I’ll admit, complex, multi-dimensional discussions of critical issues do not go viral. That said, there is something seriously wrong with this Kony campaign.
Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic about its success. I’ve seen more activism on my facebook wall in the past day than I’ve seen in the 6 addictively miserable years I’ve been on facebook. We SHOULD be talking about child soldiers, about ending armed conflict, and the instability in Uganda, Sudan, the D.R. of Congo, and other countries in Africa.
But this video… it’s not going to help. Being sad for a half hour and clicking “share” isn’t going to change anything. And the content, the angle, the melodrama, the organization… it’s so problematic. Here’s why:
- The main issue at hand is that killing/capturing/arresting Kony won’t solve any problems. YES, absolutely, he should be apprehended, but painting him as the enemy or as the literal “bad guy” is misleading. Even eliminating the LRA entirely wouldn’t stop violence in the region, the recruitment of child soldiers, or political instability. For that, we need a fundamental change in government, a resolution of land disputes, and investments in infrastructure/education (among other things). Framing the issue around “bad guys” is not only simplistic, but outright false. If people believe Kony to be the problem, we aren’t going to solve any problems.
- Secondly, aside from Jacob, there are no actual Ugandans in the film. What gives? Invisible Children’s narrative tells us that it’s our duty, that is, us citizens of the developed, industrialized, Western (c’mon, let’s face it: White) nations to fix this problem. Sure. But our White, Western societies also caused these problems. One of the main causes for unrest in the area is land disputes. Why could that be? Maybe because not that long ago, Europeans carved arbitrary borders into Africa’s land and alloted access to precious resources to whomever they pleased. Until we acknowledge the history of colonialism as a cause of conflict, there will be no end to the conflict. The article linked below, “Africa’s continental divide: land disputes”, is a particularly good introduction to the topic.
- Lastly, Invisible Children’s call to action would further empower the Ugandan government and military, legitimizing them in the eyes of the world press and policymakers. BUT, a major source of conflict and child exploitation stems DIRECTLY from the government. Before we call for more troops to be deployed to Africa, let’s think about what the repercussions of American intervention might be.
I should also mention that I am SO not an expert. Not even close. And these are only a few of the problems with the Kony video I’ve been able to to glean after some preliminary research. So, if you’re interested, I would suggest checking out these articles:
I know that I’m bringing up problems without really offering alternative solutions. This is why shit like this doesn’t go viral… it doesn’t feel all that great, and takes forever to read. BUT, if you’re commited to action, I would recommend checking these groups out. They do more than make viral videos, and are addressing some of the systemic issues at stake. In other words, you’ll get more child-soldier-ending bang for your buck by supporting these organizations.:
Still want to do more? Take 10 minutes or so and write a letter/email to your Rep, Senator, President Obama, or Ambassador to the U.N.:
Tell them that the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in armed conflict (a mouthful, I know) that we signed and ratified, that Uganda signed and ratified, needs to be enforced. We need more UN peacekeeping troops in LRA affected areas. AND we need concentrated international efforts to stop the exploitation in Africa, end land disputes, and foster educational and economic development.