Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ice, ice baby!

A little while ago I was nominated for the ice bucket challenge by an old friend, which I have to say annoyed me a little. This is because I am a very grumpy old git. Although I do have reservations about people being pressured to be charitable or even pressured into freezing their tits off just because "everybody else is doing it", I can honestly say my main objection was more to do with me being just a miserable twat. Now having been nominated a second time, I felt the need to think about things a little further since, as well as being Mr Grumpy, I wanted to make sure I'd thought a few things through rationally, as various issues have been raised by this phenomena of late.
The question has been raised that is it ethically right to be 'wasting' water in this way when 3.4 million people die for lack of clean drinking water each year compared to the few thousand that ALS claim? Matt Damon raised much awareness of this issue by accepting the challenge but using toilet water rather than clean water on the grounds that our toilet water in the west is cleaner that a lot of the world's drinking water ( Link to article on Matt Damon's challenge ). Well done Matt, for managing to balance things here as he has managed to bring awareness that ice bucket challenge was causing controversy but in a positive way that raises awareness of a bigger issue without necessarily 'having a go' at those who have done this challenge with good motive. I found it somewhat ironic to see the above death stats quoted on pictures of people doing the challenge with comments like 'sick humanity' when if fact the person drenching themselves in freezing water is doing so in some small way for what is best in humanity - the act of charity. I have yet to see a video of anyone doing the challenge whilst yelling "ha ha, you Ethiopian peasants! Feeling thirsty?"
No, I think it's a worse part of humanity that is cynical about people's desire to give, than it is of a charitable person who might unintentionally be sending a wrong message.
If I do choose to pour a bucket of clean water over my head or not, here in Britain it is not going to make one iota of difference to anyone without access to drinking water elsewhere in the world. We are lucky in this country as plenty of water falls from the sky, and whereas we do waste that resource, this challenge is in no way a significant factor in that waste, so I honestly believe there is no call to be disparaging about those that do the challenge....just don't nominate anyone in the Sahara.
Peer Pressure.
One of my first gut reactions was that I object to feeling pressured into doing anything as then it ceases to be an act of charity, but more one of trying to fit in. Well, gut reactions cannot always be trusted, as after much thought I've reached the following conclusions:
if it helps save lives does it really matter if I am giving for a sense of charity or a sense of sociability?
Do I really hold my friends in such little regard that I think I will lose then if I just said 'no'? I have a hunch my friends are truer than that
At base emotional level, is there really any difference between the pressure of a nomination and the 'guilt' giving induced by the telly on each Red Nose Day?
Without that nomination, would any charitable giving increase? I.e. If I were not nominated, would I ignore that charity - answer - probably.
Is the challenge itself safe or sensible?
There are a few issues here. Firstly there are numerous cases of injury (metal bucket thrown I people's faces, dustbin's full of water being dropped on top of people rather than the contents tipped, etc.) and at least one death cause by doing this challenge, so is it right to perpetuate a potentially dangerous practice? Secondly, this follows a trend of challenges on social media, many of which have nothing to do with charity, and some are very dangerous (e.g. Salt and ice challenge!), so should we encourage this type of practice by adding the additional pressure of the 'it's for charity' guilt trip?
To answer the first point, well people do stupid things all the time, injure themselves and even kill themselves - no, we shouldn't encourage stupid reckless behaviour, but to be honest pouring a bucket of ice water over the head is really of very little actual risk. Those that try to go one better by having there friend upend a full wheelie bin from a first floor window on to them are likely to be due a Darwin Award at some point in their life anyway, so like everything in life, if you use a modicum of common sense, then I think the risks are minimal.
For the second point, these social media challenges are a fact of life now, and whereas I think everyone should not have to feel obligated to do dumb ass crap to feel accepted, at least the ice bucket challenge has overshadowed some of the more dangerous ones for a time. 
Only 27% of ALS donation actually go to research
Hmmm, this is a biggie for me as it's always hard to give money to charities that spend 6 figure salaries on their chairman (source not confirmed, it's just another of the comments circulating on Facebook), but 27%, does seem to be a very low figure to actually go to the intended cause.
OK, so I don't want to waste 73% of my donation, but just because I've been nominated for the ALS ice bucket does not mean I have to accept that charity? Will I feel like I've failed if I make it a MacMillan ice bucket challenge, or one for Oxfam or the North East Air Ambulance ? (NB currently I've no idea on donation percentages for these either at the moment). I see no issue at all with accepting the challenge but picking on a different charity to benefit - perhaps one that does work to provide clean water for people to drink?
So what am I going to do about my nominations? At the moment I am undecided, but I feel I have a little time yet to make a decision, as being holed up with flu at present, I'm certainly not going to be pouring ice cold water over myself in the very short term. But once I'm back to health, well, watch this space and find out how all this introspection panned out :)
Perhaps you might like to add comments  and two pennies worth on Facebook to help my decision - please keep them calm and polite :)

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