choosing is just another choice with consequences, and complaining about it being bad science suggests to me your either totally misunderstanding the situation or a psychological distancing--certainly understandable, but certainly no more useful and a lot less interesting than Diamond's taking a stab at a greater truth and insight.

Saying that Diamond is motivated by money is proof enough to me that you are threatened by him and his insights. If you had ever met the man, which I have, you would realize the ludicrousness of your assertion. Speaking of not looking at the data....

devobrun 7 years, 2 months ago

Cell phones, televisions, internets and facebooks have had more influence on human behavior than has Karl Marx, or Jared Diamond.
The difference between electronics, and the science behind it, and Diamond is that the science of electronics produces product. That product then becomes part of the social environment of the human. Those products listed above have had more impact on humans than any social structure ever. And Diamond predicts. He puts context on it. He tells us the meaning of it all and where it will lead us. He presents in a way that is quasi-scientific in that he refers to science, but doesn't do any himself. He is a pundit relying on the experts.

Your characterization of human interaction as complex and dynamic is the reason that social scientists have so much trouble defining a science in the first place. Yes humans and their constructions of societies are dynamic and not subject to scientific study. That's my point. Diamond is entertaining, but he doesn't know. Perhaps he is providing that missing faith piece in scientific endeavors. Perhaps he is putting the predictions and contexts on all the alternatives to religion. It is soothing and demanding. Ecology and environmentalism is such a religious endeavor don't you think? Sin, redemption, prophets, guilt all exist in the Jared Diamond rules of engagement between humans and the world around them.

Jared Diamond makes a lot of money from his books. I looked at the data. Jared Diamond can use that money to pay bills, donate to causes and pay for expenses resulting from travel, computers, and other stuff that aids his work. In short, the money he makes allows him to be him. The money is a good thing. He is motivated to make some so he can do what he wants to do. Nothing threatening about that. And my assertion that money motivates him is not false. That doesn't mean that money is the only thing that motivates him. Clearly he is a man with a big brain who needs to use it. He is multilingual, and has degrees and experience in many disparate areas. And now he wishes to use his knowledge to sway our behavior.

He writes books and papers to raise awareness and sway society. He is just one voice in a thousand voices, all calling for individuals to band together and be more like "good" people. Environmentalism is the key. He is engaged in religion and so are many others.

We are doomed. Repent, the end is near. Salvation comes in the form of reduced footprint, greater awareness, and government control.

He has an agenda, nota. You like it. You think it is reasoned and fair. I think he is just another prophet who comes to save the world.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 2 months ago

Diamond's books address precisely the same point that you are bringing up when you bring up cell phones and the like: the impact material culture. And what Diamond does is acknowledge that the material culture's most important impact is what happens when it is released "into the wild" and the consequent repercussions that particular artifact or cluster of artifacts has not only on the societal standards, but on the ecological realities that cultures are built on top of. It's a fascinating investigation that looks closely at cultures who, when faced with clear evidence that a way of life was not sustainable given the local material and ecological substrates available, were either able to shift gears or just ignored the writing on the wall and collapsed. And why.

And yes, the dynamic and complex nature of human society within the even larger planetary context is precisely why social scientists have trouble defining what it is about. All that means is that these things are bigger than science, and that mere science has limited but important utility. And that limited utility is very different in kind and quality from the religious perspective, which has its own limited utility as well.

And so you criticize Dr. Diamond because he wants to sway society? What a bizarre stance--exactly what are you attempting to do when you post your comments? Why did Galileo publish his works? Why are there journals of science? Why are there cell phones? Why is there the internet?

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