Earlier today, I mindlessly browsed through my social media feeds when one story and several opinions around it showed up and up again and I just lost it. I am done and therefore I am speaking up!
I am sure you read about the heartbreaking refugee situation in Europe these days or at least stumbled upon hashtags like #refugeeswelcome and learned about it.
It´s devastating what these people needed to endure to leave their homes and make it to Europe somehow healthy and save. To me it´s even more horrendous how unprepared our governments were in the last couple of weeks and how some countries declined to help entirely. It´s only thanks to a hand full of people and small NGO´s in those first few weeks that total chaos could be averted. Those few finally were heard and at least for the last couple of days, experienced praise and support and rightfully so!
Several Austrian bloggers were amongst the mentioned volunteers and helped in the refugee camp in Traiskirchen and Nickelsdorf which are the main contact points in the country. Many volunteered at the main train stations in Vienna and beyond, donated money, food, clothes and much more. Many talked about it publicly and many did not and many did avoid talking about the refugee situation altogether. I think that´s totally legitimate. To each their own, you know.
Fast forward to today when several posts on Facebook really pissed me off. I took part as one of 150 local bloggers in The Otto Blogger Challenge earlier this week and along the rules and regulations, we had to style an outfit in a creative way, upload it and rally up to get as many votes as possible for two weeks. The entry with the most votes will win 3.000 in cash, while the jury will pick the most creative entry and award the blogger with the grand prize of 10.000. There are no rules or restrictions whatsoever on the prize money which means the winner can spend it as he or she pleases. Again, to each their own.
One blogger uploaded a photo declaring in the outfit description box that she wants to donate either the 3.000 or 10.000 or both for the refugees, if she should win. Of course her votes amped up alongside a few other entries. The downside of this is that she and her large following now rally against the other participants, even questioning if we earned our votes legally – as a consequence a few even withdrew their entries – only because we did not declare publicly that we would donate the prize money entirely! Really?
Personally, I didn´t compete for the sole reason to win the money. A little extra on the side never hurt nobody, who are we kidding would we deny that fact?! But among those very well-known Austrian bloggers, I knew my chances are limited and it´s fine since I had to muster up a lot of courage to even participate in the challenge and I am glad.
What honestly rubs me the wrong way is that no one knows my story, my plans or the story of the other participants and their plans on how to spend the money in case of winning and it´s not our duty to tell anyone or to selflessly donate it. It´s also not selfish or wrong to spend it on ourselves or for “designer handbags and clothes” as they derisively claimed. To each their own! It´s okay to see the style challenge at what it is: a creative competition to put yourself outthere and maybe get some cash on the side and to not use it as a tool to gather donations.
Furthermore it´s not racist, shallow or any kind of wrong to not talk about the refugee situation any given second on social media and I am not a bad person because I like to engage in an outfit challenge, talk about the latest beauty product I loved or my future travel plans. I don´t have to feel guilty to live my life and I don´t have to publicly announce if and how I am helping.
The biggest mistake in my opinion is to just hate on uneducated people and to label them as Nazi because isn´t that just too easy?! I remember a Facebook post and online discussion recently, where a girl asked why everyone is donating food and clothes because she read somewhere the refugees are given a small amount of money from the government that should suffice… Naive comment? Totally! The right thing to denounce her publicly and call her a Nazi with a brown attitude (as brown was the color of choice for the right-wing political movement during WW II) ?! Not at all!!
If anything that girls´ voice was silenced, her fears not taken seriously and she was left there publicly called out and ashamed!
I had several encounters with naive, not educated people over the last few weeks – actually all of my life really. Of course some opinions shocked me but they also taught me to listen, actively listen and open a dialogue and discussion about where their fears stem from, who taught them to believe what they now know as their truth and even though I certainly don´t know how they´ll react in the future, I am convinced listening and being open and explaining will change many more mindsets than just judging people and putting them in the right-wing drawer just because it´s oh-so-convenient and popular in that very moment.
Everyone has their own story and as we say in Austria, “we all have to carry around our baggage”, meaning that we all have our problems, insecurities, dreams and reasons why we are who we are and do what we do. In the end we are all only humans.
So, if you take anything away from this lengthy blog post it is that I am asking YOU, if you should happen to come across a comment/discussion or anything related online or at work, the bus station or while standing in line at the grocery store: Keep an open mind! Try to engage in a positive educative way and think twice before you push the like-button on a popular opinion with a huge following. Help where you can, speak up when needed and educate yourself and others. Show a little compassion for those who don´t know better!
(Images via Weheartit)