I have been unaware of too many things for too long. Or, maybe not. You’ll have to decide. Lately though, I have become aware of more things than I wanted to be aware of. I think I am tiring of the whole “Awareness” industry.
Within the past few weeks, I have regretfully become aware of Lena Dunham. I could have happily lived out my entire life completely unaware of Ms. Dunham, but now I can find no respite from her intrusion into my time and my life. Your own awareness, or desire to remedy the lack of it, can clue you in on all the things no one really wants to know about Lena Dunham. She has been relentlessly covered by the national media, the fringe media, and the insane media, not to mention social media, as I am covering her here. If I am the one who made you aware of Lena Dunham, please accept my sincere apologies and let her lay…there is no there there. I have tried my best to block any and all incoming missiles about Ms. Dunham, but find myself continually assaulted by those who seem to think that there is something about her I must be made aware of. I simply do not care about Lena Dunham one way or the other. Best wishes to her, though.
I was unaware of Bill Cosby’s evil side. Now, I am aware of the dozens of women who have come forth claiming that Mr. Cosby sexually assaulted them. Some of the claims are decades old. I am unaware of the veracity of the claims, nor am I aware of anything in the claims of onerous behavior that is untrue. My new found awareness has made me actually know less than I did when I was unaware.
I became aware of a gang-rape, alleged gang-rape, reported gang-rape, imagined gang-rape, or fabricated gang-rape at the University of Virginia as reported in Rolling Stone through others who made me aware by their own reporting of what Rolling Stone reported. I never read the Rolling Stone story and won;t bother now, since now I am aware that Rolling Stone is apologizing for having run the story and is being accused of shoddy journalism because the reporter may have written the story to raise awareness of rape culture. The thing I am mostly aware of is a dearth of good executive editors at Rolling Stone. I am unaware of anything about the alleged rape, the alleged victim, or the alleged perpetrators, other than there are those who seem to want to make me aware that all college boys want to do is get women to drink too much so they can rape them. My awareness of this does not make me too comfortable with the culture, or those who would define it.
I am aware that yes may or may not mean yes, sometimes no may mean yes, sometimes yes means no, and no means no. I am aware that college sex now requires a step-by-step re-affirmation with consent forms to be signed prior to each escalation in sexual activity. I am aware that boys and girls under the pressure of hormones and peers sometimes do things they later regret. I am also aware that sometimes the phone does not ring the next day after precious favors are carelessly distributed and then feelings are hurt. Part of this awareness has been brought on by our post-modern culture which seems to celebrate sex at every occasion. We are continually programmed to think that everyone is having glorious, fulfilling sex with multiple, beautiful partners all the time, that STDs are solely contracted by lesser persons than ourselves, and that this is normal behavior. Something must be wrong with us if we aren’t continually engaging in casual, guilt-free, hook-up sex with no strings attached, though the awareness of the strings everyone denies apparently come only after the encounter.
Awareness of this does not change it, and unawareness has not been helpful. It could be that unawareness is an illusion foisted on us by those who want to make us aware of our sexual liberation, turning us into the libertines we are aware that we’d be better off not being. Being aware that others will take for granted what we too casually offer is a good thing. I am not making light of rape, or anyone who becomes a victim of sexual abuse. I just think we have undervalued something so precious by making it so common.
The whole industry of raising awareness is fraught with peril for the unaware because awareness is never being raised by disinterested parties, but by advocates. Advocates seldom report things that are harmful to the cause of which they would have us be aware; they only report those things that help increase the urgency of the awareness. This is one thing I am certainly aware of. It is also something for a reasonable person to beware of.
I have been made aware of the events of Ferguson. I am also aware that what I have been made aware of has no solid foundation, since it is all reported by advocates and activists of one side or the other. I have no facts, and if I did, I suspect I would be unaware of the real source of those facts. Someone furnished a link to the Department of Defense’s autopsy (the third one) on Michael Brown. I read every page. Those wanting me to be aware of this autopsy report seemed to think it had some bombshell evidence, but it looked suspiciously like the previous autopsy reports, providing nothing concrete that all the experts could agree on. This left me knowing no more or no less than I did before I read it, unlike some others, who knew a lot more when they started and had their case doubly-proven by this new report which proved nothing…but everyone is now more aware.
I am aware that protesters in Berkeley and Oakland are protesting perceived injustices in Ferguson. The awareness of that does not help me be aware of what they hope to accomplish in Missouri by their protests in California. Since this baffles me, might it be said that I am unaware?
Awareness has risen to new levels of acerbity. If I reject awareness forced on my by others, I am no longer simply unaware, I am a hater. I am aware of hunger in the world, but when I decide not to support a children’s charity that has a poor track record of actually putting food in children’s stomachs, I am asked, “So, you want children to go hungry?” The person asking me this question may be aware of things I am unaware of, but he is also unaware that I am just about to whip his ass, if I can. Having started with the ass-whipping I may become aware that I am not able to pull it off, having been unaware of their pugilistic skills. Now that is a useful awareness, but unfortunately one learned only too late to be fully useful.
I am aware of global warming. I am aware that, having fallen into disfavor because of inconvenient truths concerning its somewhat lengthy pause, the advocacy crowd now prefers to refer to the phenomenon as climate change. I am aware that there are those who completely deny this. I am not a denier, but I am a skeptic.
“So you want polar bears to die?” I am asked by advocates.
No, I don’t want polar bears to die, unless it is the polar bear that has decided to make me its next meal, then I am all for the death of that polar bear. If that meant every polar bear on the planet had to die so I wouldn’t get eaten, I am aware of the fact that I am more concerned with me than with the global polar bear population.
“So you put your personal needs above the good of the planet?” I am asked. I think about this, raising my own awareness level while thinking. If I am dead, the planet is dead to me. So, aware that this might be interpreted in an unfavorable light, let me go on record as saying that I do not feel inclined to be so magnanimous. Now you are aware of how I think. I suspect I am not alone. Does your new awareness of this make you feel angry? If so, do you like the idea of being eaten by a polar bear? If so, you can get a ticket to the Hudson Bay area and find several polar bears willing to oblige you. Having become aware of this, are you now inclined to book your flight? You won’t even have to pack so much as a toothbrush, avoiding checked baggage fees, though you may want to take a heavy coat so you can stay warm while being eaten. The carbon footprint of your flight will contribute to climate change, shortening the time until polar bear extinction, but at least a couple of polar bears will benefit, if only for a day or two.
I am aware of injustice in the world. I am aware that this is nothing new. What I am unaware of is the connection between looting liquor and electronics stores run by minority entrepreneurs providing a service in one’s neighborhood and the pursuit of justice. I am not aware of anyone who can explain this to me successfully. Someone made me aware of inner city “food deserts.” Are looters aware that they are creating food deserts in their own community? Someone should raise their awareness level, but I suspect that a certain element is as interested in this as I am in polar bears.
I suppose that the two most egregious things I have become aware of today, though I have been suspicious of them for quite some time, is that:
A. The Republicans in congress spend borrowed money as freely or worse than the Democrats, and the very things the electors vocalized in the recent election past are being ignored by both those they voted for and against, one of the main things being the paying of dividends on invested corporate and special interest political money from the bottomless well of government largesse.
B. Nobody cares about Ebola anymore. Our awareness level concerning what is happening in West Africa has dropped from the radar. West Africa has no advocate. As long as the disease is confined there, no one really cares all that much. While that is not exactly true, since there are people on the front lines in West Africa risking their lives fighting this deadly disease, many have had their awareness diverted to Lena Dunham. This cannot be a good thing.
Lena Dunham, the Culture of Rape, Bill Cosby, and just dozens of new things that have captured our awareness will spoil like liverwurst left out in the sun if Ebola breaks out of West Africa and escapes to the world at large. Our awareness of vaccines being tested leads us to a false sense of security. We are aware that technology makes our lives better, and simultaneously aware that it can fail us at the very moment we need it, though perhaps not as aware of this as we should be.
Two types of awareness I appreciate are the driver who blows his horn to make me aware that I should not merge into the lane he is occupying, and all the billions of people who quietly go about their lives honestly earning their daily bread, supporting their families, and raising their children, who are simply too busy to try and raise my awareness about them or anything else. I am thankful for both.
Perhaps they are all too busy being aware that the polar bears will eat them unless they keep moving.
Please note: I am tired after having worked for two cold days on the Ole Miss campus, wrestling problems which cropped up unawares, and sleeping none. My awareness of my current and growing limitations is becoming painfully clear to me. Before yesterday, I was unaware of many of them.
Please be aware that I may edit this into oblivion tomorrow, as if it mattered, as if Lena Dunham and I are fulcrums upon which the world is moved.
I laugh at this vain self-awareness I have sprung upon me.
At least being aware means being alive. Being wary means staying alive.
One can be aware of polar bears without being wary of them. You can choose.
©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp