Muzzle Me Not

Avijit Roy is dead. The man who wrote passionately against violence, who championed secularism in a country that is becoming deeply conservative, who openly proclaimed his atheism despite his nationality, and who founded an online forum to promote respect and understanding has been taken away from the world. That his passing was brought about by an abhorrent act of violence, born out of hatred and ignorance, shows how valid his concerns were.

The world has taken notice this time and it is refreshing to see. There is a genuine concern of Western-centricism in the coverage due to the focus on his dual nationality, though the media should be commended for taking up the story in the first place. Credit where credit is due – the coverage has also mentioned the similarly brutal killing of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in 2013, instead of just focusing on the “American” victim of a hate crime in a developing world. The outcry has been immediate and universal. The hope is that there will be justice.

Yet, that hope has been dangled in front of us before. When Humayun Azad, another prominent writer, was attacked in 2004, we were told there would be a swift response. The seemingly agnostic academic had been an outspoken critic of Islamic fundamentalism and it was the same zealots whom he criticised who ended his life.

Haider was born a Muslim but became an atheist, which in itself can prove fatal in the often volatile arena of Bangladeshi society. His blog helped influence the mass Shahbag protests and, sadly, it was his justified remarks against extremism that signed his death warrant. As with Azad, the authorities put on a show of consoling his family while promising action.

Unlike the other two, Roy had never held any allegiance to Islam, whether the peaceful religion or the warped version that is far too often spouted these days. Born Hindu – the largest religious minority, increasingly facing violent discrimination – the self-identifying lived in the USA but returned to his homeland because of his love for its history and culture, having visited the annual national book fair at the time of his death. Protests erupted after his death, followed by more promises from the higher-ups.

The harsh reality is that the violence meted out to these outspoken individuals was quick, but justice has been painfully slow. The impunity with which these attacks take place is terrifying. The attack on Roy and his wife, who thankfully survived but was severely injured, took place at a popular cultural festival. It was a Thursday, the start of the Bangladeshi weekend, so it was definitely crowded.

Yet, no one has been able to identify the culprits, let alone identify them. Haider’s attackers remain anonymous. So too do Azad’s. It is almost certain that there are tens, if not hundreds, of victims in this same time period who have also gone unnoticed, killed because they dared to speak their minds.

This is a part of the world where security services and the legal system suffers equally from self-created ineptitude and systemic obstacles. So, it is difficult to say whether this inaction is meant to be silent approval by the status quo of the removal of these radical, humanist thinkers or a case of resources being stretched too thin, or a combination of both.

What is certain, however, is that we are being muzzled as much by the ineptitude of the authorities as by the murderers themselves. To face adversity when standing up for a just cause is expected. But to then not be supported by those who claim to be fighting for righteousness, just as we are, makes it far worse. Avijit Roy is dead. As much as I hate to say it, but the ideals and the freedoms he espoused might follow suit.

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Fearing boundaries

As promised, here is a look at the issue of immigration in the upcoming British elections, originally published as an op-ed for the Dhaka Tribune at http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2015/feb/15/fearing-boundaries

The upcoming UK general election brings with it the usual slew of new promises, public criticisms of opponents across the aisle, and a ramping up of electoral rhetoric.

In a country that is growing increasingly apathetic with its political system – the average voter turnout having fallen to the lower 60 percentage points compared to the low 80s and high 70s of the previous century – politicians are increasingly aware that every vote is vital for their party’s survival.

With the three major parties also becoming similar in their approaches to the main policy areas, despite their protestations, it also means that any area of contention is ripe for the picking. Immigration, a hot button topic five years ago, has therefore become one of the more evident battlefields for May 2015.

Parties on the right side of the spectrum are pursuing strong anti-immigration goals, while those on the left are promising greater protections for immigrant and minority communities.

This very noticeable divide is also seen in the debates regarding the economy and healthcare, but there is one key difference between these areas. Unlike issues such as unemployment or privatising the National Health Service, immigration is actually not a top priority for the average British voter.

National surveys by leading polling companies YouGov and Ipsos MORI indicate that more than half of the voting population think immigration has been given too much priority. On a national average, it does not even register as one of the top five issues.

Which then leads to a genuine consideration of why it is one of the three major areas of contention between the parties, and such a visible one at that. On one hand, perceptions of immigration are more contentious and easily skewed than other areas. A different Ipsos MORI poll found that most Britons think close to a quarter of the population consists of immigrants, with the popular image of a migrant being either South Asian or African.

They also believe that being from a non-EU country is more likely to make a citizen draw from the benefits programs and contribute less to the economy.

The reality, however, is that migrants only make up 9.4% of the British population. While India and Pakistan are among the top nations who contribute to UK immigration, Ireland actually has the highest number of immigrants in the UK, with Germany and the USA also in the top five, making the average migrant just as likely to be Caucasian as not.

Also, contrary to popular belief, immigrants are 45% less likely to draw benefits and 3% less likely to live in free council housing than the average Briton. Additionally, they contribute more taxes and are more likely to hold a university degree than a native citizen.

Parties are happy to exploit these misconceptions. UKIP and the conservatives are constantly framing their foreign policies with a narrative of the “imminent immigrant invasion,” though the latter are slightly more subtle about it.

Even Labour, who are tackling the negative economic impacts of immigration without resorting to fear-mongering, are not dispelling the myths surrounding it. By feeding off these irrational fears and targeting communities that are historically easy to make scapegoats of, the parties hope to get the crucial swing support of undecided voters.

These are the people who are less likely to be aware of the real statistics and, in an election that is far too close to call, they could prove the difference between government and opposition.

At the same time, the immigrant vote is also becoming more important. Of the current registered voters, 10% are not naturalised UK citizens. 70 of the 650 constituencies have enough immigrant voters to decisively determine the final result. Furthermore, there is now a new pilot scheme to allow eligible voters based in specific countries (including Bangladesh) to cast absentee ballots.

This means that immigration policies, while not a high priority across the nation, are likely to be a key issue for a substantial section of the electorate.

The immigration debate has come a long way from its early days. With the UK more multi-cultural than it has ever been before – despite the delusions regarding the actual extent – it is likely to remain one of the bigger topics of political discussion for several years, if not decades.

As far as the general election is concerned, it could make or break the parties’ successes.

Given the UK’s position as a world power, regardless of popularity, that still draws large numbers of immigrants from across the world, it is vital to see how voters respond to the rhetoric and how it will shape up after May.

Governing (for) the people

My second op-ed for the Dhaka Tribune, published a few weeks ago on the website at http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2015/jan/25/governing-people, written as an examination of election promises. Another article on immigration has since been printed, but I will post that after it has remained on the newspaper website for a few days.

January 20 in 1265 saw Britain introduce what was then a revolutionary step forward in world politics. For the first time in its history, a parliament was being held which was not called forward by the reigning monarch but was elected by the people to represent them at the highest level of government.

Known as the January Parliament, it set up the system that would eventually evolve into the House of Commons which, in turn, would shape parliamentary politics across the world via the British Empire and the Commonwealth.

Despite being an untested concept, early parliaments were surprisingly efficient in handling the affairs of the common man. Perhaps it was a result of the lack of other avenues available, but these sessions became a useful way for the average citizen to voice their grievances and even lead to practical solutions. How sad then that, 750 years on, this institution has lost touch with its roots, preferring to pay lip service to serious issues only during election years.

Five months from this momentous anniversary, members of the 66th modern UK Parliament will be voted into power in what is predicted to be a close race to the finish. In these uncertain times, parties across the board are scrambling to make promises that they are mostly unlikely to keep.

The Conservatives, the larger party of the current Coalition Government, have been working hard to woo voters on the right after the UK Independence Party stole their credentials with outrageous claims regarding immigration and race.

Hoping to win back some of that thunder, the Conservative platform has focused on maintaining the strength of the Armed Forces, tightening immigration and student visa legislation, a referendum on EU membership, and a host of surveillance laws to promote security at the expense of privacy and personal freedoms.

Their partners-in-crime, the Liberal Democrats, have been trying to distance themselves from the last five years, with a focus on mental health, child illiteracy and education – the latter being the golden bullet that got them the majority of the votes in 2010 and subsequently caused their downfall when they failed to deliver.

Labour, the opposition now after 13 years in power, has been attacking the Conservatives’ track record and promising to look at better healthcare for children, improvements in the National Health Service, a continuation of existing benefits schemes, and a commitment to stay in the EU.

All three major parties are also looking at the economy and whether it has made a full recovery since the recession earlier in the decade. Meanwhile, the smaller parties have been grabbing at growing concerns like Scottish devolution and environmentalism to try and get enough seats to gain more influence than they currently wield.

The problem with these seemingly well-planned campaign pitches is not that they are out of touch with the actual situation of the country but that these issues seem to be ignored unless it benefits the parties themselves.

Neglect and abuse in the mental health profession have been steadily highlighted for the past few years, including worrying reports that some facilities have been using physical violence and untrained workers to handle their patients. So too has the falling standard of the National Health Service and the challenges it faces with employing enough people to provide essential treatment.

Despite these blatant shortcomings – only two examples out of dozens more – politicians have done very little to actually tackle them when in power. Less than a tenth of the 650-strong House of Commons showed up to confer on schooling for Syrian refugees or knife crime prevention, but it was a full house when debating MP bonuses and corporate taxation.

Talking eloquently about the everyday problems of their constituents is all well and good, but it seems that only a handful of MP’s actually care about solving them.

Perhaps the system is to blame. UK electoral laws limit the range of funding available to the parties as well as preventing them from campaigning to the over-zealous degree seen in the USA or South Asia. As a result of these restrictions, it makes political sense to leave some issues unsolved in order to convince voters to return a group to power, while also focusing on the legislation that affects the most influential donors.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what is wrong with how things work. If the point of an election campaign is for a party to hold on to power, whatever the cost, then they serve no real purpose for the electorate.

Government should be to benefit the people, for every day of its five-year tenure, not just highlighting difficulties when it makes for good political capital. Perhaps the lessons of the January Parliament need to be relearned.

The strong arm of the law

My first op-ed written for the Dhaka Tribune, on the subject of police brutality. Please post any comments you might have on the newspaper’s website: http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2014/dec/23/strong-arm-law Thank you for your patience in waiting for my posts. I hope to be regular with them now, especially as I will have a fortnightly commitment with the Dhaka Tribune.

Rights are a difficult thing to consistently keep in the public eye. People have a way of championing the most honourable causes for weeks, only to give up when they realise the rest of the world has moved on. It is not entirely their fault.

After all, the only way to get others to pay attention is to talk about something recent. Racism was the hot topic for a while because of Ferguson and New York – and it still is for the people living there with its ramifications – but it lost traction in the UK the minute student protestors made headline news.

The possibility of a bigoted police force was no longer as terrifying as the reality of law enforcement officials lobbing CS gas at unarmed students and threatening them with conducted electrical weapons. This, in the same country which has still achieved no closure over the riots in 2011 which shut down the capital for the same reasons Ferguson became, and continues to be, a war zone.

What these two seemingly disparate movements are failing to bring attention to is the one common problem they share with each other and with various other parts of the world. While #ICantBreathe has become the rallying cry against racism and #CopsOffCampus for student rights, the underlying problem is that of police brutality.

The overarching narrative on both sides of the pond has been to focus on the individual tragedies of the events. The unprovoked shooting of a teenager, the strangling of an unarmed civilian, the image of a young student with bloated eyes while struggling to breathe – these are the stories that garner attention.

In order to stay relevant, campaigns are forced to highlight such specifics at the cost of a wider debate. The events of 2014 have allowed us to more openly challenge racial discrimination and student assault by law enforcement agencies but, by choosing to not look at the larger issue of police violence, we have allowed the state to quietly implement policies that could prove far more damaging in the long run.

Consider the use of weaponry in the UK. British police are consistently compared favourably to their transatlantic partners in crime due to the restraints placed on firearms. Unfortunately, that does not by any means ensure a lack of lethal force. The decision by the current government and the mayor of London allowing the use of water cannons to help protect the peace is the most glaring example of this increasing recklessness on the part of the authorities. They might not fire live ammunition, but these guns are capable of causing severe injuries, particularly to vulnerable organs like the eyes. Yet, these same machines are now valid responses to protests and rallies.

The situation across the pond is much worse. The numerous shootings of alleged suspects have already highlighted the problem of excessive arms usage but, instead of taking steps to correct these oversights in favour of more balanced measures, the official response has been to ramp up the pressure. Even as individual officers are escaping punishment, their colleagues are being ordered to take to the streets in armoured vehicles.

Protestors in Ferguson are making do with handmade gasmasks and helmets, while the police are arriving in full riot gear and army-grade hardware. Never mind the fact that the UN Committee Against Torture has openly condemned such tactics.

British and American law enforcement agencies are increasingly moving away from their role of protecting the people, and the state is sanctioning them to take steps that are disproportionately violent and brutal. This is even more worrying given that these are the nations the developing world learns its lessons from.

Their police forces provide technical expertise and training to many African and Asian nations, including Bangladesh, while their government policies are the gold standard to which we strive. Unfortunately, this opens the door for authorities in countries that already have problems of corruption and discriminatory practices to oppress and exploit civilians even further. We might not openly acknowledge Boris Johnson or Jay Nixon, but their decisions affect us all the same.

In an ideal world, the law and law enforcement agencies are not beholden to the state. Their duty is to protect the citizenry, not the regime. Unfortunately, the reality is that the state is now openly directing its officials to exert progressively cruel methods against the populace. It would be wrong to suggest that different types of discrimination do not feed into this system.

Indeed, it is our duty to fight against any infringement on human rights in whatever way we can. That being said, it would also be remiss to ignore the bigger picture. With authorities clearly sanctioning police brutality, we have entered a more dangerous world. We need to challenge these measures and make it safe again.

It’s a Trap!

I know I promised a blog series on some of the issues facing Bangladesh at the moment, but I felt that I had to address Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi’s shared Nobel Peace Prize win first. I have seen a lot of posts on social media about whether the recipients deserve the prize or not, including one of my own where I suggested Malala at least has not done enough yet. I have also seen several decrying the political nature of the prize, which is hardly news given some of the previous winners (like Kissinger, Obama and the EU) and some notable absentees (like Gandhi, U Thant, Nusseibeh and Dorothy Day, and the obvious snubbing of Snowden and Manning this year). These topics will continue to raise debate and, frankly, are too subjective for me to adequately address in just one post, if at all.

What I wish to talk about is how the Nobel Peace Prize can be detrimental to the efforts of the honourees and how I really hope that Malala and Satyarthi do not suffer the same fate. Receiving this accolade is undoubtedly the highest point in anyone’s career and the prestige it affords should not be ignored. However, the concern I have is that being a Nobel Laureate has, in the past few years, become a badge of completion of the beneficiaries’ causes. Since the award is not given posthumously and since it comes with a sizeable monetary prize, one would think that the notion is to promote a worthy movement and support its growth. Despite this, recent winners of the Peace Prize have often failed to continue their work.

Al Gore has virtually disappeared off the face of the Earth he has tried so hard to protect. If one thinks of celebrity environmentalists now, the person that comes to mind the most is Leonardo Dicaprio, not the former Democratic presidential candidate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the win with him in 2007, has carried on its efforts, but he is no longer an active player in the movement. Given the recent climate change summit at the UN and the continued resistance to accepting global warming in the US Congress, it is not like his presence is no longer needed. If anything, the increasing scientific evidence in support of his cause, combined with events detrimental to it like the Tar Sands pipeline, should galvanise him to continue his work. He is probably the only individual who has both the credentials and the name recognition required to bring about the change that is required now, and it is a shame that his most significant decision since his win has been changing his diet to veganism in 2013.

Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank are Bangladesh’s only Nobel Laureates across all disciplines, winning in 2006. Recognised for their work in micro-credit, their victory was a historic day for the country, even with the flaws in the system that they worked to implement. The next step should have been utilising the money and the fame afforded by the victory to fix the problems faced by micro-credit, of which there are many, and I am not referring to cosmetic issues like the lack of men involved. Micro-credit had started as a means of allowing the poor to borrow collateral-free loans and break out of the traditional capitalist banking system but, for all its good intentions, it has spawned its own system of exploitation and loan sharks. Interest rates have skyrocketed and most borrowers are unable to break out of the system because they have no other means of income. Instead of tackling such destructive problems, however, Yunus, Grameen, and their supporters are quick to dismiss any criticisms, often using the Nobel Peace Prize as justification for their indifference. They have branched into other projects and have dabbled in party politics, with damaging results, but their micro-credit initiative has stagnated. Having volunteered there as an intern, I can attest to how many employees are happy to scoff at naysayers because “we have won a Nobel; what have they done?”

Laureates who are in the political sphere have fallen into the same trap. Obama, of course, is the most commonly cited example, with his drone strikes and continued use of Guantanamo chipping away at any integrity he has left. Others, like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman, the trio of women’s rights activists who won in 2011, have been unable to build on their work because people are no longer interested. Unlike the other Laureates I have mentioned, they have strived to continue their campaigns, but have not been able to gain any more traction since their win. Karman has continued with her activism, being particularly vocal during the Arab Spring, but is no longer part of the conversation on women’s rights. Sirleaf has had to cut down on her commitments in order to continue her presidential tenure unchallenged. And Gbowee has struggled to deal with the pressures of superficial fame, choosing to take a break from her work because rights groups in Africa either want to use her as an ineffective mascot or ignore her because she has achieved more than them. It would seem that awarding the Nobel is as much a means of saying “thank you, now please shut up” as it is of encouraging humanitarianism.

Together, Malala and Satyarthi have been working for the improvement of children’s rights in a region where it is often forgotten. Malala’s shooting is well-known of course, but it is important to remember that her father had been working for girls’ education for much longer and she herself had been advocate for the cause for several years beforehand. Satyarthi’s quiet involvement to end children’s trafficking has gained less attention but has perhaps had more of an impact in real terms. They not only represent two belligerent nations, they also represent two completely different generations who are fighting the good fight in an arena that goes unnoticed most of the time. My sincere hope is that they break the trend we have seen in recent years by pushing ahead with their causes and by refusing to let others shut them down. By combining their resources and their newfound fame, they can create a genuine platform for children’s rights that can influence policy across the region with the support of international organisations and governments alike. As cliched as it might sound, they actually have the potential to make a difference. If they are able to do so, we can finally say that the Nobel Peace Prize means something again, if it ever did in the first place.

Aspirations of the Wrong Kind

The talk around town at the moment is how our esteemed Prime Minister, herself a woman, is planning on appointing another woman as the next Chief Justice. The Speaker of the House and the Leader of the Opposition are also women, as are a few recently appointed Vice Chancellors of public universities, and the rumoured Chief Justice move will mean that several key positions will be held by the fairer sex. If these rumours are to be believed – and they come from several reliable sources – this move is aimed more at earning bragging rights over the West than it is towards actually empowering women and achieving equality. Given the abysmal state of women’s rights at the moment, not to mention the notable lack of qualifications held by most of the women in these positions, it is hard not to believe that.

Having spent the last two years uninterrupted in the UK before returning home, one of the things that struck me the most in the first week of my return home is how blind people seem to be to the problems that Bangladesh faces. On the topic of women’s rights, the popular consensus seems to be that we have achieved complete equality because women are in visible positions. The hollow, cosmetic nature of these changes can be understood by taking a simple look at how the average woman is faring. Girls’ education has actually dropped in rural communities because people believe their daughters are assured top jobs (including 50 of the 350 seats in Parliament) due to an established quota system. Domestic abuse has shot up while the issue of marital rape, which is still not legally recognised in the country, is no longer on the national agenda. Then again, why should it be when a woman is speaking on our behalf at the United Nations?

This is not just a case of women’s rights however. Child labour, child marriage and infanticide are hardly reported on, the focus instead shifting to how some NGOs and charities have successfully taught slum children how to speak in English. Regardless of their intentions, the fact remains that the only change this has actually resulted in is that these boys and girls can now beg in two languages. Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ rights groups are yelling for visibility on TV shows and an eventual marriage amendment – both visible issues in the USA at the moment – forgetting the fact that homosexuality is still a criminal offence here. Some of these groups actually run the risk of getting their members arrested but are not able to recognise that the fight for decriminalisation is more important than getting a magazine about gay sex published.

On top of it all is the fact that we are not simply misreading the West either. Countries that have influence over our policies, like the USA and the UK, are happy to let us face genuine problems just so long as we are not creating issues for them. The recent obsession with IS has meant that the only type of religious extremism that gains any traction in the international media or in policy groups is the kind that leads to terrorist attacks on foreign soil. Never mind the fact that Hindu and Buddhist communities and holy sites have been attacked several times over the past few years. Or that many Hindus in Dhaka had to hide their identities during Durga Puja this year just so they could complete their worship unharmed.

To say that we shouldn’t aspire for an ideal society is wrong. The West, despite its advances, has not hit that pinnacle either. But in order to reach those heights, we need to understand where we currently stand. Following countries that have had centuries to develop and expecting to be in the same situation in 43 years is foolish. We need to solve our own problems first. Only then can we begin to look at what are still secondary issues for us.

I want to quickly add that I normally back up my pieces with more specific statistics and citations. In this case, I feel it would be better to address each of the issues separately; therefore, I will dedicate the next few posts on my blog to examining the problems I have outlined here, which, I hasten to add, in no way represent an exhaustive list of the problems faced by Bangladesh.

Charity and Change

The success of the ALS ice bucket challenge (or the MND ice bucket challenge if you are in the UK) has sparked a lot of interest regarding the role of social media in raising awareness and funds for charities. On the monetary front, it has been an unconditional success, as it has raised millions of dollars and pounds for the respective organisations. It has also led to a lot of debate regarding charities in general and has created off-shoots such as the rice bucket challenge to feed the homeless in South Asia and multiple clean water initiatives. What it has not been able to do, however, is initiate a lasting culture of change and support that would really help charitable causes. Nor has it been able to create a long-term commitment to tackling the problem it championed, instead amassing a gigantic fund in one go that, in reality, might not make much difference.

First of all, it needs to be noted that the majority of people who donated with the challenge are those who are likely to donate to charities anyway. They might have decided to prioritise ALS (or any of its off-shoots) due to its current popularity, or they might have made an additional donation to it alongside causes they normally support anyway, but the ones who took time to spend money on the campaign are those who would not have needed convincing in the first place. A lot of other people simply wanted to dare their friends into drenching themselves and took advantage of that trend, evidenced by the large number of videos and accompanying texts that made no mention of the charitable nature of the campaign at all and instead only focused on the participant looking tough while getting doused in freezing water.

With regards to information, the challenge did raise awareness about the disease itself by talking about its causes and effects, but it did not place it within the larger context of rare and orphan diseases. This is, of course, no fault of the charities – their job is to focus on their own work – but there has been virtually no discussion about the actual prevalence and general pharmaceutical funding for the disease. This is not restricted to the ice bucket challenge either; the recent social media campaigns for types of cancer did not try and place the condition in any context. With cancer, that does not matter as much because it is already an issue discussed regularly in the mainstream.

With orphan diseases, that is not the case and it really needs to be. This is particularly problematic because, while the challenge has raised millions, very few participants actually know how much their contributions helped in practical terms. Not this should act as a means of discouraging such donations, but we need to be aware of whether this sort of spontaneous challenge is enough on its own. Common sense would suggest it is not, but common sense usually goes out the window when we are busy congratulating ourselves on a job well done.

Challenge-specific issues aside, the one key failure of mass social media campaigns is its short-term legacy. The ice bucket challenge has been a longer trend than other similar campaigns, which is excellent to see, but it is already winding down. We have donated; therefore, we have done our part. But the work of the charities are not over and the disease is far from being eradicated. Spontaneous campaigns need to be complemented with larger awareness campaigns that encourage long-term commitments by participants. Groups like Marie Curie Cancer Care and the Trevor Project, while similarly requiring donations, tend to prioritise recruiting volunteers because working directly with the organisations provides a deeper understanding of their situation and, therefore, is more likely to make us continue supporting them.

This lack of understanding is reflected by how very few people did not appreciate the difference between the US-based ALS Association and the UK-based MND Association, often donating to the one that was across the pond for them when they wanted to support the local initiative. It did not help that allegations of misusing funds were levelled at the US charity and that they tried to monopolise the ice bucket challenge so that other charities, like Macmillan Cancer Support, could not use it to raise their own funds. The latter attempt was dropped, thankfully. The former concern, meanwhile, was created by misinformation; the US charity did use a large portion of its funds to pay its employees but no CEO bonuses were cashed in using donations.

Unfortunately, when this sort of misinformation plagues such a rapid campaign, it can lead to a sudden drop in support when there is no larger understanding to help counter it. The fact that charities work differently in the US than they do in the UK also complicated matters further because UK donors thought that the MND Association worked in the same way and withheld their support for a while. Further obstacles, such as religious opposition based on how MND research involves stem-cell techniques or environmentalist concerns regarding animal testing, means that the necessarily short-term nature of such campaigns are eventually detrimental.

Charities require substantial support. Coming from a country where most good comes from NGO’s, but where a lot of these NGO’s then feel like they can do whatever they want as a result of that importance, I can appreciate the tricky balance that needs to be struck when handling such important issues. From experience, I can say that working with a group is the best way to assuage any concerns you might have regarding a particular group. Reading a few different Google results (from reliable sources of course) is a good alternative. At the end of the day, however, there needs to be a deeper understanding of how things work, even if it might not give us the chance to brag about helping out.

This post is by no means an attempt to prevent people from donating to the ice bucket challenge. Nor is it a ringing endorsement of the campaign.* All I ask is that whoever reads this understands that charitable organisations and their concerns are complex, and they take the time to find out about a cause they want to support.

*My humble suggestion is to try and support a local initiative. In my home country of Bangladesh, concerns like homelessness, clean drinking water for slums, labour rights, LGBTQ+ rights, healthcare and education, and food distribution, are just some concerns that regularly get overlooked, and it might be more beneficial to try and support a group tackling those instead of channelling finite resources into an already-burgeoning campaign.