The Bucket Challenge, Philosophically Parsed.

Someone came up with a criticism of the bucket challenge, based strictly on practical considerations. I have to ask: is there any actual reason to address this phenomenon in practical terms?

One could make the case–easily–that there can only be one simple reason for the way it took off, and that practical considerations are, at best, worthless.

I think it’s simply a case of typical human nature at work. Human nature doesn’t know about sensible, true, logical, consequences, or fairness. It just knows how to flow from one moment to the next.

That is how human culture operates, too, and there’s nothing on the horizon that will ever change it. We have the word “fad” because that is what “we” do. The best you can ever hope for, IMO, is more good fads than bad ones. If you are looking for efficiency, fairness, etc. etc.–forget about it.

It begins with us. We overestimate our own rationality (all of us; you can look it up). We expect that same over-estimated rationality from others, too, even from mobs and crowds and audiences. But those assemblages, even virtual ones, are far less rational than even our mostly irrational selves.

All that we can hope for is to get lucky, to support the charity that somehow hits the right chord, to be the politician than doesn’t look like one long enough to get elected, and so on. There is too much truth in the world, from the direction that the wind will blow at 10am to the percentage of incoming gifts that get used for administrative overhead by a charity to the deep feeling of a mostly corrupt politician to the varieties of frozen peas, the places where coffee comes from, good or bad. And not only is there too much truth; the truth is overwhelmed by lies for no other reason than lies are cheap and common and easy. After all, who can check them? There’s too much truth to ever know it.

If you want change, you can’t make it happen deterministically. You have to have some hope, you have to be willing to hitch yourself to the bandwagon when it comes anywhere near, even if it has three wheels and a ugly flag.

Mixing my metaphors, culture comes in on the tide and is about as controllable. (cf. anyone trying to empty the ocean with a bucket.) However you see it, someone else sees it else-wise. Wisdom is little more than knowing how to steer your boat when the tide comes in heavy; standing against is…well, it’s a lesson, that’s all.

Enough philosophizing; back to the problem. The internet is like flatland: it destroys perspective. It sucks up the fizz oozing out of many people and sprays it around. The internet gives us one way to look at that phenomenon, but that flavor of crazy’s been around forever. 

It has always taken courage to be straight with people in the face of that chaos. We can’t make scared, fearful people more courageous; they have to do that themselves. (And they have no idea what a drag they are.) 

Comes a war, or poverty, and more people start to learn what those who are already fighting, already struggling to make ends meet know: life rewards courage far more than it rewards self indulgence. <sighs> Do we have to go back to that level of suffering to find it out all over again? Is that the only beat of the human cultural heart, misery and redemption?

No, that’s not the only heartbeat that we can share. We also can toss water on our heads, volunteer to help others, and sing our goddamn heads off in unity and joy. You choose the cultural heartbeats that sync with your own. And you dance; is there anything better?

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