Recently I saw the movie “Jobs” about the life of Steve Jobs. This was a fascinating look at how he formed Apple, was removed and then returned. Before the movie there was an ad for awareness of neuro-endocrine tumors. It played to the usual script giving a list of common symptoms that anyone could have, and then framing it as “you could have a tumor and better speak to your doctor.
These tumors are quite rare. But casting a list of everyday symptoms like feeling a bit anxious or nauseated as signs of an “unknown tumor” is disease mongering. It also will bring about anxiety in some who will wonder if they are the next victim of something that they have never heard of and in reality are extremely unlikely (and I mean more chance of being struck by lightning unlikely) to have.
The same weekend was my regular spot on 4BC Brisbane. On the program, apart from my segment, they were talking about world suicide prevention day and Prostate Cancer awareness month.
We may be starting to run out of days, weeks and months to raise awareness for all the diseases that are clamoring for our attention. And here is an interesting question. Is there anyone out there who is not aware of prostate cancer, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, SIDS or a host of other conditions?
In addition to disease awareness there is “risk factor” awareness.
And unless all these campaigns are useless then how, due to previous campaigns or more likely, our own knowledge can we not be aware?
So why then, are there more and more efforts made to make us “aware”?
What is really going on?
Sociologist Frank Furedi has provided the answer. Writing on spiked.com he makes the telling observations that ”Those who set themselves up to raise the public’s awareness are not just providing information, they are making a statement about themselves…”
He notes that awareness is not about knowledge, it is a state of being to which we should all aspire. “To be aware is to be on the morally superior side”. Awareness has become a cultural tool to distinguish oneself from others who by not being sufficiently “aware” can be dismissed as inferior. Raising awareness is a “claim for… moral authority”.
There is almost a secular religiosity at play here.
Mr. Furedi’s nails it with this; “the impulse of paternalism and snobbery lurks under the surface of the awareness raising enterprise”. Those who are not aware can be dismissed as just not getting it. Those who do not get it are then in need of being saved from themselves. This then justifies the “aware” to inhibit the freedom of those who are not
This explains the connection between awareness and the push for bans and legislation to protect the “unaware” from junk food ads, liquor stores, and cigarette packs bearing a name and a host of other mortal dangers.
Sporting organizations, which “dare” to accept sponsorship from the golden arches or alcohol manufacturers, were recently castigated by a government-funded agency. This agency will offer sponsorship providing those of “offending companies” are dropped. How dictatorial can you get?
Freedom watch has correctly observed that the most censorious of the nanny statists are in public health. This would be because we are all babies in need of nanning.
We all know what is good for our health. Despite this, some make choices, which are not good for their health. It is not a lack of awareness; it is a question of priority.
Instead of hectoring posing as “awareness” we need genuine information that can assist us with our health. Mr. Furedi poses the question “Hands up if you are fed up with experts thinking they are more aware than us plebs?”
My hand is up.