Tuesday, August 26, 2014

OPINION | Enough with this Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is perhaps the most viral campaign of 2014. The Challenge, which aims to raise funds and awareness for ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, started in North America around May of this year and has now invaded the Philippines.

As of writing, I am watching TV Patrol's "Mga Kwento ni Marc Logan" has just finished featuring who among the country's TV personalities have joined the campaign. Both Kapamilya, Kapuso, and Kapatid artists have done the challenge, including actors Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera, singer Lea Salonga, Black Eyed Peas frontman Apl.de.Ap., newsanchors Korina Sanchez and Noli De Castro, and even DILG Secretary Mar Roxas.

The challenge involves a dare to pour a bucket of iced water over someone and donate money, $10 to $100, to The ALS Association and other non-profit organizations advancing awareness and research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The disease, which also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, is characterized by muscle weakness due to motor neuron damage, leading to a patient's inability to move, speak, swallow, and perform other motor skills, or worse, may lead to death due to respiratory  Ever since the Challenge has gone viral, The ALS Association has doubled the donations it received to $41 million, from $19 million last year.

But the campaign is not without criticism.

Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Willard Foxton criticized the Challenge as a "middle-class, wet t-shirt contest for armchair slacktivists," noting that participants, most of which only wore swimsuits and Speedos only did it to look good while soaking wet.

Writing for SBS, William MacAskill, Vice-President of Giving What We Can, suggested that the challenge encouraged "moral licensing", meaning that some people might use taking part in the challenge to justify future unethical acts. He also proposed that by attracting donations for ALS, the challenge was "cannibalizing" potential donations that otherwise would have gone to other charities instead.

In the Philippines, The Apprentice Asia winner Jonathan Allen Yabut slammed the Challenge in Rappler as "normalizing a behavior in which the cool or the sexy must first take precedence before action," and encourage people to take a few minutes to talk about the disease to other people, other than just doing the Challenge.

Actor and comedian Joey De Leon, meanwhile, posted on his Instagram account a picture, wherein he is holding a sign that says "Don't nominate if you don't donate," noting that some of the participants are only doing the Challenge to look good, or merely for fun, but are not giving money to ALS charities. The same sentiments were earliers stated by stunt performer Steve-O.

For my part, I believe people shouldn't be "forced" to participate in the campaign, just because of its popularity and bandwagon effect.

Remember that Starbucks "Pay-It-Forward" campaign in Florida that was really sabotaged by a man who refused to having his coffee paid by the previous customer? The man, Peter Schorsch, declined, saying he felt the phenomenon was a marketing ploy for the company and no longer a spontaneous act of kindness when the barista asks the customer to pay it forward.

The same logic applies to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Yes. I recognize that ALS is a disease that requires much needed attention and funding. I recognize that more needs to be done to spread awareness on this disease. But so are other equally pressing matters like the Ebola virus, the Gaza-Israel War, the Syrian Civil War, the crisis in Ukraine, the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, or even local issues like PNoy's plans for term extension or corruption in government ranks.

We all have advocacies that are dear to us. If I choose to participate in a different advocacy other than the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, does that make me indifferent to the plight of ALS patients? 

I think we have a choice whether or not to participate in any advocacy.

Photo from Twitter/@RebelMouse

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