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Today I had the opportunity to meet with and speak to Brent Lindeque, the South African man who said NO to NekNominate and changed the rules of the game entirely. Whilst the Russian government has been under the spotlight for promoting the evils of the LGBTQ community and our aim to destroy humanity and morals, Brent, a gay man, is saving lives. He chose to help a homeless man rather than down a pint and has started a new hashtag all together #ChangeOneThing.
Vada: Thank you for taking the chance to speak with me today, firstly; why did you do it, why didn’t you simply refuse?
It was simple to me… if I refused to do something then I had done nothing meaningful. If I rather decided to do something better with the nomination, then I had the ability to help a few less fortunate than me. it had to catch… even if it was just in my circle of friends.
Was your idea to turn the neknomination on its head something pre-planned or a spontaneous spur-of-the-moment act?
When I heard about the Neknominations, my biggest thought was that suddenly people were posting videos online of themselves downing drinks in the most pointless, embarrassing ways – leaving them in a space where anyone and everyone could access and see them. So when I got my nomination, I knew I had to do something different, something that actually meant something.
Why do you think the neknomination phenomenon has become such?
I think its like a chain letter… except its online and if you do not complete your nomination, everyone in your circle of friends will know. Its alcohol, mixed with ego and a little peer pressure like a pyramid-scheme for drinking. It was bound to spread quite quickly online.
What’s your view on increased level of alcoholism amongst minors and who do you think is to blame for the prevalence of this amongst the modern day youth?
Alcohol use among our youth is incredibly common. There is also a tendency to more harmful binge drinking. I believe the reasons for use and misuse of alcohol include peer pressure and a desire to fit in, poor home environments and ignorance of the harmfulness of alcohol abuse. Alcohol in SA is also relative cheap and is easily purchased from bottle stores, supermarkets, bars and shebeens and other unlicensed liquor outlets, which outnumber licensed ones, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
Two deaths are believed to be due to neknomination activities and most recently a man jumped off a bridge as part of the craze, when do you think the madness will stop?
The stories of people dying from the “NekNomination” game are incredibly heart-breaking… but even with pleas from their families, the drinking trend is still very prevalent. I think the only way to stop the trend is to change it and judging the #ChangeOneThing videos, its certainly on its way. There are still people having a drink once they’ve done their deeds, but the focus is out-doing the good deed, there-by earning a drink.
What would you suggest as alternatives to downing a pint?
Doing something amazing. Perform a random act of kindness… film that and then nominate 2 friends to do the same. You could pay for someone’s lunch or give away old clothing to charity or even just spend some time in a children’s hospital. The list is of good deeds in endless.
Do you think there is enough protection on the internet against dangerous content? How can we change this?
I don’t think the solution is to protect “bad content” – even with the protection around different types of content… it’s still there and it will still be found. I think the challenge is education and teaching children the difference between right and wrong, giving them the informed decision on what they would want to let into their online space.
Whilst your ChangeOneThing campaign is very good at heart, do you it fear it possible spurring on vigilantism?
Not at all… its not about being a vigilante. It’s about caring for your neighbour. We have a huge portion of our population who are living in poverty and the reaction from individuals has been small but so meaningful while corporates have taken to giving back to charity and assisting in the community in a massive way.
Do you think we could use the power that social media has clearly expressed for a better cause and perhaps make a change for the better?
Yes, definitely. In the past couple of months, people have moved to sharing content that is more “feel good”. It’s like social networks are becoming the “good news” network instead of just news.
Why do you think such negative “veld”-fires spread faster than those for the good?
The original #NekNominations spread the way they did due to the entertainment value… it was like a realtime version of “Jackass” that involved your friends. Most bad things do spread faster because it seems to be more interesting and fires something up in people. This kind of news tends to make them want to broadcast their opinions and feelings about the matter.
How do you, as a gay man, plan to show solidarity in the fight against Russia’s anti-gay laws?
I am committed to fighting for inclusion and ending discrimination against all people. I do that in my daily choices. I do not support any of the 86-odd countries that are against the LGBT community. I don’t support their products or services and share any and all news regarding what is happening over there. I sign the petitions and make my voice heard.
There are many foundations and individuals that are doing great things for the LGBT community to change the way the world treat us and the only way we can get involved is by educating everyone (all communities) about what is happening in these countries. The only way to change perception is to stand united and educate the masses.
You seem full of zest and have a skip in your step, so what words of positive encouragement would you give to the members of the gay community living in fear across the globe?
Thank you, yes, I am. I’ve been lucky enough to be born in an incredible country that does support the LGBT community.
Sustaining motivation can be tough under the best of circumstances. The world is a very different place and there are huge forces that are fighting for our rights everyday. Know that there are people fighting for your rights everyday. There are support groups all over the world, including where you are right now. Get in touch with them and they will give you the support you need. Believe in yourself, your time is way too valuable to be wasting on people that can’t accept who you are.
And lastly, what is your ultimate goal. What would you like to see happen?
It’s not about what I would like to see happen, but rather what I am already doing! #ChangeOneThing (in a week) has evolved from a video… to a hashtag… to becoming a real foundation for charities in South Africa and maybe even the world. The concept is to redefine the way that charities interact with communities and make it simpler to give what you have, to those that need. I call it… Micro-Activism (Change One Thing) on a Macro level (Change Everything) and I see this foundation as being a game-changer in the way that individuals and corporates assist charities.
Find out more about Brent Lindeque on twitter @Razzlemonster or through his blog at razzlemonster.wordpress.com. Keep smiling!