After a relatively quiet January, this month sees the return of a myriad of commemorative days. But do such days really serve a purpose?
JOELY THOMAS, BA Arabic and Politics
As the new season’s creme eggs cast smug looks towards the discounted mince pies, I felt a twinge of sadness as my winter affair with my favourite dried fruit treat was brought to an end. I also felt a sense of injustice at the thought that the supermarkets believed our relationship would not see through until the next Christmas and that I would desert my sweetie pie in favour of an even sweeter pie–the apple pie, perhaps.
But at least the supermarkets believed my dedication would last a few months. Many international organisations, on the other hand, seem to think that our commitment cannot be sought for more than the length of an international day, on which they now focus much of their awareness-raising efforts.
Whilst the idea of an intense period of focused activism has its logic – after all, if charity week became charity year, the Islamic Society may well be going into competition with Greggs – it comes with the depressing idea that we can no longer give ourselves to one cause for a sustained length of time. The NGOisation of human rights movements has taken the focus from civil society to the meeting of targets behind closed doors and only occasionally are we called upon to assist.
This month, for instance, the Union for International Cancer Control will be pushing to raise the awareness of cancer as it holds a number of events on World Cancer Day, but surely such a disease requires a long-term plan of awareness-raising. And then, only two days later, the international community is asked to refocus its attention from cancer to genital mutilation, as the succinctly named ‘International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation’ takes place.
Such days can at least make sure that important issues are not forgotten but since the number of illnesses and causes far surpasses the number of days in the year, a kamikaze effect is created, with causes vying against each other for prime spot on the calendar. I’m personally not looking forward to March 21st, on which we have to find a cure for Down’s Syndrome, eliminate racial discrimination and write a poem.
At least this month, after cancer and female genital mutilation, it seems our most pressing concerns are hugs (World Hug Day – February 13th) and thinking about each other (World Thinking Day – February 22nd). This, of course, is presuming that Valentine’s Day is far too mainstream for the average SOASian…