Slacktivism VS Activism


I recently encountered the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, recently. I know, it’s the eighteenth of August as I write this, but it’s not really the type of thing that comes up on my feed.

A girl from my friends list posted a video. She was standing in a bikini, and stated her name and the name of the challenge. Then she listed three people, stated they had 24 hours, and then someone dumped a bucket of ice water on her head while she screamed and jumped about.

I asked her what it was for. She was stunned I didn’t know what it was. When I pushed for information, apparently I was told that it was to raise awareness for something called ALS. And when I asked what ALS was, I was criticized for not “Googling” it.

(Note: Upon looking into it, I found ALS was Lou Gerhig’s disease. A disease that everyone was aware of until the recent trend of dubbing everything with a goddamned acronym.)

Now, there’s two types of people. The people that think I’m trying to suck the joy out of everything and think I should have Googled it, and the type of people that immediately caught the main problem.

If you are going to do something to raise awareness for something, you should make people aware what you’re trying to make them aware of. And if they don’t know, you should have that information at the ready because when you do something like this, you are now a voluntary advocate and you should do as much.

The other issue is when I tried to understand why this was happened. I couldn’t think of how a bucket of ice water correlated to Lou Gerhig’s disease so I researched the symptoms of said disease. I found that two symptoms are muscle cramps and spasms. You know, like the kind you get when you’re cold. So I asked, “so, the effects of the cold water are supposed to simulate the effects of the disease?”

That did not go so well. Apparently it is not and it is a bucket of water for the sake of a bucket of water.

So, I went and researched the ice bucket challenge myself and found that, apparently, if challenged, you’re supposed to donate money within 24 hours. If you don’t, you’re supposed to post a video of yourself getting a bucket of ice water dumped on your head.

Let’s roleplay.

Say you have Lou Gerhig’s disease. I’m sorry, but in this scenario you do and I feel bad for you for having it. Now, the research to help cure it needs money. You ask me to donate. So, I say, “listen, I don’t really want to donate money. I just got a Wii U and/or these pants. BUT, let me show you what I’d RATHER do instead of donating money. Then some guy wearing ADIDAS flip-flops (because for some reason everyone has them in these videos) shows up and dumps an ice cold water over my head.

So, now that I showed you what I’d rather do than help. It gets worse. My video gets circulated. People start praising me for my efforts. Saying that by posting a video in which I don’t mention a single disease, I’m helping raise awareness for…you know…whatever that thing is that people have.

How do you feel now?

This is what the situation is like. This is like if you were being mugged, and I ran up, put my arm around you and took a selfie. That’s what this is.

And you can say, “Oh! It helped raise money though!” Yeah. It did do that. I won’t deny that it did. But at the same time, when did we get to this point where we have to be paraded around as a hero to donate money? When did we start doing this thing where, “we’re going to shut down several city blocks so we can run through it and supposed people with X disorder!”

Like it always does, it takes me back to an episode of Mr. Show. In it, the stars, Bob and David are having a dispute over which one of them does more for charity. At some point, Bob Odenkirk comes up to David Cross and said, “Charity is when you do something for other people while other people are watching.”

He says it at the 1:50 mark:

But that’s honestly what it feels like. There’s a guy on Detroit Road in Cleveland by where I get coffee and do my homework every now and then. I’ll give him a few bucks from time to time and the other night, I bought him a slice of pizza. I was talking to him and he said, “You know what’s weird, man? I get this where a dude comes up and gives me a dollar. But he won’t just gimme a dollar. He’ll take the dollar, in one hand and put that arm around me. With his other arm, he’ll take a picture of the both of us so he can put that shit up online like he just cured homelessness. It happens like ten times a week, different people, same picture. There’s gotta be thousands of pictures of me by now. These kids have more pictures of me than my fucking parents did.”

I’m just going to say this. My wife reads my blogs from time to time. She does. And I bet you when she reads the paragraph above, this will be the first time she’s ever heard of the homeless guy. You know why? Because we don’t need to make a production about helping people. Sure, it makes you feel good about yourself, but you know what? To some of the people you’re helping? Sometimes it’s embarrassing.

Sure. Some people are thankful for the help. But there’s a lot of people out there that just need help. The need help now and not by a bunch of people running down the road. And yes, I know those runs raise money. But why do we need to do that? We should be running because it’s healthy and we should be helping people without bread and circuses.

We shouldn’t need to have a bunch of people donating only because some other people are jumping through hoops and keeping us entertained. The money these events run, don’t say “I donated to help this cause.” It says, “I paid money to see a show.” The person who collects the money? That person is giving it to charity. Usually after taking a considerable cut for themselves, you know, because people running is expensive and giant, self congratulating number sheets for people to wear isn’t free.

So, in honor of this blog I’m issuing a new challenge. And in it, I nominate all of you. You have however many hours to do this. Do something good. Do something for someone out there. Find a GoFundMe account in which an individual is struggling, for example. Find someone that needs help and help them. And when you’re done, don’t post anything about it. Or, if it’s something online, post it, to share the cause and hope other people donate, but don’t start it with “I DONATED!”. Instead, explain why this cause is important to you.

Do it now and for fuck’s sake, stop dumping buckets of water on the ground while a good chunk of the planet is going without water.


2 thoughts on “Slacktivism VS Activism

  1. Interesting post and I’m inclined to agree with you that a lot of people are oblivious about the cause and partake in the challenge simply for the novelty of it. However, vacuity aside although a fair few of us do give generously, on the whole most of us need to be motivated and inspired to do so. In other words, do you think the money given is less worthy because the person isn’t engaged in the cause enough? Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this!

    • I believe it’s a double edged sword. One on hand, it’s a good thing because, well…the cause has money, right? But at the same time, on the other side of the aforementioned sword, it’s teaching the younger generation of people (mostly the thousands of teens that took part of this that had no income and couldn’t have possibly donated) that as long as they do a silly video, they’ve contributed and can count themselves as part of a movement. That sort of thinking can carry over into their adulthood.

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