For the past week, my Facebook and Twitter timeline, and I suspect that of many others as well, has been filled with videos of people dumping ice water on themselves as part of a movement to raise awareness for ALS, also known as the Lou Gehrig’s disease: the #IceBucketChallenge. People all over the world, celebrities and non-celebrities, have been willingly soaking themselves in ice-cold water for the sake of this movement (thank god for them this became “a thing” in Summer). And just as any other popular movement, it has drawn as much criticism as praise; the main argument for the former being that it is a waste of water, a precious resource, which, among other people, “many Africans lack” and that could have been put to better use, like “saving poor African children”.
Yes, there is no denying that pouring bucket loads of water on yourself is, technically and literally, a waste. But no, I do not think that constitutes a valid argument to disregard the cause or the movement.
Sure, in an ideal world, people would donate money to fund better research in ALS without the Ice Bucket Challenge and hence without wasting away gallons of water. Unfortunately, in reality, let’s face it, we are preoccupied with our own little lives and our own little problems to really care for others’. In reality, there are just too many causes to support, from animal rights to proper health care, to even notice something like ALS unless we are personally involved in it some way or the other. Organizations that work based on donations know this too well. They have to focus their marketing strategies to not only raise awareness but also to make people believe in their humanity and goodness to proudly pull out 10 dollars out of their pocket so that they can later boast about it on their SNS platform. This may be a callous way to put it, but that’s what it is. If all of us were capable of caring and actively contributing to the improvement of all the problems the world is facing without that extra push, the world would be a much better place. But we do need that extra push to be inspired and donate “out of the goodness in our hearts”.
The other part of the criticism I am very much uncomfortable with is that tendency of ours to always brandish images of “dying African children” for anything, really.
This picture has been circulating quite a lot among my FB acquaintances.
Whether it’s the death of a respectable man such as Steve Jobs (I have to admit, I’m guilty of this one) or the fact that more than 5,600 people are newly diagnosed with ALS every year
, we always hear someone say “Yeah, but you know, hundreds of children in Africa are dying everyday.” I’m not denying that people are dying in Africa or that we should care less about them. But please, don’t strip “African children” of their dignity by making them the “go-to criticism” for everything. They deserve a little bit more respect than that. And frankly, regardless of your intentions, that’s quite a racist move.
Furthermore, why doesn’t Anthony Carbajal deserve our attention and empathy as much as any other “African child”?
What allows us to judge that one’s suffering is more worthy of our care than another’s? Are we so limited in our capacity to be concerned for others that we have to choose one over and in the expense of the other? Would it kill us to care for both? And before you voice any criticism, did you actually donate money to either cause?
It’s important and necessary that we should have a critical eye and ask questions first before accepting facts as they are. I am very much for that. But there’s a fine line between being critical and being, simply put, a hater. Let’s make sure that there is enough humanity and empathy left in us not to cross that line.
After all, the initial challenge of either dumping ice water on yourself OR donating 100 dollars to ALSA doesn’t seem to hold anymore. People do the Ice Bucket Challenge AND donate money.
The ALS community, like any other, deserves our attention for at least the span of a month or two. Believe me, not to be a cynic, but people will have moved on to another worthy cause by the end of next month.
And if what I’ve said is still not reason enough to support #ALSIceBucketChallenge, well… I’m sure you’ll be a big enough person to donate money to the association sans water and sans SNS recognition.
Plus I still think these videos are quite enjoyable.