7 August 2015

A 40 hour ponder

When I was younger I used to love participating in the 40 hour famine.  I'd like to say that it was just because I am a nice person and raising money for people less lucky than myself was a driving part of my personality from birth, but I suspect my early social activism was driven by a love of barley sugar lollies.

Plus you probably got a certificate.  And who in the 80s didn't love a certificate? 

Everybody did back then - why even the cast of Neighbours participated and in the years that followed the cast of Heartbreak High had a sleepover together to participate and then even later Hugh Jackman participated and thus eating barley sugar for 40 hours became a bonafide sexy time activity. 

For some inexplicable reason Australia and New Zealand are the only people that 'famine' for 40 hours. Every other country that participates does it for anywhere from 8 - 30 hours. This is a sensible amount of time because you can sleep for the entire time. We definitely missed a trick there. 

The 40 hour famine and the MS read-a-thon were my introductions to social activism when I think on it.  And with the 40 hour famine gig turning 40 this year, just like I did last year (I'm such a trendsetter) it's interesting to reflect on how the notion of social responsibility has evolved from my point of view. 

The 80s were famous for capitalism, greed, high pants, bad perms and flat tops.  Activism was something that people did in the 60s while smoking weed and social good always had to be a school approved activity.  We had receipt books, and sealed envelopes and while we thought the notion of starving sounded awful, we were DOING something helpful and wasn't that nice.

Fast forward to now and social justice is one of my driving passions and I struggle to find proof sometimes that anything I do, or that anyone else does, makes any difference at all.  Capitalism and greed have become the hallmarks of our government policy, plastic sandals are back, and people wear 80s hair styles and smoke weed as part of their retro stylings.  It's like nothing and everything has changed.

My fundraising efforts have evolved over the years and I lost the taste for barley sugars about the same time as I discovered West Coast Coolers were yummier than Passion Pop. What I haven't lost is my intrinsic belief that apathy is far more destructive than any other single human approach and that we must be proactive in our quest for a world that is about 'us' and not about 'I'. 

It's worth me remembering that if the 40 hour famine is still ticking along after all these years, evolving to meet the lifestyles of a new era of young social activists, that apathy is not actually the defining element of our society. People do care and in their own small ways, are striking out and making small sacrifices that contribute to change.

And that is something that truly electrifies me. That all of us, in our own small way, are contributing not only to the sales of barley sugar but towards a world that allows for kindness, compassion and empathy to be the hallmarks of a decade.  And that my friends is awesome.  

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