Saturday, 17 March 2012

Are we creating a monster with Kony 2012?

When I first watched the Kony 2012 video I noticed it was 30 minutes long and had to switch it off for another time though watched it long enough to hear the interesting snippet stating that there were more people on Facebook than there were alive across the world two hundred years ago. Food for thought.

This morning, when I could have laid in bed a bit longer except the postie woke us on the doorbell, I watched Kony 2012 and was captured. It is slick, well produced from a visual and audio point of view and well, simplistic. It is made by a US Non Governmental Organisation Invisible Children and has a call to action to sign the petition to the US government; share the video and amongst other activities to "Cover the night" on April 20th - again aimed at across the US. It is compelling and I felt like I wanted to do my bit, to share and to spread the word. My finger hovered over the Facebook button and the desire to share, but I also wanted to know more.

Previously I had heard about the African child soldiers but hadn't really absorbed it. The Kony 2012 video made me look a bit further. Back in the 1990s I remember the genocides in Eastern Europe and how I had misguidedly thought we couldn't possibly have another genocide in this world, that we wouldn't let it happen, and then news was coming out - it looked like a genocide, it sounded like a genocide but at first it wasn't called a genocide. And I did nothing. All my public outrage did nothing constructive and then after the event it is called a genocide and we had let it happen.

What could we do when faced with this news? All comfortable and cosy to some extent in our lives. The Kony 2012 video has a very interesting inverted triangle logo and explains how traditionally we have money and power at the top pointy area of the triangle but that with the power of the masses at the widest part of the triangle the balance of power could be shifted. How we can make a difference by being aware and making a noise. This is, I think, a very powerful message to us all. And I one I think, despite the critics of the Kony 2012 video, we would do well to remember.

In my search to find out a bit more, such that one can from our ability to hit a few buttons on a search engine and to eat whatever one is served up, I find some useful critiques. WarChild has a response which suggests the video is about five years too late and that much has already been done. It compliments the makers of Kony 2012 for bringing this issue to the masses in such a short period of time, and in a way is sorry they were not able to do that in all the years they have been going. They reiterate this is still ongoing though and much still needs to be done especially in helping with the rehabilitation of those involved.

National Geographic has a post from a writer View from North Uganda which refers to a former child soldier Anywar Ricky who is now a director of a local Ugandan organisation Friends of Orphans. Mr Ricky says that he is concerned that the work of the Ugandan government, it's own local organisations and Peace Talks in 2006 are sidelined in the Kony 2012 video and that much good has already been done. After all, Kony is said to already be out of Uganda and operating in nearby countries instead!  This article also recognises the good the Kony 2012 video brings by focusing on the issues but asks that the focus is on building a better Uganda.

The Independent blogs has one from Musa Okwonga titled, Stop Kony, yes, But don't stop asking questions  in which he talks about the irrelevance of this campaign to a country where Kony is already gone. He talks about the simplicity of the Kony 2012 video and asks us to question the role of others such as the President Museveni who has been in power as long as Kony has been in action. After all, if our Prime Minister Cameron had this sort of atrocity going on during his watch he would not still be in power over twenty years later.

Some Christian writers have criticised the Kony 2012 video saying that it is not for us to seek revenge and that retribution is in the hands of the Lord. Ultimately, maybe so, but should we turn a blind eye in the mean time. Reminds me of the "joke" regarding a flood and a person climbing on the roof of their house and when a boat comes along to save them refuses to get on board saying my Lord will save me and then another vehicle comes to help and is refused on the same basis and then finally a helicopter is also refused in favour of the belief that his Lord will save him. The guy is drowned and up in heaven asks his Lord why he wasn't saved and the Lord says I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you want? But I digress.

Finally Al Jazeera has an article by Adam Branch: Dangerous ignorance: The hysteria of Kony 2012 which raises the most worrying concerns that the Kony 2012 video is encouraging the go-ahead for US military involvement in Uganda at a time when oil has been recently found. That possibly the Invisible Children organisation is a pawn in a power game which has nothing to do with protecting the children and everything to do with money and power. A short quote from this article:
In terms of activism, the first step is to re-think the question: Instead of asking how the US can intervene in order to solve Africa's conflicts, we need to ask what we are already doing to cause those conflicts in the first place. How are we, as consumers, contributing to land grabbing and to the wars ravaging this region? How are we, as US citizens, allowing our government to militarise Africa in the name of the "War on Terror" and its effort to secure oil resources?
Overall in the number of articles and comments I have read, has come across an indignation against the US and its so-called militant kids and that by their simplistic actions they are demonstrating a white supremacy over a black nation. To some extent, one can see that the Kony 2012 video might be a creating a monster in its supporters blindly listening to just that viewpoint and thinking they know best and working in a way that does not provide real help. Or will it?

Coming back to the Kony 2012 video I am very curious about the world we live in and the way we choose the easy option of turning a blind eye, or else simplistic answers such as doing a "Facebook share", or signing an online petition. Mass action is important, and yes, it certainly feels good to know one has taken part in a mass action. Others can look at it and say it is superficial and self-serving, and to some extent it may well be that. Still, we surely have to do something don't we? Some people will not watch the Kony 2012 video; will not watch the news; and will not try to find out more about anything. I think whatever we do, we should always question it.


Doris said...

Another interesting link to a digest of items

And then coincidently, on BBC Radio 4 this morning in the "From our own correspondent" at 7.10 minutes for about 5 minutes: Andrew Harding is the correspondent and a google will reveal the articles he has written on the subject of Kony 2012 and how the campaign may not be entirely welcomed by those affected.

I should also put the link to InvisibleChildren's own critique:

Doris said...

Once again, but with clickable links:

Another interesting link to a digest of items

And then coincidently, on BBC Radio 4 this morning in the "From our own correspondent" at 7.10 minutes for about 5 minutes: Andrew Harding is the correspondent and a google will reveal the articles he has written on the subject of Kony 2012 and how the campaign may not be entirely welcomed by those affected.

I should also put the link to InvisibleChildren's own critique:

Jo said...

Hmmmm. Can't remember how to do the link but this is worth watching

I've worked with enough charities over the years to recognise the massive dilemma - faced by many (though maybe Invisible Children occupies a more simplistic, Evangelical Christian space where everything is morally easy?).

That dilemma is:

1. Tell the story in its complexity and difficulty and be totally honest and authentic. And no-one understands or acts


2. Simplify it right down into moral absolutes, sacrifice some important (but annoyingly complex) aspects - and get 110 million hits on your video and $millions flowing in.

I didn't watch this 'blind', so it's hard to know what I would have felt/done seeing it out of the blue. Seeing it now, it seems lavishly produced, with lots of staged elements that cannot have been filmed at the time (such is the broadcast quality of their footage). The filming and editing is Nike ad quality - and that does NOT come cheap.

And yet - what will happen now, in this stupid, over simplified world - is that millions might look at the 'criticism' and just decide to do nothing again about the LRA and Kony all over again. That's the world we live in - this guy is either Satan, or he's ok...

He remains #1 on the ICC's wanted list? That's got to matter too though?

As for Jason Russell losing it yesterday...poor guy :-/

Doris said...

Here's Jo's link as a clickable:

Really good link Jo. I was concerned at first it was crud humour but it turned out really insightful. I hadn't looked at their other videos on Vimeo and suddenly I felt a chill wave - I had thought it when I first watched Kony 2012 and agree with the presenter that the (white) kids looked like an army themselves and suddenly it felt like today we are fighting for Kony 2012 and next year we'll all be fighting anyone who was not evangelical Christian.

There are young people in my family who have forwarded the Kony 2012 link and whilst I am pleased they are looking outside themselves I am now concerned if they are being sucked into something else.

Which comes back to your point about the dilemma and sadly there will be many who will do nothing. It has got to matter when there are bad things going on in this world and each of us in our own little ponds should be throwing the right pebbles in thought and deed and those that are in a position to do more should when they can.

Jason Russell is getting a lot of online criticism for his breakdown in this last couple of days as if someone in that position has the ability to control their actions. I wonder if he has lost it completely. Anyone who uses the godlike metaphors in their movies has a lot to live up to.

Anji said...

As I was reading your post I suddenly remembered in recent years that some blogging friends in the US had only recently heard about Rowanda. They were horrified that it had been 'covered up'. It hadn't been covered up, just didn't make the news in the US.

Is this 'taking over the world' trying to make up for their ignorance in the past?

Doris said...

Hi Anji :-)

Whilst that may be so, I bet a lot of those involved are well meaning, and there is definitely a lot of "good" stuff being done such as building schools, that's if our type of education is what is wanted or needed. I think we all only get the news that is considered relevant or important, or fits the agenda. Years ago I was with some new American friends in America and one of them made a comment about World War 2 which showed a very biased knowledge which was what this person was taught. But then, who's to say if my knowledge is any better. Truth is such a difficult thing.

Meanwhile it is evangelical groups of whichever persuasion that worry me. Sure there is strength in numbers and equally, there is a force that can be twisted in one direction or another or at the very least trampling over others.

This, and many other causes, are difficult issues.

Although based in humour, and the poster of this video gives a big plug to the Kony 2012 video, there are some spot on comments about oil and Facebook users! Hitler reacts to KONY 2012 - Original Lasts 3 mins 50secs.

Jo said...

Hmmm...the Hitler 'Downfall' vid (many thousands of them out there now)...slightly dodgy taste really?

Doris said...

Oh yes, definitely dodgy but raised a couple of good points. Was chatting about it today with my German friend who also finds such things difficult but my Jewish hubby saw the funny side. I hadn't realised there were quite so many variations on those Hitler vids.