I have been reluctant to write this because I don’t like to come across as a wet blanket and because, in principle, charity fundraising is something to be admired.
However, the more I see videos of those taking up the ice bucket challenge the less it seems to be about the charity and the more it seems like another way for some people to make it about “me, me, me”. I have always thought that charity is something you should do on the quiet, without drawing attention to yourself too much, but keeping the focus on the cause instead. Obviously, with so many causes competing for donations, one has to promote the charity of one’s choice and it is always a challenge to come up with innovative ways to generate publicity and media attention. But, just like the “no make up selfie” and other charity-related PR stunts which have taken the social media by storm, somewhere along the way it stops being about the disease or illness for which funds are being raised, but ends up becoming more of a “look how attractive I look” sort of exhibitionism. In this case, it started looking too much like a wet T-shirt contest.
And anyway, wasn’t the original challenge supposed to be, you either donate $100 or you throw a bucket full of icy water over your head? I think Patrick Stewart made this point eloquently in his video.
There was something else which has been niggling away at me and I have finally figured out what it is. It seems to me that there’s a kind of undeclared competition right now to see who gets nominated by others, as if even by the sheer dint of the nomination one is being given a nod of public recognition and “glory”. Because, of course, the whole point of the challenge is that all the nominations are made publicly. This also brings with it an unpleasant side-effect: the “shaming” of anyone who doesn’t go through with it. But what if someone would prefer to donate without a lot of fanfare, without making a video or without almost being bullied into it? And have you noticed that even the nominations themselves have taken a snide little turn with those who are “sworn enemies” slyly nominating each other?
So while I can understand that the element of fun in the ice bucket challenge is precisely what has caught the public’s attention, and hence, the creation of more awareness about a little-known disease (ALS*), something about the way it has spiraled into something else entirely is disquieting. Maybe it has something to do with our obsession with posting photos and videos of ourselves in our most private moments in a very public way which would have been unheard of in the prehistoric pre-Facebook days. To each his own of course; mine is just an observation. But it has definitely given a new meaning to why we do what we do, and the real motive behind it, even if it is ostensibly for charity. Celebrities and brand names have jumped at the chance for the publicity, as have, inevitably, our politicians.
And this is where the ice bucket challenge has really hit the pits, because as soon as you throw politicians into the mix (no matter how well-meaning their intentions are), you will have the predictable and incredibly tedious political fanatics crawling out of the woodwork to turn this into yet another reason to bicker. These kind of people manage to take even the most worthy cause and turn into something twisted. Too bad the cascading ice cubes did not knock some sense into their heads.
*ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a muscular degenerative disorder that affects the muscle neurons of the body. Eventually, it leads to paralysis, vital organ failure and, in some cases, death.