EDIT: Mar, 8 2012.
The interwebs exploded with the Kony2012 campaign on March 7th, 2012, and with it came the deluge of wild and runaway support for the organization (Invisible Children) behind the short film. In our connected age tugging at the heart strings of the jaded North American youth on a massive scale gets easier and easier. Conversely, it’s also getting easier and easier to do nothing, or in the very least lend support to organizations more interested in spending money on swag and movies then making any meaningful impact for cause ‘X’.
Here are a few problems with the current Kony craze which have larger implications on the whole aid scene in general, and of course Uganda itself.
1) Social media enables sexy causes to garner noisy and popular support. It’s cool to jump on Kony2012 when everyone’s doing it. But once that’s done then what? Most feel connected because they were haphazardly informed and the response ends there. (No, our involvement doesn’t have to end with a Facebook share.)
2) If we do intend to respond then we’ll do it with, in this case, a relatively new NGO Invisible Children. The first question you should ask before you support any organization is not whether they can make swanky films but what they’re actually contributing at ground level, in this case, in Uganda. (To their credit Kony2012 has tried to reply to the deluge of critiques with a re-release of financial documents here.)
3) It perpetuates an abysmal stereotype that Africans in general are inept without the help of white college age kids and their wrist wearing troupe. That sounds a bit cynical and it is. Not only that, it heavily simplifies a conflict that’s been going on for decades that has many international and local heroes. You really think capturing Kony will solve anything?
However, as quick as Kony2012 hit the conversation shifted to critique which I was impressed with. The movie definitely succeeded in launching dialogue, and a lot of good will come of it, but it fails on almost every other level.
If you were a wise interweb user you would’ve read Kony2012 and immediately Googled a few quality links on the Kony2012 fiasco like this (with many good links within), or this, the Globe, complexities discussed in FP, looking at the context, why you should feel awkward with the Kony2012 video from Time, and a quality critique from World Affairs. Update: Exceptional links here, here, and here
I’m not suggesting ‘raising awareness’ is a moot cause. However, we require a higher level of scrutiny when it comes to how we respond which should be our utmost concern. Our response needs, and must, capture an air of restorative justice, not military intervention.
So what else can you do? As one friend noted:
Donate to organizations active in Northern Uganda, War Child, MSF, UNICEF. Learn about the conflict and it’s complexities. Write or call your MP. And refrain from thinking Ugandans need a group of Americans to fix their lives.
The injustices in Uganda should concern you, however, the solution echoes the current work being done at ground level by organizations that have been there for decades (here’s a list of local ones). That probably means our best response isn’t to paper the town Kony, but send cash to those are already on the ground.
That’s a good start.