Will MCYS's posters only fuel society’s prejudice towards the disadvantaged?
Catchphrases are often used in advertising campaigns. These are designed to be short and gripping with the intention that the tagline delivers the message the advertisement is trying to promote. Bearing this is mind, I wonder if the recent spate of MCYS advertisements serve their desired purpose?
Upon a closer inspection of the posters, it is evident that MCYS is on a recruitment drive for social workers and is trying to showcase the rewarding nature of the job (http://www.ncss.gov.sg/Career/socialworker.asp). There is nothing wrong with that intention per se and every recruitment advertisement would try to publicise the positive side of the job to attract applicants. However, do these advertisements hit the nail on the head?
Social workers play a very meaningful role in society and I am in no way downplaying their significant contributions but I wonder if the posters could have used more appropriate taglines?
In any given scenario whereby a particular individual is “helped” back into society, both the “helper” and the “helpee” play a role. While the social worker lends his or her much needed assistance, the assisted also strives to better himself or herself. It is a two way street and as the saying goes “it takes two hands to clap”. These posters seem to suggest that it is all down to the efforts of the social worker and negates the efforts made by the “aided” individual. Surely his or her efforts deserve some credit too?
Secondly, the posters seem to imply that if one is handicapped, in gangs, sick and elderly or abused, his or her life is hopeless, destroyed or ruined. Instead of making the handicapped or individuals who have fallen through the cracks feel more a part of society, this would only serve to make them feel even more apart.
I am aware that this is not the intention of the posters and that they are merely trying to highlight the fulfilling aspects of the job. But words such as “Hopeless” “Destroyed”, “Abandoned” or “Ruined” which are loudly splashed across the posters actually detract from the message they are trying to send. Instead of portraying the enriching experience of a social worker, it highlights the predicament of the handicapped or infirm. One might argue that these achieve the same ends but do the ends always justify the means? Besides, is there a need to focus on the wretchedness of one in order to promote the pros of another?
Might “Bringing Hope” not be a better phrase to “Hopeless”? While “Hopeless” sensationalises disability, “Bringing Hope” connotes the worthwhile nature of the job without riding roughshod over the “helped” person’s own efforts. It also does not assume that a person’s life is devoid of hope and meaning just because he or she is handicapped.
Phrases like “Building a Future” or “Building a community” are also more effective than “Life Ruined”, “Abandoned” or “Future Destroyed”. Not only do they accurately describe the positive role played by social workers but they also highlight the partnership between the social worker and the individual that is “aided”. After all, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.
While MCYS may not have intended it, these posters serve to fuel society’s prejudice towards the handicapped or people who have fallen through the cracks. Instead of positive encouragement, it has reinforced the idea that the handicapped or infirm are somewhat lacking and ought to be pitied. I am not at all suggesting that these individuals do not need help but our assistance should stem from a communal desire of mutual assistance rather than a need to help “objects of pity”.
Many disabled people or individuals on the fringes of society have managed to rebuild their lives and lead very meaningful existences. These posters negate the strength and resilience of those who have overcome adversity by portraying them as victims needing of society’s handouts.
Perhaps MCYS might use a more empowering choice of words next time.