There is an old African saying: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
I came across this today while reading about the various sides to the Kony2012 debate. It was used to describe the enormity of Afica’s political problems. The author pointed out that hunting down Kony is only one bite, but a good bite in the right direction.
So you’ve heard about this Kony thing now?
Good. Social media is doing it’s thing.
(And if you haven’t caught up with it, here’s a link: www.Kony2012.com).
No sooner than the Kony2012 campaign going viral, an anti-Kony2012 campaign is also going viral.
Haters love to hate.
I’m all in favour of being open-minded and I’m all in favour of checking facts, but I’m not in favour of being sceptical for the sake of being sceptical. And I’m certainly not in favour of sabotage for the sake of sabotage.
Before you criticise the Kony2012 campaign any further, please read this: Invisible Children’s Response to Criticism. (And I ask you to respectfully not comment below until you have read this).
The sad thing about the anti-Kony2012 campaign is that this ‘other side’ of the story seems to have been swallowed without the very checks in place that they accuse the Kony2012 supporters of making. There’s nothing more frustrating than a patronising plea to check one’s facts when they haven’t actually verified their own.
But no matter what side of the fence you sit on, I don’t think anyone is denying that Joseph Kony is an evil war criminal who has committed heinous acts against the Ugandan people. I’ve read many of the criticisms today. Unfortunately not any of them have offered any alternative or compelling solutions to the problem. I would challenge critics to come up with a better idea and then bring it to the table. I’m happy to sit at that table and listen. Truly. Bring on those ideas.
I’ve read the criticism today. And I’ve got a few things to say:
The criticism: The Kony2012 film oversimplifies a complex problem.
My response: Yes, it is a complex situation. I challenge each of you to explain the complexities of geopolitics in a 30 minute awareness raising video. I’m not defending Jason Russell (film maker) but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his attempt to summarise the complexities. Sure, some may disagree about the emphasis, but even if all he achieves is an awareness about the atrocious political situation in Africa, then that’s a step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned.
The criticism: Why not let world leaders address the problem?
My response: World leaders have done little in addressing this problem for the last 20 years. It appears that an alternative approach may be required. I also don’t see anything wrong with challenging the notions of power brokers in our world. If the existing brokers have up until now been motivated by money and self-interest, why not challenge them on justice? Why not challenge them with people power? I think it’s a legitimate question.
The criticism: So who cares about a bunch of high school students getting fired up?
My response: It is certainly better than apathy. They are our future leaders. I would rather have them stirred up about global injustices rather than sitting in their insular Western homes playing video games or tweeting each other about celebrity gossip. This campaign has given young people a sense of purpose and a voice.
The criticism: It’s a scam.
My response: There’s a couple of logic flaws that prevent me from believing this. A. Going so public and becoming so viral means that you WILL be held accountable. If Invisible Children were concerned about this, I doubt they would have publicised their scam to this extent. Scams belong in the ranks of small Nigerian con-artists, not American film-makers who have been lobbying the US government for the last 9 years. B. You don’t have to give a cent to them if you don’t want to. Raising awareness is the major ‘good’ in this campaign. And that doesn’t cost me (or you) anything.
The criticism: All this Kony stuff in my twitter feed is driving me crazy.
My response: Please report your inconvenience to the thousands of voiceless victims of Joseph Kony – those who have been maimed and raped and have lived in fear. I think they are the ones who truly understand the meaning of inconvenience.
The criticism: It’s a bandwagon.
My response: There is a difference between a bandwagon and a revolution. A bandwagon implies blindly following a movement for the sake of it. A revolution is desiring a momentous change in thinking or action. Think carefully about accusing people of being on bandwagons. I am sure you would not enjoy your passion for something being misunderstood. That’s just insulting.
Finally, I would like to thank the critics out there. You’ve certainly added to the interest in Kony and given us all something to talk about. Thank you for contributing to Kony’s fame. Most people last week had no idea who Kony was, this week they do. Win!
No matter what you think about the campaign, no matter the flaws in the Invisible Children organisation, I don’t think we can deny that an important issue has been brought to the world’s attention. I applaud anyone who raises our consciousness on issues of child slavery and injustice. If we are moved to action, even better. I cannot prescribe what that action should be – but if you’re not into the Invisible Children’s campaign, I’m sure there are plenty of other organisations out there that you can support. Any action is better than no action.
If you don’t feel strongly about injustice, if you feel safer sitting on a fence, or if you don’t get fired up about brutal monsters, that is entirely your choice. But please also allow for others who do care and want to take action. That is also their choice.
Personally, I find being cynical and inert quite tiresome. Give me passionate and idealistic any day. I respect anyone who has the guts to stand up for injustice. If we find out later that the passion was misplaced? A small price to pay for being conscious and hopeful. But being negative about justice campaigns or trying to nitpick holes in a hopeful idea is not cool.
I was born with a fire in my belly. I have seen first hand what social injustice in our world looks like, from living with the extreme poor in Indonesia and The Philippines. These realities are difficult to forget. My passion and sincerity for justice is often misunderstood and dismissed. That’s okay. I can live with that. But I can’t live myself if I did nothing. I can’t sit by and ignore injustice – whether it’s Joseph Kony, the live Australian cattle trade, or the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers. I can’t save all the problems, but my conscience tells me they are worthy of my attention.
I admire Jason Russell’s response to the campaign:
“This story transcends borders. It is not about politics, it is not about the economy. This is about human beings. Human beings waking up to the potential and power they have.”
And this is the heart of the issue. Waking up to a consciousness about your ability to make a difference is an enormous step for any human. And it’s an even more enormous step for the planet.