Read Everything That Dunks Must Converge

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To their own devices: Pablo Larrain's 'The Club'

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The Most Honest Ice Bucket Challenge

August 19, 2014

Surprisingly, the most honest ice bucket challenge belongs to none other than Charlie Sheen, but not for the reason he cites: ice melts and money doesn't.


 

 No, the reason Charlie Sheen's ice bucket challenge is so honest is because it captures his tendency towards excess, which in turn reveals the structure of the challenge for what it really is: an exercise in excess that would and could only take place in a nation such as the United States. For all the good it's done, and continues to do, in raising awareness and research funds for combatting the debilitating disease ALS, as well as the good the challenge has done for several other charities and causes, the challenge can't help but flaunt First World excess. Or, as a former student of mine from El Salvador pointed out on Facebook, 'where I'm from people use cold water and buckets for showers, because we do not have hot water nor indoor plumbing to do otherwise.' This somewhat sarcastic, but still serious quote does not suggest the challenge has not done good in this world, or is somehow inherently bad, but that through its motives for good, as well as its staged structuring, it has also managed to expose just how strangely our world is also structured, in all its layers and levels of inequality.

It is unfair that people suffer from both debilitating diseases beyond their control, due to biology, as well as economic diseases beyond their control, due to geography. So let us do something about both. Participate in the ALS challenge as advised in this Slate article and just donate, or as a colleague of mine suggested donate to a Detroit family's water needs, or donate to any charity of your choice. Let us not assume, however, that everyone can give, nor let us shame one another into giving or not giving via online peer pressure.

And, if any of us still need video attention, then let us consider the unintentional transparency of Charlie Sheen and his bucket of money. He is, if nothing else, a grotesque reflection of our best and worst selves. And, moreover, the challenge--in both its successes and its failures--has revealed a complex marriage between goodwill and cynicism, breeding conversations, articles, and videos on what exactly it means to be charitable and for whom is the charity given. Give how you will. Or criticize how you will. Both seem to raise awareness for how we can all give in both appropriate and meaningful ways. (Since this post was originally published, I ran into Julia Belluz's article "The truth about the ice bucket challenge: Viral memes shouldn't dictate our charitable giving." It's definitely worth a look when considering to whom and how to give.)

Bryan Harvey can be followed on Twitter @LawnChairBoys and would love to hear about other opportunities for helping out. 

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