Of ‘causes’ and existential dilemmas

I had an interesting meeting yesterday with a group that wants to do good to the less privileged. After laying out the big picture, they wisely decided it wouldn’t do any good to anyone to dissipate their energies in trying to do too many things as they’ve just started off the block, and are just gathering steam. So the discussion zeroed in to determine what the immediate priorities are or should be. Magically as it were, concerns like ‘communication’ and ‘outreach’ that began the discussion, ended up transformed as ‘branding’ and ‘funding’ by the time the meeting wound up.

To an outsider like me it seemed that the group has moved from considering how to promote its cause to how to promote itself. It is a pattern that I have come to expect:

  • A niche is identified, where a service is required.
  • A team, whether government, quasi-government, non-government civil society, or whatever in character, is formed
  • The ‘audience,’ always less advantaged or more deprived in some way, is ‘targeted.’
  • The team steps in to help them over the hump as it were.
  • The targeted people respond with various degrees of hope, boredom, disinterest, disbelief, fatigue.
  • The mish-mash team of committed members, enthusiastic volunteers, salaried workers, taciturn observers and vested interests strives to cause a ripple in the community they are determined to serve.
  • Energies are dissipated in trying to convert the ripple into a wave, or in some abysmal cases initiate or engineer the ripple.
  • Resources – human and material – that could have been used directly in helping the cause are dissipated in chasing a chimera.

The argument always is: Awareness has to be created. Really! About what? And at whose cost?


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