March 7, 2012 4 Comments
By now I shouldn’t have to tell you what Kony2012 is. And I may not even have to tell you that no sooner than that 30 minute promo documentary was released every political scientist and/or annoyed Facebook user had some sharp criticisms and were begging people to disengage from the movement.
I understand the criticisms. I really do. You may remember this blog in which I proposed similar ideas. I’ve read a lot of the criticisms like this from a fellow Canadian and this. And to them I say :
YES! I couldn’t agree more.
YES!- Most NGOs or notable charitable organizations take a huge chunk of proceeds towards salaries and administration.
YES! – Foreign intervention is usually either linked to national security or economic interest, not purely humanitarian.
YES! – Playing the part of the white privileged westerner saving Africa is not only ineffective, it’s colonial and dangerous.
I agree with all of it. And despite this, I’m asking you to actually engage MORE with the movement. I’ll tell you why and unlike every other global politics blogger, I’ll give you some ideas HOW .
First, I think it’s important to note that Invisible Children is an ADVOCACY group. Their mandate is to spread awareness. There are many other wonderful advocacy groups (Amnesty international, Oxfam etc) but IC has embraced something that other organizations have fallen short on: Presenting causes in an accessible language with an accessible medium. Having an unpaid volunteer stand on a street corner trying to sign you up for donations during rush hour is outdated, and lets face it, a bit annoying. By using social media and creating a documentary that went viral, Kony2012 has been viewed across age groups, borders, political interests etc. (my mum viewed the doc and rebuked my brothers critical status update before I even watched).
WHY we should embrace this movement: We have only recently tapped into an incredible medium for resistance and change: the internet. Call it ‘slacktivism’ but we have no idea how potentially powerful a role social media can play in bringing about change.
In the last year:
Twitter helped usher the Arab Spring – a revolution that started in Egypt and eventually dismantled their dictator. These revolutions spread to other Arab countries (Most notably Tunisia, Libya and Yemen) and fear that it would spread throughout Europe kept policy makers on their toes
Reddit started an online protest against the controversial SOPA/PIPA bills in the US which successfully halted their legislation.
Alternative news source Adbusters birthed the Occupy movement Ustream broadcasted it 24/7 and Don’t get me started on how many instances of police brutality and agent provacatuers were caught on Youtube during peaceful protests.
Now, none of these movements have been perfect, a lot of them had major flaws, and there are a lot of questionable strategies with Kony2012 too, but you can’t expect a baby to walk in it’s first days of life. We need to give it room, let it grow, let it stumble and maybe fall a bit. But that’s how we’re going to achieve.
A western dominated military mission usually ends up causing more harm than good. Grassroots movements lack resources and mobility. Theorizing is important but not without conduct; It’s time to get creative and forge new paths. And that’s what I hope we can MINDFULLY embrace.
So, you don’t agree with the movement, or you have concerns. Maybe I have not convinced you of anything. Great- you should question and research everything. But don’t disengage engage MORE. How, you say? (I took political science in school so I could CRITIQUE not offer SOLUTIONS but here goes…)
The same social media sites that made this movement go viral are the same social media sites you have equal access to.
So help shape it.
3) Tell yourself that being passive is not an option. Donate to a grassroots movement, volunteer some time advocating. Create an email template that you and your community can send to your MP. Don’t sit at your computer and repost a critical piece, which by the way are filled with their own rhetoric and false information.
I know it seems overwhelming. What can you actually do? We don’t know yet. But we do know there are power in numbers so let’s breathe some life into it.