“Criticism is necessary and useful; it is often indispensable; but it can never take the place of action, or be even a poor substitute for it. It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
There has been so much said and written regarding Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 effort over the last month, and there will be more said and written with the launch of their “Cover the Night” campaign. While there have been some thoughtful critiques as well as thoughtful responses to those critiques, there have also been plenty who have been at best, unhelpful and cynical, and at worst, venomous in their criticism.
A common criticism made about the Kony 2012 effort has been that it is nothing more than a shallow awareness campaign inviting a “slactivism” or “bandwagon” response. I’ve previously posted my thoughts on bandwagons HERE.
In regard to awareness being “shallow,” I say; “so what?” Most of us get to the deeper water by entering in through the shallows. I don’t know many effective activists (who are STILL activists) who just jumped in at the deep end. Those who do, usually don’t swim for very long. They are beat down by waves of adversity or are overwhelmed by how deep, dark and murky the waters of complexity are. They drown with good intentions. Good intentions don’t make great life preservers.
Let’s be honest. We usually enter the world of activism through the shallow water. That’s smart activism. We wade in slowly and thoughtfully, getting used to the temperature and “feel” of the water before going deeper. This approach also gives us time to receive some swimming lessons from those who have been swimming in these waters for a long time. What we need are fewer critics and more mentors. Those who have the maturity to teach, suggest and guide rather than criticize, discredit and disqualify.
The coach who can teach and correct while encouraging and mentoring is much more effective then the coach who is constantly telling you that you suck and that you’re doing it all wrong.
Stephen Colbert wrote; “Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength…say “yes’.”
So maybe you find yourself standing on the shore, looking for an entry point into the water. The deep end looks intimidating. Begin by wading in through the shallows. If you find yourself in the shallow water, look to those who have been swimming for a long time…and learn as you venture into deeper waters. And lastly…if you are in deep water…stick together. It’s not safe to swim alone. There are sharks in the water. But wherever you find yourself…by all means, say “yes”.
President & Co-founder, Love146
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