#neknominations have been big news in Ireland over the past week. Two people have died in stunts related to this social media craze. Even a judge in Northern Ireland has been caught up in the media storm. There’s much that could be said about drinking culture in Ireland. As a (youth) leader I am only too aware of how my actions (whether I like it or not) influence others and my responsibility as some sort of role model.
My initial reaction to some of it was righteous indignation and to be dismissive of people (some of my friends) who in my mind were being irresponsible. The red mist descended and I saw all the reasons (in my mind) why they were wrong/stupid and I was superior.
On Saturday I was at the justice and mercy themed Rubicon (which was excellent, stimulating and inspiring). I loved the mixture of presenters – a mother and daughter who run Rathmines women’s refuge, John who may well one day run Google, Graham from Solas Project (where my wife works), Shane Claiborne, a wonderfully diverse panel and a couple of Archbishops and many more.
Shane Claiborne told a wonderful story about creatively challenging unjust laws banning the feeding of the homeless in public. His church then held communion in the park which turned into a banquet (well pizza anyway) for all there (including many homeless people). As these church members and leaders were arrested the ridiculousness of the situation highlighted the injustice of the laws. Much in the way MLK did in the civil rights movement.
His line that we need to be creative in overcoming injustice stuck with me.
A day or two later it resurfaced in the whole neknomination thing.
I’m sure most of you may have seen this. Brent Lindeque changed the story. Without condemnation.
Which morphed into raknomination – instead of necking a pint instead carry out a random act of kindness.
My initial reaction was one of condemnation. Of red mist. Of listing all the reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. I imagine we all do it. It may be justified but it’s also lazy.
What chance did my approach have of convincing someone of the lack of merit of neknominations? What was needed was a game changer. A positive alternative.
Too often I (and we as wider society) see things too starkly. We accept or reject. And there is a logjam.
If we want to see change in hearts, minds and on a larger scale in society often the best way is not to argue the opposite viewpoint, but to find a creative alternative that sneaks around the corner and blindsides us.
Change for the better requires the hard work of forming creative alternatives.
[Up next a few friends who came up with a creative way to highlight the ethics behind the garment industry]