It's a challenge to remain charitable

You don’t have to be half-naked to take the ice bucket challenge

You don’t have to be half-naked to take the ice bucket challenge

First published in Columns Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Columnist

Ice bucket stunt leaves Rebecca wondering why people feel the need to show off online

We seem to be a generation of people who believe you have to do something stupid in order to do something good.

Take this Ice Bucket Challenge: a silly gimmick by which individuals make themselves feel momentarily better about their existence by dumping a bucket of – yes, you guessed it – ice cold water all over themselves.

Why ice cold water was chosen is anybody’s guess but the stunt has raised more than $50m for an American organisation, at least.

From this side of the Atlantic, it crept up slowly. A few smatterings of celeb dumpings online, random American friends taking over our Facebook feed. And then as more people were nominated by our US friends, it made its way to our shores. It’s the Ebola virus of the campaign world: the chink in our armour is not our immune systems after all, but our egos. Spreading slowly over the past two weeks before really gaining power you will now have endured countless Facebook posts and – ridiculously – you will have been subjected to news coverage of various celebrities ensuring they remain accepted by polite society by partaking in this.

I can’t help but cringe every time someone I know posts a status of themselves, half-naked and dancing around under a rain of ice water, all – supposedly – for a good cause.

And some of these people are my best friends.

These are reasonable, good people who I should not feel any animosity towards. So why do I?

On the surface, one should rejoice that so many people are selflessly giving to charity. If it were selfless. Remember, these people are nominated to undertake this by their buddies so would feel guilty – and what’s infinitely worse – feel ostracised by their peer group for failing to stand up to such a dare. Secondly, they receive attention for their good deed. As their video LIKES ramp up, I can just imagine their smug faces, leaning over their Sunday roasts safe in the knowledge this is a job well done while all around us the world is silently falling apart. Well, you may ask, does it matter whether they’re receiving attention or not, their act still raises money for charity? Indeed. The leader of Oxford-based organisation, Giving What We Can has indicated that the phenomena may well encourage “moral licensing”’.

Which is a bit like alcohol licensing in that you should require a licence to promote anything that promises to make someone feel better about themselves in the short-term, with no acknowledgement of the long-term fallouts.

It has been proposed that some people might use taking part in the challenge as a substitute for other charitable acts and that by attracting donations for ALS, the challenge is “cannibalizing” potential donations that would have gone to other charities.

Absolutely. I’ve nothing against Motor Neurone Disease – although UK donatees should be mindful of whether they’re donating to the Brit-based charity or the US one.

I appreciate that people half-think they’re doing a great thing. In some ways they are.

But it also smacks of ego-maniacal self-congratulating: a wet T-shirt competition for the masses to promote their goodness and their half-naked bodies and finally, somewhere waaaay down the list they vaguely remember to promote a cause.

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