(In)visible Children, Criticism, and the World

13 03 2012

Now, if you haven’t heard, there’s this video that has gone viral and is the talk of facebook for good and ill.

If you can’t watch it, or fell asleep in the middle, or whatever, here’s the scoop:  There’s a bad guy in Uganda whose name is Joseph Kony.  He’s doing nasty things to kids and forcing them to fight.  His army, as so eloquently put in another viral video, “is climbing in your windows, snatching your people up, trying to rape them.”  The army’s name is the LRA, which is, sickeningly, the ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’.  He’s been doing this stuff for over 20 years.  Invisible People is set on exposing this guy to the world and ending the reign of terror.  Sounds good, right?  Yay, Invisible People!

Well, er, not really….?

Invisible People has fallen under some harsh criticism from various people about a variety of things.  Examples: this video  and this blog post.  In addition, there has been somewhat intense argument on the facebook about it.  So, what is really going on?  Who is in the right?  Well, this isn’t a math problem, so the simple answer is no one.  But, let’s see what people are saying about this:

Chewbacca's viewpoint on all of this. His opinion is fascinating.

Afterwards, I’ll write something geared towards each group.

The Kony 2012 Movement

Joseph Kony must be stopped at all costs!  I never knew this sort of thing is happening.  Now I have ‘seen the light.’  I posted the video on facebook, and I want everyone to be aware of the problem so we can stop Kony and restore peace to the peoples of Africa.  I support Invisible Children in all their endeavors and might even donate to them in the future if I have the money.  Some of my friends aren’t able to donate, but their sharing of the video is participation in this movement and will help stop this madman.

The Opposition

So, now that you saw a video on Youtube you’re a social activist now?  Furthermore, you think this is a simple issue that can be solved with a video share and a couple of good feelings?  How naive.  First, you should take a look at Invisible Children–they only spend a third of their money on Africa!  Besides, they support the Ugandan army, who has human rights violations on their own.  Awareness solves nothing.  You think you and your middle-class white background can change this complicated situation in Africa?  Get a grip.  Just because they have good intentions doesn’t mean doing the right thing.  Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something.

  • To Invisible People:

First of all, congratulations on what is arguably the most successful viral marketing campaign of all time, with 76 million views and counting.  The video carried out its purpose beautifully:  to offer a simple introduction into the atrocities that Joseph Kony has committed, expose his crimes to the world, and offer a way for people to get involved if they weren’t already.  However, please don’t let this get to your head.  As Uncle Ben Parker said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  I implore you to stay vigilant in keeping your organization in quality shape.  It seems you have already handled criticisms gracefully, even if people still disagree with you.  Keep assessing the situation and continue allocating your money as best as possible even as situations change.

  • To the newbie supporters of IC:

If you are one of the many millions of young people who were exposed to problems like this via the Kony 2012 campaign and were moved by it, I urge you to further examination.  Blind support of a cause with good intentions is usually worse than not attempting to help at all, and causes such problems as the U.S.’s current mess in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Also, sharing videos on facebook does not make you an activist.  But, this doesn’t mean stop caring or supporting IC.  Do research–is IC an organization you want to back with your hard earned money?  If so, then do it!  But if not, use your noggin and find an organization you can wholeheartedly support.  It’s great that you want to get involved–just think before you leap, that’s all.  The world needs more compassionate people who are willing to help–I’m glad that you’ve taken one step closer to becoming one.

  • To the critics:

The internet is a fickle being; on one hand it allows tens of millions of people to become exposed to an idea over a few days, and on the other hand it enables an immediate and harsh backlash of everything.  I’m not going to lie:  outspoken critics of IC, you messed up big-time, and missed out on an opportunity you might never held back.  What you did was criticize IC’s status as an outstanding charity, take potshots at people who shared the video on facebook without further thinking about what’s at stake, and complained that awareness and the average white Westerner is realistically unable of doing things.  What you should have done was welcome this group of eager people, showing how they could make a thoughtful and definite impact.  This was a fantastic educational opportunity, critics, and you blew it.  You even outright claimed that this was a bad thing.  Now, forgive me for being, blunt, but that was terribly stupid.  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  Kony 2012 is creating a veritable army of good men, and instead of taking part in shaping the world, you stood in a huff and complained.  Now, I’m not saying that awareness solves everything (it doesn’t), or that blind intervention is good (absolutely not), or that everyone was this way; nor am I claiming that IC has correct stance on everything (it has a couple of very disputable policies).  But I can’t be the only one who is disgusted with the way the internet collectively struck down upon such a well-intentioned movement.

  • To everyone:

The world is broken.  There is no doubt in my mind about this fact.  Hitler murdered 6 million Jews.  That figure is waved around like a stick, but that’s 3 and a half times as many as the total number of people who saw a game at Kauffman Stadium last year.  People live in poverty all their lives and die in poverty, while Kim Kardashian gets millions of dollars for no apparent reason and wastes bunches of it on a two month wedding.  Countries all over the globe actively repress various sections of their citizenship for trivial reasons based on caste, race, or religion.  Kony runs around unknown, abducting thousands children and committing atrocities for two decades.  Kony 2012 helps to expose this fact.  I do believe there is something we can do.  We can change ourselves.  If we become more compassionate, less self-centered, more apt to humility and a servant attitude, we can change the world we live in.  Focus on ourselves, our neighbors, our towns and cities.  Without a fundamental change in how we live and act in our everyday lives, we will never be able to better the world.  We are blind to problems because we don’t want to see them.  When we look for problems so that we can help and serve…that’s when things get done.




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