“Doing Something”, Even If It’s Completely Ineffective


But gosh, doesn’t it make everyone feel better?

I threw this together last night. I don’t think any further explanation is needed.

Screenshot (5)




22 Responses to ““Doing Something”, Even If It’s Completely Ineffective”

  1. 1 Maya

    Sometimes we Americans live in a bubble in which people in other places (our neighbors houses, the next town over, the next state, the country next door) are invisible and irrelevant. They are, to rip off Douglass Adams, part of the SEP field—Somebody Else’s Problem.

    I think any attempt to break through the bubble and get people to pop their heads up and see what’s happening in the Rest of the World is worthwhile, even if it fails to get the attention of more than a few.

    Do you think it deserves to be mocked? I don’t.

    If even a thousand more people are thinking about, praying about, perhaps doing something about this and related issues, that’s better than complete apathy. Because of this, I may turn my blog this week toward the heart of the disease of which Boko Haram is merely a symptom. If the hundreds of people who read my blog posts start thinking and praying and asking what they can do, then I’ve accomplished something. And that means that the First Lady, in using her high profile position to draw our feeble and easily (Squirrel!) distracted attention to this situation, has also accomplished something positive.

    Does mockery ever do that?

    • 2 Nathalie Leclercq

      Praying for these girls is certainly a nice thing to do. For those who are doing the praying. It’s not going to free the girls or accomplish anything else. The fact that I’m aware of their plight is not going to help them. The fact that half of the planet now knows about the girls isn’t going to set them free either. Neither a Twitter nor any other “campaign” will bring these girls back to their families. It’s just Public Relations BS from the Hot Air Department.

    • Maya, I respectfully disagree. Yes, attention and concern is good; however, hashtags, in my opinion, simply give people a way to act concerned without taking any actual action. We have at least one generation, probably two or three, who are generally loathe to sacrifice anything to a larger cause. Someone else should save the starving children in Africa, they’ll just donate $5 and spread the word on Facebook. Someone else should protect the Ukraine from Russia, they’ll just tweet about it. Someone else should go to Nigeria and shoot Boko Haram in the face, they’ll just share a hashtag. No amount of good will, prayers or hashtags are going to free those girls. Dangerous men and women who are willing to kill a lot of people are the only ones who can do that (or spineless ‘leaders” willing to give in to Boko Haram’s demands). If someone truly wants these girls to be freed, but they’re doing nothing other than wishing them well, they’re accomplishing less than zero. And they’re actually doing more harm, because they’re creating the illusion of action.

      • 4 Mike

        Exactly! Speed, surprise, and violence of action are the only things that are going to get them back.

      • 5 Stuart the Viking

        It’s more insidious than that Chris.

        If some guys (you, me, whoever) got together and decided to load-up and go hunt down Boko Haram and free those girls. This hashtag army, and the government that they helped elect, would be the first ones to stand in the way. They are making hay out of “raising awareness” for a problem that they aren’t offering any solutions to, while standing in the way of any possible solution (other than government action… which we know, and they know, isn’t going to happen).

        Sure, now people are talking about the problem. I guess that’s a little something. Hope those girls get warm fuzzy feelings while in slavery because a bunch of privileged do nothings TALK about how horrible it is. BTW, I have to include myself as one of the “do nothings” since, while I see (and bloviate about) the only viable solution (getting with the hunting and shooting of faces), I’m an old dude with a family to support/protect and I’m not going somewhere far away to help someone else, as much as my heart wishes it could.


      • 6 Maya

        Ultimately, Chris, the Nigerian government is the front line defense or offense when it comes to Boko Haram. But while Mrs. Obama’s hashtag calls attention to the problem and gets those who can do something and those who can’t but wish they could to realize that the problem is there, her husband can and is doing something to aid materially.

        Hopefully, deploying specialists to help (read “shame”, if you want) the Nigerian government to do something will have positive results. I know Senator McCain has opined that we ought to just send in troops to kick BH in the teeth, and I, too, wish it was as simple as a black ops unit going in and wiping out the BH leadership. But history indicates that trick seldom if ever works.

        I hope the FBI and other agents we’ve sent over will come up with results. Certainly, the citizens taking things into their own hands as they did this past week put to shame the Nigerian forces that allegedly knew that Boko Haram was going to attack the school and ‘Brave Sir Robined’ out of the picture.

        I’d rather see social media used to create awareness of a situation—no matter how powerless we Americans ultimately are as individuals—than to see it used to mock anyone’s efforts to do more than sit in their living room saying, “That’s too bad.”

        Twitter campaigns have caused change in the past, and the first place they cause change is in the minds of individuals, who often form groups intent on finding ways to act. In this case, it’s our government that’s doing the acting, but we can at least support that action and remind people that individual courage is important because this sort of thing could also happen here.

        I’m a writer by trade and I know the power of words and the ideas they convey. Even the lowly hashtag can have positive effects, belittling someone’s efforts never does.

    • 7 JimP

      “I think any attempt to break through the bubble and get people to pop their heads up and see what’s happening in the Rest of the World is worthwhile, even if it fails to get the attention of more than a few.

      Do you think it deserves to be mocked? I don’t.”

      I think it deserves to be savagely mocked: It is, as others pointed out, counter productive.

      Mocking useless gestures may help by motivating people to do something usefull.

      …. and please: speak for your own “feeble and easily (Squirrel!) distracted attention to this situation” …. my “attention” is not feeble. I am painfully aware that we have come up short as “world’s policeman” in the past- and have taken to trying to “understand” and reason with these Islamo-fascists (believe like we do, or we’ll be justified in killing you and yours) because of that fact. Such mollycoddling only invites more attcks as it communicates our lack of resovle ……

      Mrs. Obama’s empty gesture is kind of ironic, though ….. I’m not into the Facebookenings, but as I understand it, don’t you have to “Friend” someone before you can “Un-Friend” them?

      Was Michelle “Friends” with this Islamic extremist group before she was against them? …..

      • 8 Maya

        What no one has said is that Mr. Obama has sent a team of experts to the area to aid the Nigerian government into doing what it should have been doing all along.

        Mrs. Obama is holding a Twitter hashtag, which has nothing to do with Facebook. If there was an “unfriend Boko Haram” campaign, I missed it.

        I too am painfully aware of what happens beyond our borders. Especially in Iran where my co-religionists are being denied their civil rights and imprisoned. But explain to me in what way calling public attention to what the Nigerian government at first seemed willing to sweep under the rug invites more attacks or is mollycoddling?

        I also have to ask, why should we be the “world’s policeman”?

      • 9 Maya

        I wanted to respond directly to your statement that this “gesture” of empathy, however, useless you personally think it is deserves to be savagely mocked.

        As I said, words have power. One word can be healing and comforting, another can be like poison. While I understand the atheist may consider it against human nature, I find the idea of offering someone poison for their expression of solidarity and desire for healing flies in the face of a spiritual teaching I take very seriously: that is that we should treat others as we would ourselves wish to be treated and that hatred does not cease by piling on more hatred.

        More than that, the use of mocking which, as a person of faith, I’m well-used to, just creates more of the sort of hostility that makes our world an unpleasant and dangerous place to live. In a word, dysfunctional. People say things to each other and about each other all the time without stopping to think what sort of animus or sorrow those things cause.

        Try to imagine a family in which the father continually criticizes the mother, the siblings work hard to undermine each other in the eyes of their parents and who shower each other with mockery at the slightest provocation. That family will come apart because that behavior fosters animosity and hurt, not love.

        I had a dialogue with an atheist who, rather than engage in a rational dialogue, felt it necessary to heap mockery (and false assumptions) on the religious people in the forum. He said he did it to convert the morons who were religious, but when I pointed out that it was unlikely to do more than drive them away, he said he really did it to encourage the fence sitters. One of them weighed and said the mockery just made him embarrassed for and angry at the mockers. In the end, the guy realized he was only preaching to the choir—the other atheists on the site who agreed with him already. In other words, it really had no effect.

        You’ve said that the hashtags are useless. The mockery is worse than useless, because it drives a wedge between people who really should and could be working together.

        • Maya,

          First, I’d like to say you’re a lovely person. I’m not being sarcastic. You’re obviously intelligent, reasonable, caring and compassionate. I’m personally happy that people like you exist in America.

          However, I don’t think you appreciate where I and others are coming from on this. I’ve spent decades dealing with people who don’t care about anyone’s feelings, who don’t care about other people’s lives, who view others as nothing more than opportunities to enrich themselves or satiate base desires. These people would literally be willing to kill someone for $5 in their purse, or rape someone for fun and murder them to keep from being punished. These people aren’t the slightest bit concerned with statements of support, especially those expressed by people from another culture, in another country, who won’t take any actual action against them.

          At best, the hashtag effort is as useless as a sign asking HIV to stop spreading among humans. The HIV doesn’t care, and neither does Boko Haram. At worst, those hashtags are convincing people they’re really doing something. And if someone thinks a sign is all they owe, why should they do anything that actually makes a difference?

          You’re right that America shouldn’t be the World Police. The sad fact is we may not be able to do anything for the kidnapped girls, and maybe we shouldn’t. We can’t expend American lives and treasure to fight every evil act in the world. Millions of those occur every day; we simply can’t respond to each one. Sometimes we have to accept that our reach is limited, our influence isn’t always as strong as we’d like it to be, and we sometimes have to choose our battles. If that’s the reality, we can just say that, instead of making a show of caring while taking no real action.

          • 11 Maya

            Chris, I think you’re a stand-up guy and I really appreciate and admire what you’re trying to do with the “truthers”. But here, I have to ask if judging Michelle Obama and labeling her as one of those people who don’t really care, but is holding up a sign for some cynical reason, is really a “battle” worthy of fighting. The real problem, here, is the people who hate and who destroy—whether with weapons or words.

            What concerns me is that when you mock someone for saying something, however useless you may deem it, you seem to be one of those who don’t care what effect your words have on other people’s lives. I know that’s not the case with you—I can tell you care deeply.

            But here’s the thing: that old saw about sticks and stone may break my bones but word can never hurt me? Utter garbage. Words hurt, in some cases, worse than weapons. I was bullied most of my childhood for stupid reasons: I wore glasses, I was overweight and clumsy. The one time I was physically assaulted by a sixth grader caused me far less hurt than the names. And I think when someone tries to say or do something positive and gets shelled for it, it’s a lot like being bullied for things that really don’t define your humanity.

            Michelle Obama isn’t the POTUS. Her husband has done something substantive for the Nigerian families and to be frank, all she can do is show support for that and solidarity with the mothers who are experiencing this horrible grief. If I were such a mother, I’d appreciate having a woman of Mrs. Obama’s public stature holding up my sign. It would make me feel less anonymous and alone and drowning.

            Right now, in Iran, over a hundred of my coreligionists are in prison for their religious beliefs. In the past, they have been executed for them. Their graveyards are desecrated, their children kept out of school, their marriages deemed illegal, their property confiscated. I can assure you that the Twitter campaigns and Facebook pages and open letters and gestures of solidarity that they receive makes their burden easier to bear. Perhaps you are wrong, and these tiny gestures do matter.

            Be that as it may, you and I have our blogs and our writing–which still is, really, just words. Just ideas. But they’re what we have. So, when bad things happen, write. When the world is falling apart around me, write. When it seems as if there’s no good left in the world, write.

            Why? Because, as you and I both know, words convey ideas and ideas are powerful.

            But what makes your words or my words more powerful than the words on Michelle Obama’s sign? Nothing, really. What makes our ideas better or loftier—nothing. But if they are positive words and ideas, they will contribute to creating unity around an idea; if they are negative, they will create more negativity and disunity.

            I seriously doubt that in spamming out hashtags anyone believes they are doing anything material for this cause or any other. But they _are_ spreading an idea and the idea is that whether our skin is white or black or yellow or red, and our language English or French or some African dialect, and our country in America or Africa, we are one family and ought to care about each other.

            Does that expression of caring—that idea—deserve to be mocked? So, I ask again, when you use your words to mock the words on Michelle Obama’s sign (or to mock Mrs. Obama for using them to demonstrate her solidarity with those mothers in Nigeria) what does it contribute to the world we share?

          • Maya,

            I have to partially disagree with you. Words can hurt, but only if we’re susceptible already. You were susceptible to insults about your weight, glasses and clumsiness because you were self-conscious about them; you thought something was wrong with you, and it hurt when other kids reinforced what you already felt. The words being employed against Boko Haram are not words they’re susceptible to. Maybe if the message was #bokoharamarebadmuslims, it would have an effect. But BH doesn’t care what we think about them. Our feelings about their act is no different than someone making fun of you for, say, wearing blue jeans at the mall. You’re not self-conscious about wearing jeans at a mall, so that insult wouldn’t work. BH isn’t self-conscious about anything we think, so our words don’t affect them. And the girls definitely aren’t affected. So what actual, tangible difference does #bringbackourgirls make, other than helping some people, in America, who are doing nothing at all to help the girls, feel better about themselves?

          • 13 Maya

            I’m not really talking about words directed AT Boko Haram. They like our hatred; it makes them feel justified. I was referring to the hostility and negativity directed at Michelle Obama and other Americans showing solidarity with the Nigerian parents and offering their heartfelt prayers and wishes for the girls’ safety.

            As I said, it may help the parents to feel they are not alone; it may help to galvanize the American “hive mind” around the possibility of an even larger military response that President Obama has already made by sending 80 specialized operatives in.

            You’re missing my point about who your scorn hurts. Even if the hashtag campaign does nothing directly for the Nigerian girls, whatever good is served by deriding people trying to use social media for a good cause?

            Social media campaigns have catalyzed all sorts of movements and have had real effects in the world. Maybe this one will do no more than turn thousands of eyes toward Nigeria and remind us that we are not alone on this little dust speck. But it was worth a try and even that small a result may have greater repercussions in the future. If it makes us feel more empathy for others, I’d say it was worthwhile.

            My empathy for those parents and my retweeting of Michelle Obama’s tweet isn’t about ME. It’s not about feeling better about myself. I suspect few people are that desperate for props that this makes their day. It’s about US. It’s about wanting to remind people that our bonds of family go farther than we imagine and that bad things happen in the world in the face of which we should not just yawn and turn over.

          • Maya,

            The picture below illustrates why I feel such scorn for the “hashtag offensive”.

            At best, the hashtags are useless; no President has needed hashtag support to launch any military operation, ever. The First Lady doesn’t need hashtags to urge her husband to do something he is already willing to do and capable of. You mentioned that there are things we shouldn’t just yawn and turn over for, and I agree. However, tweeting a hashtag, yawning and turning over is materially no different than yawning and turning over.

          • 15 Maya

            Her husband is already doing something—committing experts and military personnel to the situation and trying to get the Nigerian government to do more, as well. I’ve mentioned that several times and no one seems willing to acknowledge that there are material steps being taken.

            Again, you miss my point about the goals of the hashtag campaign. Given our recent history with war, if the President is going to do more than he is already doing—that is, if he is going to make the sort of military response that some of the posters here seem to advocate, then he will need the support of the American people to do it. He’s already been excoriated by his detractors for being too unilateral in his actions.

            Ignoring a problem and giving mental and emotional space to it are not the same thing. But you’re dodging the point I’m really making: if the #bringbackourgirls verbiage is useless at best, yours is harmful. It perpetuates a level of disdain and hostility that we do not need.

            If you don’t like what others are doing, fine, Ignore them. Pat them on the heads for at least caring and do them one better. But to denigrate them for not doing more, when you can do no more yourself—who does that benefit? What does the hostility accomplish except to make yourselves feel—what—better? More powerful? More righteous?

            Do you understand what I’m trying to say? If the hashtags only create a spirit of unity and nothing more, what does your mockery create that is better?

            What constructive purpose does it serve?

  2. 16 Angela

    Mrs. Obama’s sign seems very silly. If she really wanted to show support for the girls and their families, why didn’t she just write that on her sign??

  3. 18 JimP

    Maya, words do indeed have power ….. but not the kind of power to solve the Boko Haram problem. THAT kind of power comes from the barrel of a gun.

    I also believe that prayers have power, and that God does influence the world …..but he works through people that are willing to let him. The bandits (hiding behind a religion) that kidnapped those girls in Nigeria are not, IMHO, those kind of people…..

    • 19 Maya

      The answer is not as simple as words OR guns. It’s not a zero sum game. The positive use of words to show empathy or solidarity with a group in peril will not bring the girls home directly, but it can broaden people’s borders of family and get people to engage emotionally. Guns can’t do that.

      We need both increased awareness of our interdependence (and the change of attitude that can bring), and a concerted material effort to bring those girls home. Yes, with guns if necessary. Again, President Obama is the only one who can act in that manner—his wife can’t. I can’t. You can’t.

      I understand that makes some people feel impotent. I get that. But it shouldn’t then cause them to strike out at other people who are trying to find positive ways to engage the people of the world about this subject.

      Consider this: if the US is going to have some sort of military response to this beyond sending experts in various facets of hostage negotiation and clandestine ops, then the American people must be engaged, and in order to get the American people to engage and CARE about black African teenaged girls from Nigeria (which many Americans couldn’t find on a map), then someone needs to inform us in such a way that we think about those girls and care about what happens to them.

      I agree that God works through us, but do you believe the use of words to mock and even vilify those trying to engage people emotionally is doing God’s work? Christ certainly didn’t teach that we should mock others as we feared they would mock us. He taught us to behave with love and forbearance toward even our enemies. Even if Mrs. Obama and the other #Bringbackourgirls supporters were “the enemy”, treating their efforts with disrespect and mockery is in complete conflict with the teachings of Christ (or Buddha, or Krishna or any other claimant to dive in revelation).

      It’s also counterproductive, creating antipathy rather than unity among people who presumably share an abhorrence of what Boko Haram has done. It benefits no one.

  4. 20 SPEMack

    To me, minding I’m just a dumbass Cav Scout frat boy, this seems like a text book situation asking for an ODA deployment.

    Hell, give the sniper section, my Troop, and some of the guys from the S-2 shop and the 121th could sort this out.

    But I guess clicking something on the internet is more surgical and leaves and small footprint.

    • Mack,

      Maybe some GA Cav guys could sneak into Boko Haram’s secret lair at night and write #bringbackourgirls on their heads with magic marker. That’ll show ’em.

  5. 22 joe

    Hard men with guns are the only hope for these girls

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