Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Revolutionary Revolution- An Objective Essay

I think it's fair to say that no one in their right mind would ever call me a "bleeding heart" or "gullible." I'm the kind of person who, when checking their Facebook, reflexively blocks anyone who posts a "re-post this if you know someone with insert-situation-here" status. Admittedly, my thinking then gears towards how the heck is that going to help, or, what a complete farce.

Over the past few days, I've seen my newsfeed explode with myriads of "Kony 2012" posts and re-posts from friends both young and old. This time, instead of automatically brushing off these posts, I actually did something I rarely do.... I took the time-29 minutes total- to watch the "Kony 2012" video. My interest immediately piqued over the film which was produced by Invisible Children Inc.

This morning I woke up to a Facebook post from a dear friend which was in reference to the Kony meme (although I would liken it more to a movement). The picture, as seen below, made me chuckle, but it also made me think. How exactly is "Kony 2012" different than any other Facebook meme?... and is it at all?

For those of you who either live under a rock or are not a member of the Facebook generation, let me give you a quick synopsis of the contents of said video. The short film essentially explains the horrific plight of Ugandan children under the rebel regime of Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army. The ultimate goal of the "Kony 2012" movement is, according to Invisible Children Inc. "to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice."

I have been reading a lot on people's apparent outrage at the viral tactics and message of "Kony 2012" as well as Invisible Children Inc. itself. I was leaning towards the notion that this film was made and re-posted by a bunch of TOM's wearing, unwaveringly liberal kids who really knew nothing about the situations and intricacies involved in Uganda and other parts of Africa, but something in me was strangely caught up in the whole idea of the film. I decided to research the topic, organization, and apparent opposition of the movement in order to educate my self on the subject.The following are issues to consider when watching the film.

1. Allocation of funds- Invisible Children Inc. is a NPO that is independently audited. From my research, about a third of all monies is allocated to those in Uganda, a third goes to maintaining offices, and a third goes into campaigning. Fair enough if you ask me, and it's all online for anyone to read. As a Christian, I always cringe when people say things like "don't give that bum any money because they'll just drink it away." I was always under the impression that Christ didn't say give alms to those you deem worthy. It's my duty to show mercy to others, it's on their conscience as to how they receive and use their gift. However, when speaking of an organization, you have the opportunity to research their motives and finances. People act as if Invisible Children's financial allocations are a shock, but frankly, you are a fool if you don't research an organization before you donate to it regardless of how popular it is.

2. Support for military intervention- The film calls for American military aid to capture Joseph Kony and dissolve the LRA. What most people don't realize is that the Ugandan government that preceded Kony was oppressive as well. However, Obama has indeed sent a small number of soldiers to Uganda to assist with LRA resistance.... In my eyes, this was a legislative placation. A "let's send enough people to get concerned American's off our backs without investing any real effort into the situation" type of solution strategy. However, there is no guarantee that endorsing the Ugandan military efforts against Kony will change things for the better. Ugandans are finally being able to create sustainable and successful lives for themselves, and many would prefer to be aided in their local economic efforts than the supposed efforts of a corrupt government and military.

Joseph Kony: In hiding since 2006

3. Campaigning methods- The third problem many people have surrounding the "Kony 2012" movement is mainly targeted at viral "Hollywood" campaign methods, and whether or not they are actually effectual. If the goal of "Kony 2012" was to make him famous for being the ICC's most wanted war lord, then I think it's definitely working.

4. Misleading viewers- Another issue with the film is that is misleads people into thinking that Northern Uganda is still being terrorized by Kony and the LRA. In fact, the LRA has not stepped foot in Northern Uganda since 2006 and has subsequently moved to the jungles of surrounding nations (still committing horrific crimes, nonetheless.) Also, in the film mentions that there have been 30,000 children kidnapped into the LRA. Some people are saying this is an exaggeration. The LRA's army is currently small, but this 30,000 reflects the total number of children abducted in the 30 years of the LRA..... This fact is not to undermine the actrocities commited by Joseph Kony, but it is meant to inform you that Ugandan children are no longer being kidnapped by Kony.

5. Foreign policy and formulation of a plan- There are technical issues and concerns regarding the capture of Joseph Kony and foreign policy of both Americans and Uganda. Seeing as how Kony is in hiding in the jungles of Uganda's surrounding nations, there is the issue of how those nations will respond to and assist Uganda's military. Also, if the United States sends military aid to the fairly unstable Ugandan nation, what is to say that it won't backfire against us in the future. Does anyone remember Afghanistan? Furthermore, won't we have to kill Kony's child soldiers to capture him? Will the LRA's existence end just because he is captured? I don't have the answers to these questions, but they are legitimate and should be explored.

Hey, where did you guys get those guns!?

6. Rehabilitation- Although this hasn't been a public concern, it has occurred to me that these boy soldiers have undergone unthinkable mental, physical, and emotional trauma and may not be able to assimilate back into society with ease. How can they just simply return to their families and villages if they are rescued? Is there an organization that will provide rehabilitation and services to those poor boys for their own well-being, and the protection of their families and neighbors?

Many people believe that my generation is definitely a generation of apathy. We are the generation who likes to buy a pair of overpriced canvas shoes in the name of "charity" because it helps us feel better. We can do something without actually doing much of anything.... And that's the way we like it. We believe that wearing a yellow rubber bracelet with a catchy word on it makes us a humanitarian. We are so shrouded in our own microcosmic society, we forget that a lack of awareness and sympathy only continues to create a buffer of apathy within our privileged nation.

Regardless of whether or not I support Invisible Children, "Kony 2012" is genius; a revolutionary revolution. It has taken advantage of the Facebook era and the generation of apathy, and it has used it to its advantage. As I stated before, if the goal of the movement was to raise awareness about the LRA, it is certainly working. In fact,  I bet you can tell me the name of the LRA's leader without looking it up just from reading this post. As of Thursday morning, over 36 million people have watched the "Kony 2012" film. Assuming that a few million of those are repeat viewings, there are still millions upon million of people who have been been touched by the message of the film. I mean, even I, the most cynical of all cynics, was made curious enough to further research the situation.This video appeals to the ethos of young, malleable people with a heart. As they say..... "The old are conservatives because they have brains, and the young are liberal because they have hearts." I have been hearing a lot of "Kony 2012" proponents saying things like, "isn't doing something better than doing nothing." In a simple world, the answer to this would be yes. However, many believe that diligence and precision is the crucial to solving a foreign policy issue.

I'm not even fully convinced that the folks at Invisible Children Inc. realized what they were doing. They have revolutionized the way that young people think that they can take action in this nation. I completely agree that if 36 million people are aware, at least some will act in some small way, be it singing the "Kony 2012" petition (, writing a congressperson, donating money, or even telling a friend. It's both very exciting and engrossing.

I am interested to see how this meme will progress over the next days, weeks, and months. My hope is that Kony is found much sooner than later, but the current backlash towards Invisible Children is both interesting and concerning. Seeing as how this is a viral campaign, I can see it actually burning out before any potential change takes place. Just as with any super virulent virus, such as Ebola, the virus replicates and kills its host so quickly, it cannot "jump hosts" quickly enough to spread worldwide. Many epidemiologist consider this phenomena to be something that has kept an Andromeda strain illness from wiping out human kind thus far. I wonder if this Kony movement is also so quick-spreading that it will fail to keep momentum into the future. If there is one thing American "slacktivists" are good at, it's having the uncanny ability to push current events out of our minds as quickly as they came in. Only time can tell how "Kony 2012" will progress.

I believe that our society is so quick to jump to conclusions we often don't even know what we are supporting or denouncing. "Kony 2012" is successful at this current level because of this characteristic. However, I also believe that the backlash surrounding the movement is also populist in nature. I'm not even sure if a lot of people really know why they like or why they dislike Invisible Children's efforts......

So is this effort simply the answer to the "White Man's Burden," or is this truly our duty after the "White-Man" colonized and burdened African people? The issues that face Uganda and Central Africa are extremely intricate and technical, and we cannot brush any of these off. Cultural diversity, politics, religion, socio-economics--- they all feed into each issue regarding Uganda. I'm not here to sway you to support or denounce the Kony movement, but I am asking you to put some thought in what you do. We can't look at this as a black and white issue, (both literally and figuratively) but we have to include the needs of the Ugandan people. Maybe we should figure out a way to give these people a platform to express their thoughts on the film whether it be good or bad. Would anyone be willing to listen?

Ultimately, whether or not you support Invisible Children is really not the issue, because not one of us supports Kony's terrorist methods. The issue itself is in the plan to capture Kony. If you believe that "Kony 2012" can actually change legislation in this country, then more power to you. However, if you are in opposition of Invisible Children, will you simply put the issue out of your mind in true American fashion? There is nothing that says you have to be a part of "Kony 2012." To me, that does not matter at all. The question is will you simply brush off the atrocities in Central Africa? Will you propose a way to change the world, or will you simply be another "slacktivist"? Maybe you have the solution to the problem....... You could be a Facebook post away from changing the world for the better. It certainly seems that in today's technological times we have the power to be heard..........

So what will you say?