Ice bucket meh

Dear Hipster:

I nominate you for an ice-bucket challenge!!!! Who will you challenge? You can do up to four.

— Mark

Meh. I’m already over it.

(For anybody living under a rock, Ice Bucket Challenge = viral internet fundraiser whereby people soak themselves in icy water to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and urge their friends and/or notable celebrities to donate money to the ALS Foundation. It is everywhere online, and a shocking number of people are catching heat for doing it wrong.)

I guess it’s cool that the weird insanity of Fire Challenge and Neknomination can be used for positive ends, and any excuse for Dave Grohl to do a bitchin’ Carrie parody is good enough for me, but hipsters aren’t big on “slacktivism” (the catchy term for internet-friendly activism requiring little real commitment). At our best, we prefer to make systemic changes in our lifestyles; whereby small benefits accrue, adding up to a theoretically greater good over the course of a lifetime. People may scoff at things like obsessively patronizing local businesses in favor of huge corporations, upcycling, and riding bikes instead of driving cars, but the peculiar social consciousness of the modern hipster aims to make positive changes in the hipster’s immediate locus, not in the amorphous greater world of problems. Of course, people being who they are, many hipsters are more into finding easy ways of appearing enlightened, without doing any of the heavy lifting that goes into making a real difference. I like to remember the visual by comedian Kelly Maclean, who paints the picture of a douchebag in a Prius (complete with “Namaste” sticker) nearly running a pregnant woman off the sidewalk in his haste to get wherever Prius-driving DBs have to go in a hurry.

I don’t want to come off as Hateful Harriet. It’s great that the ALS Foundation gets a big influx of cash. Of the foundation’s $24 million in fiscal year 2014 revenue, $7.2 million went directly to ALS research grants. So, of the ~$15 million raised as a result of the ice-bucket phenomenon, about $4,000,000 ought to make its way to similar grants. That chunk of change might fund the scientific breakthrough that cures Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a long shot, verging on impossible, but the chance is there.

All things being equal, I challenge Charlie Sheen, with his bucketful of $100 bills, to give his housekeeper a $1000 tip next week. And not tell anyone about it. Just do something nice for somebody, quietly.

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