How Morally Bankrupt Do You Have to Be to Criticize the #IceBucketChallenge

I’ve been doing some reading today thanks to TWO Ice Bucket challenges I received almost simultaneously last night. I accepted them both!

One of the first pieces I came across was, “Five myths about ALS.” It was very informative. For example, I had never even heard of the (incorrect) connection some make with lyme disease before.

My attention was also drawn to a linked piece in the LA Times, “A few (impolite) questions about the ice bucket challenge.” I read that one, too. I readily admit to have also wondered about the basic premise of that article which can be summed up as, “Are there more ‘deserving’ diseases?”

The award-winning, once disgraced, and later reinstated columnist, Michael Hiltzik, thinks the ice bucket challenge is a fad.

He claims that it will only make us feel good for now. He posits that it’s a way for us to feel like we’ve filled some sort of annual philanthropy “quota” in a painless way; “painless” as in when we use credit cards for holiday shopping and the card makes (a pittance of) a donation to a charity.

He goes on to say that, while the Ice Bucket Challenge is working at raising awareness and cash for a worthy cause, it’s also drawing money and attention away from diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes that afflict many, many more people.

Some of the online comments on his article echo that sentiment.

ALS Comment

Putting aside Kbalman’s seemingly envious explanation for not supporting this particular fundraiser, Hiltzik does make a logical argument if all one considers are concepts and principles like cost-benefit, return on investment, and the economic outcomes of The Ice Bucket Challenge.

As a self-proclaimed Conscientious Capitalist, I can see the case he’s making. I can even agree with the analysis and what he presents as outcomes.

But, I kept coming back to another thought.

I kept coming back to, “Christ, what kind of a dick do you have to be to begrudge ALS and the people afflicted by this terrible disease even if The Ice Bucket Challenge doesn’t make ‘economic sense’, is only a fad, and will turn out to be ‘last year’s thing’ next year?”

It’s not always about the numbers.

Sometimes – too infrequently nowadays, if you ask me – we should simply and joyously embrace doing the right thing regardless of the economics and the return on investment.

In addition to helping to fund the ALS Foundation, here’s what I’m hoping for as a result of this “fad.”

I’m hoping that it actually begins to change our minds, our values, and our belief systems. On the whole, we – meaning Americans, and especially a certain subset of Americans – have become way too selfish, way too narcissistic, and far, far, FAR too Objectivist in our thinking.

Maybe by pouring ice water over our heads we can begin to awaken to the possibilities for shaping and guiding our society toward being that “kinder and gentler nation” that President G.H.W. Bush extolled us to become.

Maybe as a result of this heightened awareness about this one horrible disease, one which I just learned we know far too little about and which is a death sentence to the afflicted, we can begin to become a more humane, more caring, and more social society.

Maybe we’ll start to see more and more “fads” of all kinds that inspire us and move us to do more to help all kinds of people all over the world.

Maybe, just maybe, The Great (I added that!) Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014 for ALS will, in some small but cumulative way over time, influence how we look at and think about lots of things.

Maybe we’ll think and act more on issues like….
….how we fund public education and public research,
….what changes are necessary to rein in Big Pharma and their control over our health sciences and our health care services, and most of all,
….what kind of world we want to bequeath to our kids and to future generations.

Yes, some decisions are and should be about cost-benefit and return on investment. I have no issue with that. There’s nothing wrong with making money. I just think the qualifier we often don’t add is, “How do you make that money?”

Contrary to what some believe, it is possible to make money without actually harming anyone or the planet. Capitalism doesn’t have to be a zero sum game where the only way I win is if you lose, and if I gobble up all the resources before you do.

Which brings me back to The Ice Bucket Challenge.

Why would anyone apply ONLY the cold and unblinking calculus of pure economics to fundraising efforts like this one?

We may not be pouring buckets of ice water over our heads next year, but so what?

Wouldn’t it be great if next year and in years to come more and more people abandoned their selfishness and their self-destructive belief in cold, heartless, and morally bankrupt ideologies and replaced them with support for people, policies, and ideologies (not always a bad word, btw) that strive to make life better for more people?

Not everything in life should be a for-profit venture driven by a cost-benefit analysis and an acceptable return on investment. I have every confidence that we – Americans and people all over the world – have plenty of room in our hearts and in our wallets to do more to help others than we’re doing today.

That’s an ideology that makes sense and makes us all better individuals.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. (Image and text from http://www.als-ny.org/index.php?page=about_als&sub=what_is)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. (Image and text from http://www.als-ny.org/index.php?page=about_als&sub=what_is)

 

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