It was difficult not to balk at the crashed car situated in the middle of campus over the past several days. Part of “Alcohol Awareness Week,” a series of presentations and events aimed at bringing attention to the dangers of drunk driving and other alcohol-related mishaps, the nearly destroyed car certainly had a good amount of shock value, if only because one would not normally expect to see a smashed vehicle across from the Social Sciences Building.
If the goal of the organizers who brought the car here was to have students take seconds out of their day to gaze at it unwittingly, they no doubt succeeded.
It is sad that the people behind Alcohol Awareness Week have to resort to such pointless theatrics in order to convey a message that is already nearly universal: Drunk driving is bad.
Anyone not already aware of this is unlikely to be persuaded once and for all by a demolished Toyota or a symbolic line of shoes in Quimby’s prairie. The organizers of this week could not have honestly thought that their efforts to frighten students into sobriety was going to be at all effective in reducing the number of casualties associated with alcohol-related violence and accidents. If that was their true intention, they would have devoted their time and resources to promoting a realistic and responsible approach to drinking rather than a Puritan-era prohibitionist attitude that thrives on scare tactics and hysteria. The systemic causes of drunk driving and other abuses of alcohol might remain unaddressed, but at least the event’s organizers get to pat themselves on the back.
It therefore becomes increasingly clear that stupid charades like these are carried out primarily so the planners themselves can feel good.
Unsurprisingly, several fraternities co-sponsored the awareness week, but I’d be willing to bet that they’re not going to abolish the serving of alcohol at their “social functions.”
Does anyone seriously think that fraternities are genuinely concerned about the use of alcohol on college campuses? Or was their co-sponsorship a result of some community service obligation, lest they lose funding or recognition, and thereby money for kegs and cheap vodka?
These annoying displays of artificial advocacy are not without precedent. We have all seen anti-abortion protesters screaming on street corners, waving pictures of aborted fetuses and damning passersby to hell.
Their tactics, like those exhibited by Alcohol Awareness Week, are meant to achieve temporary shock value and little else. No rational or constructive dialogue results from either of them. We are all instead subjected to an ongoing cycle of manufactured outrage and superficial solutions to problems that are more complex than a crashed car or a hastily written pamphlet. Because of them, an honest and meaningful discourse becomes even farther out of reach.
Let’s get real for once. We give these ineffectual campaigns legitimacy at our own expense.