[“Currents and Futures” is about current and topical issues, along with thoughts about our future.]
THE “KONY 2012” Campaign
First, I want to be absolutely clear: I SUPPORT THE “KONY 2012” EFFORTS. I WANT YOU TO WATCH THIS VIDEO… THEN GET INVOLVED. I intend to do so.
But… I also have some strong issues, which will limit my involvement with the organization behind this action.
First: watch the video (click below) that’s gone “viral” in the last few weeks, with over 11,000,000 views and counting.
Comment #1: As many of you know, I’ve spent time in Uganda… When I was there, Kony was just getting started. President Museveny thought that he would put an end to Kony’s “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA) rebellion in short order. He knew that Kony and LRA were seriously unpopular and had no real ideology or agenda. That’s usually the death of insurgent groups.
He was wrong.
LRA is not an insurgency – it derives its power not from popularity but from coercion: Kony “recruits” from the barrel of a gun. He doesn’t want loyalty, he demands violence-induced obedience.
Comment #2: Despite the compelling nature of this issue, there have been some very serious criticisms leveled against the sponsoring organization, “Invisible Children” (IC). Here are some links to critical reviews:
And, IC has responded to some of those criticisms:
I agree with most of the critics of IC. Their approach really does seem both naïve and imperialistic — an extension of the kind of imperialist attitudes that, a century ago, was referred to as “the white man’s burden”.
Or, perhaps its a “Savior/Messiah” complex: remember the organizer’s comments to the heart-rending emotion of young Jacob’s agony over his brother’s death: “We’re going to stop them!” Well-meaning but hopelessly naive and seriously arrogant… What I’ve learned in 38 countries and over 100 cultures: never promise what you can’t deliver. In fact, never promise ANYTHING — just listen… and deliver.
I can’t count the number of encounters I’ve had with people like Jacob – in Uganda and around the world. With each story of pain and death, each crying mother mourning her dead and dying children, each person helpless in the face of forces they cannot understand… my heart gets broken. And, each time, my heart gets STRONGER. (And, each time, I resist the temptation to “do something”, to “fix” complex problems with simplistic solutions. The world needs my compassion, not my arrogance.)
The argument that IC can’t get their Board of Directors above 4 people simply ignores millions of Ugandans, already working to fight the LRA. The video showing them hugging all those Africans… and they can’t find anyone to put on their Board? (Try calling Jimmy Carter. Try calling ME.)
While I support the campaign, believing that the LRA will go away simply by arresting or killing Kony is wishful thinking. As I always say – it’s not about personalities, it’s about SYSTEMS & STRUCTURES. IC seems to have no strategies to address what happens when one of Kony’s cronies (sorry, couldn’t resist) steps into his role after his arrest. Insurgencies don’t end with the death of one individual.
Last Comment: Yes, the incredible power of the Internet is at last being harnessed for something other than videos of toddling grandkids and dancing dogs. At last, the social media is bringing into fruition our political dream – a government being moved by the people, not by the money. The implications are enormous.
HOWEVER: As I’ve said about the “Occupy” phenomenon: more is needed than laudable intentions to resolve difficult, complex problems. Spirit, discipline, direction, vision… and, VALUES.
SO… I support the “Kony 2012” campaign and encourage you to do so. However, I will NOT give any money to “Invisible Children”, not until the very “visible”, affluent organizers of IC adequately respond to some questions:
- What are your values? Do you hold the values of a new society for all? (If so… why are you spending money for DC lobbyists and “entertainment”?)
- Where is the money going? Why so much for the organizers and so little for the Ugandans?
- Do you believe in inclusivity and nonviolence? (If so… why were you posing with weapons in the Sudan?)
“Kony 2012” is a great campaign… and I hope the founders get their act together, learn inclusivity, transparency and humility — to match their passion and zeal.