Despite the insane number of videos flooding my News Feed, I haven’t succumbed to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. (The physical-getting-drenched-with-freezing-cold-liquid part, at least.) That puts me in a minority, what with laypeople and celebrities and Kermit the Frog having done the challenge already.
For one, I’m logistically unable to. My family doesn’t drink cold water at home, so we don’t have ice on hand. I find myself wondering how much ice people keep around their houses. About enough to chill water for this challenge, probably.
But mostly I wonder how we go from dumping cold water over our heads to curing a fatal disease, and I think a lot of us have been wondering the same thing.
It’s kind of ironic that not everyone partaking in this awareness campaign is actually aware of ALS as a condition. The Ice Bucket Challenge, first of all, simulates the paralysis and lack of mobility suffered by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients. ALS is also known as the motor neurone disease (MND), Charcot disease, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Basically, it attacks the nerves concerned with one’s muscles and thus inhibits movement. ALS gets especially dangerous when talking, swallowing, and breathing are hampered, so this disease often leads to paralysis and death. Furthermore, there is no concrete cause of ALS and no concrete treatment to reverse this condition that affects 1-2 out of every 100,000 people annually.
The Ice Bucket Challenge, therefore, also aims to raise funds for research and ALS patient services. Unfortunately, the rules of the challenge aren’t set in stone: one version says that donating to the ALS Association (ALSA) is only done in lieu of completing the cold water dare. Another emphasizes that a donation should be made either way. Actually, it’s the former option that makes this challenge not as lucrative as it could be. While funding for ALS has increased dramatically because of this, even more could have been contributed if everyone dousing water over themselves did so in addition to donating any sum at all.
When the challenge started gaining popularity here, most videos had no mention of the ALSA, no explanation of the cause, and therefore no connection to the supposed beneficiaries. A few days later, some people started condemning those who did just that.
“Useless calls for attention,” they said.
“Show-offs,” they said.
“Literally and figuratively trying to be cool,” they said.
Hence, newer videos usually included the ALSA website link. Others took it upon themselves to create instructional videos giving short descriptions of ALS. And that change should be appreciated. It’s a little step towards an increased social consciousness and more financial support for a previously underfunded yet valid cause. More importantly, that extra effort shows that ultimately, we are a generation of good intentions.
Nonetheless, we can’t deny that our good intentions can be swayed by holier-than-thou public opinion. Good intentions make some of us share those like-this-photo-if-you-want-Facebook-to-donate posts. Good intentions propelled the KONY 2012 video to YouTube’s top charts for some time; good intentions spurred us to change our profile pictures in the spirit of capturing Kony. Good intentions made us want to buy KONY 2012 ballers from a sketchy NGO so that we could “help” catch a child trafficker. And in those specific cases, what good did our intentions do exactly?
Zero. Zip. Zilch. Because we were uninformed in the first place about the legitimacy of the advocacies we were trying to promote.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge sheds light on how crucial it is to be aware of the impact of our actions. We know that donating and telling people about ALS matters more, but the gimmicky part of the challenge is what appeals to us the most. Uniting those two aspects is better if we want to entertain others in the process, but the original purpose of the challenge should always be kept in mind.
Plus, we shouldn’t need a viral phenomenon for us to start caring about a cause. Going to outreaches and visiting sick relatives are just as noble as ending human trafficking or fundraising for ALS. Perhaps we should do more than click buttons on a screen in order to improve society. If and when I ever change the world in any way, I hope to do some legwork for it, too.
** The research for this article is credited to Chelsea Lopez.