gravity

“STOP KONY 2012” rhetoric seeps through my newsfeed and into my brain, gnawing obnoxiously at that little voice asking, “What? What is everyone talking about?” It’s like I left the party for a few minutes, only to return and find that everyone is just raving about this kool-laid I could’ve sworn wasn’t even there three seconds ago.

Once the KONY 2012 ball starts rolling, it seems to just pick up speed and plow on undeterred. And it sure is tempting to hop on that sphere of increasing swiftness and agility, flirt with gravity until something awesome happens.

But I challenge you to wait. Resist the lure of the masses, the brilliant shine of the special effects, the promise that a solution is accessible and easy. Stop switching tabs between shoe-shopping, meme-hunting and that petition you were just about to sign.

Instead, take the same amount of time you took to watch the KONY 2012 video to read about what’s really happening with the Lord’s Resistance Army and countries in central Africa.

  • Obama Takes on the LRA: This article explains the US involvement in the crisis, and discusses Kony’s role in the overall problems. While Kony plays an undeniably massive role in the conflict, it is very unlikely that his death alone will achieve peace in central Africa. The author states that “until the underlying problem — the region’s poor governance — is adequately dealt with, there will be no sustainable peace.”
  • The Lord’s Resistance Army: End Game?: Despite the impressive mental capacity of a toddler, there are not simply “good guys” and “star wars guys” involved in the ongoing political/military/religious/social conflict in central African states. Indeed, the issue is far more complex, spanning decades (if not centuries, considering the long-term effects of such historical trends as European imperialism). This report from the International Crisis Group provides a brief overview of the LRA’s activity in central Africa. The report also outlines a feasible strategy for how to achieve peace in Uganda and nearby nations. Read this to learn about the context in which Kony has come to power, and the context necessary to bring him down. (For a more thorough explanation of the crisis, see this document.)

Granted, I did feel significantly calmer and less angry after doing my own chunk of research on the LRA and current discord in central Africa. But the effects of the KONY 2012 movie were impressively lasting; I still felt bitter and sick about the manner in which KONY 2012 treats the issue at hand. There was something about the tone of the movie that simply did not resonate with me. If you too felt like you had just been forced to suck on a cotton swab or expired cough drop after watching the KONY 2012 video, I encourage you to read the following criticisms:

  • Visible Children: At one point while watching KONY 2012, I began to question what the film was about: the power of the internet, the protagonist’s altruism, or his son’s adorably huge eyes. Or, of course, Kony. Chris Blattman (who coincidentally is an assistant professor at Yale) also seems to have felt somewhat unnerved by the underlying attitude of the filmmakers.
  • Taking “Kony 2012” Down a Notch: This article is “not intended to take aim at Invisible Children as an organization but rather to debunk some of the myths its ‘Kony 2012′ campaign is propagating”. Author Mark Kersten successfully examines the key points of the KONY 2012 movie and presents his criticisms in an organized, digestible manner.
  • Lets Talk About Kony: Do you wonder why the KONY 2012 video was able to catch on so fast? Daniel Solomon, the author of this blog, does a thorough (and somewhat entertaining) job of dissecting the mass appeal of the KONY 2012 video. He effectively combines his critiques of the film with further details on the conflict.
  • Kony 2012: Causing More Harm Than Good: Does anyone else find the organization name “Invisible Children” unsettling? I know I come from liberal San Francisco, where being super PC is perhaps the sole unifying factor amongst an otherwise diverse population, but I find that word choice questionable. As Amber Ha, the author of this blog, points out, “Whether you see them or not, they were always there. Your having seen the kids does not validate their existence in any shape or form or bring it any more significance.” Though perhaps a little too emotional/personal at times, this letter to the filmmaker is worth reading.
  • Kony 2012: Why I’m Opposed to the Campaign: Author Gary Oyston sheds some less-than-positive light on the actual organization in question, Invisible Children. Namely, Oyston discusses Invisible Children’s dubious allotment of financial resources, as well as the details surrounding their plan for military intervention.

Less related, but still interesting:

And if you really want to be thorough:

  • Social Torture: The Case of Northern Uganda, 1986 – 2006 (Human Rights in Context) : I haven’t read this book, but it kept popping up in links in articles about Kony, Uganda and the LRA. Here’s the description from Amazon: “As Director of the Refugee Law Project at the University of Makerere, Kampala, Uganda, Dolan offers a behind-the-scenes, cross-disciplinary study of one of Africa’s longest running and most intractable conflicts. This book shows how, alongside the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army, government decisions and actions on the ground, consolidated by humanitarian interventions and silences, played a central role in creating a massive yet little recognized humanitarian crisis. Not only individuals, but society as a whole, came to exhibit symptoms typical of torture, and the perpetrator-victim dichotomy became blurred. It is such phenomena, and the complex of social, political, economic and cultural dynamics which underpin them, which the author describes as social torture. Building on political economy, social anthropology, discourse analysis, international relations and psychoanalytic approaches to violence, this book offers an important analytical instrument for all those seeking entry points through which to address entrenched conflicts.”

If you made it all the way to the end of this post, bravo. Thank you for taking the time to become just a little more aware of the world we live in. The KONY 2012 ball is still accelerating down the hill of viral inevitability – but now you can choose for yourself whether or not you want to hop on.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “gravity

  1. Always doin’ your homework! Not surprising! Very astute thinking and clearly articuated. I totally agree with your approach and love the way u express it calmly and thoughtfully. I know u care a lot too having been with African kids in Senegal. I’m gonna read some of your links. They sound interesting.

  2. Thanks for linking to my post on how-matters.org. @InnovateAfrica & I hosted a live chat today to reflect more the issues that came up from our posts on #StopKony. Read more at: http://www.how-matters.org/2012/03/12/searching-for-closure-a-kony2012-postscript/

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