Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Backlash Against the Backlash

The only thing threatening to become more prevalent than the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on my Facebook newsfeed these days is the backlash against it. Perhaps I wouldn't be experiencing this personal backlash agains the backlash if I hadn't already been aghast at the hurtful responses to Robin William's suicide in recent weeks. It makes me want to get off Facebook for good. One person called people's "uproar" in response to William's death "alarming" in the scope of all the other mass tragedies happening around the world. Another said "we need to focus on what really matters here...not someone who didn't care to live." Is there not enough room for compassion in response to all tragedies?

Videos and links to articles abound in critique to the Ice Bucket Challenge, explaining why it is not simply annoying, it's detrimental to us. The reasons vary from the waste of clean drinking water, to skepticism about where the money raised actually goes, to promoting a culture of narcissism. As for narcissism, I don't think I'm alone in cringing at seeing myself on video looking like a drowned rodent. Thank you, mass media for instilling unrealistic body image ideals. But I'll endure the self humiliation for a good cause.

As for where the money raised goes, do some research instead of simply dismissing the cause when the question is raised. By all means, if you cannot donate in good conscience, then don't. Many large charitable organizations have some very well-paid executives at top levels. We live in a capitalistic society, governed by supply and demand, and people expect to be compensated in relation to the scope and responsibility of their positions. In regards to the methods of research, ALS Canada states on their website "We don’t support or have not supported any research with human embryos or human embryonic stem cells."

What constitutes wasting water? Is the use of water for this challenge less justifiable than watering our front lawns in the summer to keep them from looking ugly? Should we also wring our hands with guilt when we let our kids play at the spray park? Is showering every day really necessary? Given the phenomenal success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, of course there have been millions of litres of water used. But would any of that water have been diverted to people who really need it around the world? Probably not, and perhaps the Ice Bucket Challenge has actually provided the perfect opportunity to bring awareness to the need for clean drinking water. Why not add some information to your icy video about the need for clean drinking water around the world, and also donate to an organization that works to that end?

Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0. 

This popular article from MacLeans complains that ALS is neither the greatest need, nor the most urgent problem facing the world today. Further, the article argues, money given to ALS research will not have the greatest influence. I recognize that ALS does not affect as many people as diseases like cancer or heart disease, but our tendency to think about charity solely in terms of the rules of capitalism lacks, well, charity.


The rarity of a disease should move us to greater compassion for its sufferer, not cause us to dismiss it as undeserving of our efforts to eliminate it. In addition to the struggles associated with the disease itself, sufferers of rare medical conditions must deal with the frustration of not having answers. They face the loneliness of knowing that very few people understand what they are going through. ALS is a terribly unfair disease, and I doubt anyone who has experienced a loved one's suffering at the hands of this disease would classify the need for a cure as "not urgent."

The wild success of the Ice Bucket Challenge should excite and encourage us about the possibilities for people to open their hearts and their wallets for this and other causes, not divide us and move us to deride each other's attempts to do something good. Our hearts are moved by different things, which is part of the beauty of living in community. I'm not an animal lover, so the SPCA commercials featuring Sarah McLachlan's haunting voice don't stir me to hand over my credit card. But I'm glad that there are people whose hearts are soft toward little creatures. We all have finite resources, and of course we can't say yes to every request. But let's not be quick to judge those whose hearts are moved toward alleviating suffering in different directions than our own. Our world is home to all sorts of evil, which has seemed all the more evident in the events of this year: conflicts in the Ukraine and Russia, Israel and Palestine, and the terrorism of ISIS; the tragedy in Ferguson; Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped and still in captivity; a tragic suicide. Let's make room for all sorts of good in the world too, even if it involves a good laugh and dumping a bucket of ice water on your head.


Side Note: If you are going to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, please be careful! Google Ice Bucket Challenge fail for what not to do!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...