Ego’s Veil: Unmasking Performative Advocacy
One day, during a brief lunch break from work, I stood in line at a local restaurant, craving a sandwich to refuel for the rest of the day. As I waited, a colleague approached me. Although we didn’t know each other well, they recognized me from the office and discussed ‘Cyber Patriot.’ This was a well-known competition where industry mentors teamed up with students to tackle hacking challenges. I had heard of it and engaged in the conversation, nodding in agreement and mentioning that it sounded like a worthy cause. However, my main focus at that moment was satisfying my hunger with a sandwich.
Months passed, and life took me on an unexpected journey across the country to California. Upon returning to the office for a visit, I unexpectedly bumped into the colleague whom I’d previously talked to about the opportunity. The recognition was immediate, and before I could exchange pleasantries, they scolded me, “Why didn’t you join Cyber Patriot?”
Taken aback, I responded, “Well, for one, I moved out of state.”
Their face contorted with a mix of disbelief and frustration. “You should have told me,” they retorted, their voice laced with exasperation, “I wouldn’t have wasted my time talking to you about it.”
My response was instinctual. “At the time, I didn’t even know I was moving. Besides,” I added with a touch of irony, “weren’t we just standing in line next to each other, waiting for food?”
The exchange left me pondering a curious question: Did this person honestly care about the cause, or were they more invested in the appearance of caring? When it came to genuine causes, advocating for them was never wasteful. But for some, the cause seemed secondary to the ego boost they received from championing it. It made me wonder whether they were more concerned about how they looked as part of a program rather than the essence of the program itself.
Upon reflecting on the incident, it became apparent that advocating for a cause carries the potential for meaningful impact. Yet, a distinct dichotomy emerged between impassioned advocacy and performative engagement. True dedication involves spreading awareness and genuinely understanding and valuing the cause’s purpose, untainted by a mere desire to enhance one’s image. This experience underscored the delicate boundary between selflessness and self-absorption, reminding me that we must all navigate where we stand.
It also highlighted the tendency for some to prioritize personal image over grasping a cause’s significance. Motivated by the hunger for validation, their actions often overshadow their genuine impact. The crux of the matter lies in introspection: Does our engagement stem from authentic empathy and altruism, or do we merely seek recognition? The answer holds the key to our level of involvement.