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Another View: October is not properly used as an ‘awareness’ month

October 08. 2012 6:41PM

IT HAS BEEN brought to my attention that our august and noble governor, His Excellency John Lynch, has proclaimed October to be Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month. Carbon Monoxide is the gas that is both odorless and tasteless; silent, but deadly.

The problem is, October is also the month when the powers that be have instructed me to be aware of breast cancer; Filipino-American history; three-dimensional ultrasounds; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history; dwarfism and car battery safety. Not to mention National Hispanic Heritage Month, which inexplicably ends on the 15th, and the various lesser causes - like fire prevention - of which we need only be aware for a week.

That's quite a bit to be aware of all at one time. It would be easier to remember, I suppose, if I were a Transgendered Filipino American Dwarf Ultrasound Technician with a healthy interest in car batteries, but, alas, I am not. At least I have until March to figure out how I'm going to explain colorectal cancer to my five-year-old. I'm thinking Play-Doh, but I'm open to suggestion.

In the meantime, the proponents of these various causes - the successful ones, at least - have come up with useful ways to remind us of their importance. Ad campaigns will make us aware of what subjects we are to be more aware of. The NFL will festoon it's players in pink for a month, so that while my beloved Buffalo Bills are getting shellacked again, I can at least notice their lovely pink socks and think of breasts and the cancer thereof.

Several Nites will be Lited Up - eschewing the letter H apparently being the sign of a classy awareness campaign - and people will wear ribbons and walk, run or bike, activities which we are lead to believe engender awareness. We will make room on the bumpers of our cars - among the failed primary candidates and oval stickers which advertize How Far I Can Run, What Country I Visited Once and An Ironic Statement I Thought Was Clever - for decals which inform our fellow drivers that We Care.

Not to say that there is any inherent value in not being aware of, say 3-D ultrasounds or squirrels - October is their awareness month too, you know - many of the causes are worthy, but does all this awareness actually have any meaningful, real-world result, or is awareness just 21st-Century Snake Oil?

There does seem to be good money to be made reminding people about things which they likely already knew, but didn't realize it was their moral duty to publicly care about.

What is most troubling, however, is not all the things October is, but rather all the things October isn't. October is not Stagflation Awareness Month. His Excellency the Governor and Co. have not urged us to Lite Up the Nite to End Stiflingly High Energy Prices. There are no colored accessories to raise awareness of the Global Intifada and the Failures of a Foreign Policy of Coddling and Appeasement, no classy bumper stickers to display my concern for Cultural Rot.

Awareness burnout is not just a problem for the various causes. The constant bombardment instructing, begging, cajoling, or guilting us to care breeds apathy. Apathy is the last thing we need now, in trying times. Perhaps there's some comfort in putting our energy into causes we think our caring can affect, rather than our own cultural failings and the troubles of evil, despair, care and strife.

Now is not the time to be comfortable.

Kevin Fox of Goffstown is a mental health counselor.

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