For starters, let’s talk about what kind of groups use “awareness.”
Firstly, K-12 school assemblies, which any true radical understands right off the bat as being one of the most heinous vehicles of large-scale capitalist mental programming. If they even work.
Another type are groups which are dominated hard by paid staff, give basically no thought whatsoever to organizational democracy, treat attendees to their “educational” event as passive observers, or probably as numbers that paid organizers can/must check off to get credit with their superiors. (Yes, paid organizers are often forced to work by piece-rate, so while you think you’re talking to a human being, you’re probably just talking to a sales robot. A similar assumption of non-human communication should be made with bureaucrats.)
So what happens at these “awareness” events?
Typically, some kind of perspective is provided which is politically horrible – not in the sense that it raises an important issue, but in the sense that it implies the audience is entirely to blame for the problem. First-worlders are made to feel horrible about third-world starvation, first-wolders are made to feel horrible about environmental damage from the consumerist lifestyle (which is obviously determined by them, and not the corporate-political elite?), and occasionally whites are made to feel horrible about racism. But not just “horrible” in the sense of, there is a problem that needs to be fixed. The total lack of solutions provided, mixed with a political culture of liberalism which basically depicts all social groups as hostile but sides with the “left” ones, just makes anyone who is American or white feel horrible about themselves for no reason. While rarely, there are some “awareness” events which provide information that makes the audience angry instead of guilty, this is rare, and it begins to spill over from “awareness” to actual politics. This, of course, is generally not encouraged, because it violates the radical centrist banality and “neutrality” which the hosting institutions thrive on.
And that really is the thrust of what happens at “awareness” events: nothing. That is, at the end, there is no call to action. There is no invitation to be part of a regular, self-directed organizational effort. At best you are told to throw your bottles in the recycle bin, to watch the garbage collectors just throw all that shit in the same pile anyway. They may ask you to call or write your representative, who will shake your hand and appreciate your input before going back to their expensive lunches or stuffing wads of campaign cash in their pockets between rim jobs (definition) for corporate lobbyists. At worst, you may be asked for money which you will certainly never see or hear about again and will probably go mostly to paying the salaries of the charity. On the off-chance that they call a demonstration, it will be a one-time thing with no organizational follow-up.
I suppose there is a “dialectic” or dual nature to awareness. Is it good to make people care about the world’s issues? Yes, certainly. On the flipside, though, I think society is already so saturated with system-propagated “awareness” of the stereotypical “awareness” issues that no more is really necessary.
I think that institutional “awareness” breeds such heavy demoralization that it is actually equally hostile of a cultural phenomenon/ideology to outright conservative myths supporting the free market, etc. That is to say, along with liberalism, conservatism, fascism, etc., the list of counter-revolutionary ideologies must now include “awareness.”
To raise an issue, to “create awareness” without building a movement to resolve that issue, actually is not neutral. It is reactionary, it is hostile. It takes social energy toward solving a problem and it disperses it, demoralizes it, or in some cases even channels existing energy into a dead end.
Any actual political resistance must be sharply directed towards turning observers into organizers and audiences into demonstrators. Otherwise, it is “awareness,” and it is the enemy.