Monday, March 2, 2009

Treatment vs. Cure

I guess I've never really looked at volunteerism and activism as separate entities. Now that I really think about it, volunteerism is usually seen as something positive, noble, and worthy of praise, but activism is often perceived as hostile, pushy, and troublemaking. I agree with Loeb when he writes that volunteering provides relief to a problem, while activism provides a solution. It makes alot of sense to me that volunteering is so highly praised. The powers that be love to use it as a long term distraction to real change, and people can feel good about themselves without taking risks. Activism, on the other hand, is what really leads to change. It threatens people who horde power and resources, so of course they want to put a negative stigma on it. I know my biggest fear in getting involved is losing more than I can handle, and especially the fear of being left standing alone. For these reasons, I have tended to volunteer because it is safe. I feel deeply affected by the suffering of others, and want help ease that pain. I really have to ask myself, though, if it is enough to just ease the suffering, or if it is time to step out of my comfort zone and act to stop it altogether.

In the story of the Stanford student, I would give him benefit of the doubt, in that he probably didn't mean he wants homelessness to continue, but found the experience of volunteering personally inspiring. It is an eyeopener, however, to really think about what volunteering is. Its like giving oxygen treatments to a smoker. No matter how hard we work to relieve the symptoms, the greater problem and threat of collapse is still there. Volunteering is a necessary treatment, but activism is the cure.

3 comments:

bowker3273 said...

"Volunteering is the active treatment, but activism is the cure."

I like that thought process. It gives another meaning to differentiating between helping, or changing. Thank you.
-Jeremy

Dr. V said...

You are correct in your discussion about volunteerism. I sometimes feel that people who volunteer become activist because they see what is going on and try to change it. But can they cure all? Doubt it but just by making people aware of problems is the difference. They may not save all the people but if they can just save one, that is making a difference.

Lewis Jr. said...

People do not like change. When some one challenges the way things are it upsets a lot of people that got ahead in that way. Activism has such a different meaning than volunteerism because volunteering does not necessarily stop wrongs. They just treat the symptoms. Activists try to promote change or cure. Your analogy was excellent.