Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stop Kony

You've probably heard of the viral campaign going around to "Stop Kony" or "Make Kony Famous" or "Kony 2012." I've talked about it and posted the video on twitter and Facebook myself. You may have also heard about the new controversy surrounding Invisible Children, the organization behind the campaign.

If you're not familiar with it, here is the thirty minute video put out to Stop Kony (which I do suggest you watch, if you haven't already):


KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

Here is a link to the piece in The Daily What that talks about the Invisible Children: here. And here's another piece from the Huffington Post talking more about Kony: here.

When I first started watching the Stop Kony video, I was annoyed that it was 30 minutes long. I still am actually. I think they could've condensed it down to a 5 minute video. Yes, that probably would've meant cutting out the director's insanely adorable son and a Mumford & Son song, but it would've been more digestible.

At any rate, I did end up watching the whole thing.While I was moved by the plight of the children in Uganda - which is truly horrendous - I was leery about where the video was going. Thoughts I had during the first 20 or so minutes were:

-The guy making the video is clearly a hippie. This made me nervous, because a lot of times, hippies view a course of action as "hoping," "dreaming," "loving." These aren't courses of action. These are merely emotions that may spur action, but they aren't action themselves. And nothing changes without action. It's not merely enough to feel or want or hope  - you must do.

-This Kony guy is a massive douche. But even if we take him out of power, the LRA is probably still going to be active. Dictatorships like this act like a hydra - cut one head off, and two more will pop up its in place. The entire climate in Uganda and the surrounding countries needs to change so they can defend themselves and organizations like LRA won't be tolerated by their own local government. Sending the US in to get rid of one dictator is like giving a man fish vs. teaching him to fish himself. These people need to be able to feed themselves every day without US aide.

-The plights of people in Uganda is so multi-layered and complex that doing one act like this won't change everything. In fact, I'm not sure it will change all that much. The video proclaims that if this one thing is done, we'll have changed the world forever. That's not true at all. Forever is a very, very long time. At best, we will change things for awhile.

But at the end of the video - when there came a clear, simple course of action - is when I started to get on board with the idea. It's simple, possible for anyone to do, it's free, and it could actually work.

One thing I took issue from The Daily What article was this part: KONY 2012, the latest fauxtivist fad sweeping the web (remember “change your Facebook profile pic to stop child abuse”?) The reason I liked Kony 2012 is because it's the exact opposite of that.

I'll be honest with you - I hate that crap. I remember a lot of people doing that for Caylee Anthony and thinking "How does this help anyone?" I'm very anti-child abuse, but changing your profile picture doesn't do anything. Everyone knows kids are abused. We don't need reminders. We need a call to action.

The Caylee Anthony death was a great time for America to have a conversation about how to prevent child abuse. If instead of changing your profile pic, they had said volunteer at a local woman's shelter, gave tips on how to help young parents who seem overwhelmed, giving tips and signs on how to know whether a child is being abused, etc, I would've gotten on board.

But it didn't. It was sentimentality without an action plan, so nothing changes.

The Kony 2012 is the first time I've seen a clear action plan in this internet movements, and I'll admit it - I got excited.

That didn't address my other concerns, which is that getting rid of Kony probably won't dramatically change anything. But you know what - so what? Kony has raped and kidnapped somewhere between 10,000 and 66,000 kids. Even if getting rid of him doesn't solve all of Uganda's problems (and it won't), it gets him off the street.

It's like catching one pedophile in your neighborhood doesn't get rid of every pedophile in the world. But it does get rid of that one.

So yes, I do think the video is a little melodramatic and exaggerated, but justifiably so. I don't think people would react if they spoke about things more realistically, and this guy Kony is a douche. Everybody agrees with that. Just not everybody agrees that Invisible Children organization.

Which brings me to my next point - I don't know anything about Invisible Children's book keeping, so I can neither condemn or defend them. What I can say is what I believe: Most large charity organizations have some corruption and overhead costs. The larger the organization, the more problems it has. I'm not saying that its right or that I condone. I'm just being realistic.

Which is why I tend donate locally more. When you do that, more of the money you donate actually goes to the cause you're supporting. I think it makes me more of a difference when I donate to my local humane society than it does the ASPCA. That's not say that I don't give money to the ASPCA, too - I just give more to my local human society, and I believe more of the money goes directly to helping the animals.

I'm not saying that to justify any wrongdoing that the Invisible Children may be doing (if they in fact are doing any). Or any wrongdoing that any charity organization is doing. I'm just saying that when I hear of corruption, I'm not shocked.

So what's my take away from all of this? That Kony guy is a douche and should be stopped. We can do things to stop him without giving any money to Invisible Children. And we probably won't change the world, but we might be able to change the lives for a lot of children.

And for a few days on twitter, the trending topics were about saving children instead of a celebrity. For me, that counts as a win.

I encourage all of you to more research and form an opinion for yourself on Kony and Invisible Children and the conflicts in Africa.