Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Does It Matter?

I just opened the collection of junk mail that comes with my snail mail. That's the last thing I'd expect to cause me to feel useless. But it did.

One of those ads was this week's Safeway four-page supermarket circular. It's emblazoned with pink breast cancer ribbons and crowned by a headline, "Together for a Cure." Throughout, there are large sections urging focus on breast cancer. Example.

Of course, that reminded me of my earlier efforts to educate the public, the media, and Safeway in specific, that men die much younger and, for example, that far more men die younger of unexplained sudden heart attack than do women of breast cancer, yet the large majority of gender-specific health care research and outreach for the last 60 years(!) has been on women. The male death gap has grown from just 1 year in 1900 to 5.2 years today! I urged Safeway to address this. Other than the tiny-in-comparison prostate cancer promotion Safeway had done before I started my efforts to convince its president Steven Burd, nothing changed. In today's feminist dominated world, men are the disposable sex.

Then I turned my thoughts to all my other decades-long activist efforts, toward reinventing education, reinventing career counseling, fighting for fair treatment for males, against big government, for gifted kids' getting at least as appropriate-leveled education as special ed kids' do. None of my efforts have made a bit of difference.

So I wonder, "Why waste my time doing any more of that "make a difference" stuff?" Maybe I'd be wiser to leave the activism to the next generation of wide-eyed youth and spend my remaining years watching movies, playing with my dog, playing the piano, being my wife's acting coach, and going out to eat. As Peggy Lee sung, "If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing and break out the booze."

Yet as soon as I finish this blog post, I'm going to continue my search for someone who can get more people to read my articles. People aren't explainable simply.

By the way, if you know someone who'd be great at that, let me know:


Justin Wehr said...

I empathize with the feeling. As you well know, it’s people’s nature to be closed-minded and only allow information that confirms their preexisting beliefs to filter through their consciousness, so the only way you can get anyone to do anything is by making it match their preexisting wants and worldview. And with the activist efforts you’ve chosen, clearly you are in a tough position – they are not things you can easily assimilate with the standard worldview.

*But*, speaking for myself, while I can’t say that you have turned me into an activist for any of those topics, at the margin, you have made me think about them more and assign more weight to their truth value, as I imagine you have for many others. It’s rare that one’s efforts will cause a vast movement unless there is already one there waiting to happen and the waves of randomness just so happen to cling to your words as the loudest, but again, *at the margin*, I have no doubt that you are making a difference.

The only question is whether a marginal difference is likely to be worth your time and trouble. And if you ask me, I’d say yes.

P.S. -- I don’t think I have ever commented on someone’s blog three times in one day before. You should be honored... :-)

Anonymous said...

Yes! It does matter. I'm far from a youthful wide-eyed idealist and I too continue to spit in the wind on our insane educational models.

And every so often, I'll hear from a parent who is grateful to find a message I've written that resonates with their heart and hence...frees their child from the the shackles of compulsory education. Can these sort of changes really be quantified?

You have done the same for me. I take heart at hearing sanity. (Especially in light of all the current"Race to the Top" bovine scatology.)

As far as spreading the word on your articles....Have you read Seth Godin's TRIBE or Linchpin?

You may want to consider starting a fan page on Facebook. I have posted more than one link to your stuff on FB. (I have a small following of homeschoolers/unschoolers.)

Anonymous said...

Marty, I hear your frustration. I've long felt men receive disrespect and disdain in the media, which only serves to encourage it elsewhere. I can offer you no solace, other than to share that as a stepmother of 2 boys and a subsequent step-grandmother of 3 boys, you have made a difference to me and to my family. I continually discuss with my grandsons the negative attitues they see around them, and we talk about ways they can bring more balance into their school/sports conversations and interactions. It's a small effort, but it's growing to include their friends and friends' parents, as these kids learn to recognize the imbalances and prejudices against them. Thanks so much for all you do. Nancy

Jeffrie said...

I'm part of that "next generation," and I ask "does it matter?" too. It happens a lot to people whose beliefs may not be in line with those around them.

But you've already chosen to forge ahead, so I think you answered your own question.

Sid said...

It wouldn't surprise me if the earliest breast cancer advocates despaired of how difficult it was to get people in the know about breast cancer. They may have known many people who died of the disease and wished more was being done to prevent it. Great ideas start at the top and then circulate, with time, to the bottom, until they become orthodoxy. So even if your work is unappreciated now, who is to say it doesn't help change America 20 years down the line?

Anonymous said...

It hasn't made a difference in your lifetime. It will make a difference later. The green movement was started in the Sixties. It 40 years to go mainstream, but here it is. The current focus on women was a long time coming. Be patient.

Anonymous said...

I happened upon your blog indirectly about a month or so ago and immediately saved you to my favorites. I view it as a refuge where honest and intelligent thoughts can be shared. So count me as one vote to keep going.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of your writing, and you've really made me understand the importance of the issues covered.

I'm youthful wide eyed idealist, but it's not clear to me, as to what I can do to contribute or how to get involved. I can read some blog posts, and know that many of the things you (and others) write about are valid, but I'm at a loss when it comes to what can I personally do about it.

Many of the problems originate from the government and a media that panders to it, and I feel totally powerless in doing anything to change that.

Marty Nemko said...

Yeah. Tough call what to do: Fight the good fight, choose easier battles, just be a normal person, I dunno.

ST said...

Marty, you've opened my eyes on the topics you write about, and being a male, I agree with what you say (earlier death, paid the same, etc.). The pink ribbons go along with my comment in your "make a difference" post in that the big money is where the nation's and media's heart is ... female cancers. So, where's the cure after all these years? But, very lucrative.

Maybe success shouldn't me measured in how it makes a difference as far as readership, money, exposure, etc. Kind of like career advice, just keep doing it because you love the topics and are passionate about them. Easier said than done, I know, when it feels like beating a dead horse.

I wonder how much it costs for all those pink ribbon ads? How about your own logo ... a blue neck tie ... for men and boy's issues and diseases?

Anonymous said...

Marty, I've often thought (based on some of your comments) that you're too hard on yourself in terms of measuring your contribution and impact in life.

You've made much more of a difference than you realize. Believe me.

Marty Nemko said...

I was born with gifts and believe in part I wasted them by having the hubris to believe I could successfully champion causes that run counter to the mainstream media's relentlessly politically correct messages. One must know which battles to fight, or perhaps better, not fight battles, but merely contribute to the dominant zeitgeist of the era: take from the haves and give to the have nots, take from white men and give to everyone else.