The Ice Bucket Challenge

I could see it coming a mile off. All along my facebook feed I was watching it get closer and closer and then finally Goat nominated me.

The first time I saw it I didn’t like it, it was an American friend of a friend who’d challenged my friend and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. By the time it was making it’s way through my British friends I was pretty sure I was going to have to come up with a decision for either doing it or not.

Why didn’t I like it? I definitely didn’t like the notion that you either dumped a bucket of ice-water on your head or donated – whenever I do something stupid for charity I try to put some of my money where my mouth is.
But most people I saw were donating *and* getting cold for the privelege. That’s on a par with doing something crazy for charity really and I’ve done that a lot. I didn’t like the challenges, I didn’t like that people were being told to donate in public.

Actually, I didn’t like the public thing. Charity is about giving quietly, or it is in my mind – that’s kind of why I like sponsorship things – it gives people a chance to quietly donate whilst you’re taking the attention away by running or swimming or sitting in a bath of baked beans or whatever. When I ran the marathon so many people just quietly and annonymously gave so much. I don’t think that you need to give annonymously but that being seen to give shouldn’t be your motivation and some of the videos seemed more about being seen to be giving than actually about ALS. The other thing about the marathon was that it was a group thing, or it felt like that, wasn’t this about individuals donating money…or could you see it as a crowd-sourced charity event a bit like comic relief or something?

But everyone was talking about them, still is, so the raising awareness of ALS was happening. It seemed a little weird that people started donating to other charities but was it really? It was making people donate to their preferred charity (but they were announcing that they were doing it and they were publically telling others to do so). So you got a chance to join in and tell everyone which charity you agreed with. (See above for my conception of what charity is about, but all charities need people to be aware of them so that they can donate in the first place.) When I saw the videos I started reading up on Motor Neurone Disease, as did everybody else so I can’t say (as I’ve seen some people do) that it was raising some sort of empty awareness which is all about the pose.

Some friends of mine have said that by challenging people in public you’re putting them on the spot as they might not have the money. I think that it’s a bit more complex than that. For a start, most people I know would only challenge the friends that they believed would be financially able and would also enjoy the challenge (that’s why I was fairly sure I’d have to think about this one). However, being put on the spot, especially publically is horrendous for anyone with any sort of social or exposure anxiety and I am damned sure that not everyone with those things lets all of their friends know about the extent of them. Some people are going to be made to feel awful by accident.
Not only that, at least one person I know has chosen not to do this for health reasons and I know that people don’t know about the various health issues that their friends and relations have. But the challenge would be given in good faith, in trust and yet…still in public.

When it comes down to it, many of my objections; that it’s an empty action, that people haven’t found out about motor neurone disease, that they’re putting their friends on the spot – all these are me sitting in judgement on people I don’t know based upon how they come across on a video. I can see my friends aren’t doing that because I know them, but how dare I sit in judgement on strangers, certainly these are things I can avoid doing myself for my own challenge. I was quite relieved when I looked at the MNDA website to discover that the way they suggest doing the challenge is to raise awareness and doesn’t mention challenging specific friends in your video.

So ok, the other thing, that I do before I give to charity is to work out if I like what that charity raises money for. Motor Neurone Disease is a good thing to raise money for, they seem to genuinely put the money into the research rather than ridiculous percentages going to pay directors as in certain other charities I object to.
But then there’s the reason that The Princess found herself unable to give to them, animal testing. I can’t , in all conscience as a meat-eater, disagree with animal testing if it’s absolutely necessary. If it isn’t, then I do. So I read and read all the sides, and I couldn’t decide, especially since Edinburgh University had had such a leap forward, if it was unnecessary. This is where my decision had to admit that I don’t have the knowledge I’d need to really decide either way, so I decided to give to Animal Aid and MNDA.

I was always going to do something if I got challenged. Self sponsorship seemed good but I dropped the placing a video on facebook, it seemed to self-aggrandising to me. That part of it was designed to raise awareness and so I posted links, told people where to donate, because I don’t feel able to engage with it more than that, it’s a charity I’d sponsor someone else for having read up on it but not one that I feel passionately enough about myself. I don’t like the challenges, not in public, approaching someone for money, they can always say no – but cornering them in public just seems unpleasant.

Then, people seem to be argueing hard on both sides of this case, so rather than do it and leave it I felt like I had to explain myself. I’m not totally happy with any of this to be honest. But I did it, I gave money and I did it in a way that made sense to me.

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