I’ve been asked “why are you fasting for Darfur?” and “What good does that do?” In fact, there is a great article that Andy Dehnart took the time to produce yesterday about this. Let me start by saying he makes a valid point, but seems to miss the purpose. It’s about generating publicity to a cause. (Just like his article did!) Let’s discuss why I am doing this via the audience in a hypothetical scenario. I hope anyone taking the time to read it – Andy too – will understand.
Let’s assume my name is John Doe and I live in Coshoctan, Ohio. (Get your google map out to locate Coshoctan, or maybe even Ohio, if you missed that lesson in school.) I’m an everyday person, I have a wife, two kids, a 9-to-5 job that I hate, a mortgage, a cat, a dog, and an aquarium that hasn’t been used or cleaned in months yet has enough algae to be titled “The Science Experiment in the Living Room” by my adoring children. I hear about world events on the news – Tom Brokaw used to deliver me the messages and now I browse numerous channels and sometimes watch Katie Couric. Still, all the events seem so alien to me – genocides, civil wars, missile launches and starvation. Starving to me is when my wife is late for dinner and I wait an extra hour to visit the Chinese Buffet (yum!). To be honest, I can’t even figure out the boroughs of New York City, or what the h*ll the 405 is that my LA peers discuss sitting on for hours. Sounds painful to me. With that in mind, how am I ever supposed to understand famines in Asia or Africa, much less the what’s occurring in Sudan or actually find Darfur on the map? I’ll settle for waiting in line at the drive through for some nachos. Thank you.
Luckily on Thursday nights there is a show on CBS called Survivor. My boss, who relocated to my town last year from Boston, playfully teases me for watching the show. Most of my “Big City” friends and coworkers often do. I adore the show – the crazy antics, mind games, the stories of adventure, love, deceit and the best are the plots to overthrown one another all while isolated in a remote location – sometimes the desert, sometimes a beach. I tried to discuss the show with my boss but when I mention Borneo, Tocantins, or Palau he looks at me like I’m nuts and asks “Are those Midwestern towns?” I laugh and walk away shaking my head thinking “Mr. Educated needs to take a few more world geography lessons, or maybe watch a couple seasons of Survivor, to keep up with me.”
So I was intrigued this morning while reading a message board (yes, my fellow fans and I post often about Survivor and read of the castmates’ lives) to see a link to Fast for Darfur. Some of the castmates I watched are willingly drinking water and eating nothing or next to nothing during a holiday weekend. Why would they do that and not have the chance to win a million dollars? Interested to learn more, I click on the link and read about Darfur. I’d seen a special on CNN about it, but to be honest, it bored me and I didn’t understand why I should care. This time, however, I my interest is peaked — the castmates of Survivor are people that I can relate to and understand – we have a lot in common…. If this is something that is important to them, and they aren’t even being paid to discuss it, then I should pay a little more attention too!! After reading their journal entries, I found myself surfing the net for other articles, maps, and statistics. By the end of my session, I was angry that I never knew this was going on – or at least never took the time to fully understand. To be honest I could never relate before, and I know that isn’t a great excuse, but it’s true. I copy and past the information and website link, and forward along to my database of email addresses. I find myself thinking that people need to know what is going on there. It isn’t just happening in Darfur, it’s happening everywhere and we’re too blinded by meaningless nonsense to care/know. I’m now motivated to find other issues that are going on in the world, maybe research some of the countries my favorite show has been filmed on and see what I can learn. Then I can discuss it with my coworkers, continue the chain, and gain some support for people going through horrid torment everywhere. If no one says anything, these people will be forgotten. I’m going to use my knowledge and apply it to world events. Come to think of it, I recently saw where some detainees from Guantanemo were being sent to Palau (where Season 10 of Survivor was filmed). In fact, my 80 year old mother called to tell me the news, who learned about the country while following Survivor.
Survivor has become an avenue of knowledge for me. It not only provides me with entertainment but each season gives me free lessons in psychology, survival skills, puzzles, and geography. The castmates that go on to discuss world events and bring attention to numerous causes help me to contribute to the world by making me aware of events and speaking out or gaining support. Sometimes it might just be through talks at the water cooler in my office, but I hope that they dialogue keeps going when they leave me. Survivor connects me to something I might not have previously understood or even cared about. Without awareness, discussions, and sometimes arguments, the problems aren’t disclosed to the general public in a manner which we understand. Without knowing a problem exists, how can it ever be solved. No matter how the message gets out there, it needs to get out there and people relate to different groups. Some people relate and understand their professors, award-winning actors/actresses like Brad Pitt, entrepreneurs and businessmen like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, or Grammy award winning musicians. I, however, can relate the best to the cast of my favorite reality show, Survivor.