So I was nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
In this age, it’s important to keep an altruistic stance towards others. From what I have gathered, the Challenge sparked an increase in donations well over $ 100 million world wide towards the goal of funding ALS research. With that, we can call the Challenge an explicit success in activating a large group in contributing towards a specific goal.
However, I can’t be blind towards some of the criticisms that have been raised against the Challenge. Despite it’s success, the Challenge is not necessarily the most effective display of altruism.
Over these past few weeks, I’ve seen countless videos of close and distant friends, strangers, even the odd co-worker. In a lot of those films, the original message is omitted or often just implied. Pouring ice water over yourself and calling out to others is only part of the Challenge. In fact, the ice water should just be the trigger that prompts you to take action towards the goal. Explicitly stating why you would do this and calling upon others to make a donation is equally as important. Without it, the act loses a lot of it’s value and even runs the risk of appearing more or less self congratulatory.
ALS really affects patients and their loved ones. It’s a horrible disease which wreaks havoc in young people’s lives. However, ALS research is only one of many important endeavours towards making our lives better for ourselves and our children. Therefore, I feel that by participating in this challenge, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to a single goal. If anything, we should take the opportunity to grasp the attention of the many and raise collective awareness not only for ALS research, but also for the countless of – even more pressuring – causes out there.
Having said that, I still want to appeal to the original message of the Challenge and actively contribute towards a cause.
Personally, I feel very strongly about human rights and in particular: freedom of speech, privacy and free access to knowledge. While modern technology has made it appear that these rights are becoming an integral part of our DNA, the truth is that even today, fierce battles are still waged over these rights. We should not assume that these are rights are commonplace, let alone should be taken for granted in our western world.
The reality is that we have increasingly become dependent on modern technology to connect with others, share information, publish our thoughts and our concerns. Never before has it been so easy to make one’s voice heard and gather such large audiences. Large for-profit organisations who’ve been in control of these channels, feel increasingly threatened by this evolution. As commercial interests come under pressure, they are waging a complicated yet subtle war against those rights on battlegrounds known as, but not exclusively, SOPA, Net Neutrality and data retention. Those who did not have a voice in the past, such as independent artists, authors, civil journalists and others, are now in danger of losing that voice again.
That’s why I’ve decided to make a donation to these two non-profit organisations: Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends our rights in a digital world, and Amnesty International, which fights for human rights in our ‘real’ world.
As proof, I’ve added screenshots of both donations below.
I am not inclined to nominate anyone at this point, but whoever reads this blogpost, please feel free to choose a cause that you feel strong about – ALS research, cancer research, human rights activism, a local organisation,… – and make a donation. Or write a blogpost. Or volunteer. Or reach out in anyway possible that might foster that cause.