Then they came for me

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 Having an unpaid volunteer stand on a street corner trying to sign you up for donations during rush hour is outdated, and lets face it, a bit annoying.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.

 1) Blog! or comment on blogs, air your concerns, have others weigh in, do others share your same concerns? send a group email to IC expressing this.
2) HASHTAG! disagree with the allocation of IC funds? #invisiblechildren80 military mission? #kony2012peace (I actually don’t hashtag…these are horrible examples but you get the idea, right?). Or read other critiquing hashtags and simply Retweet.

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.

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About Ashley Drake
Don't cha wish your girlfriend could blog like me

4 Responses to Then they came for me

  1. J says:

    Im not entirely clear about something. You noted that the reason why more people should engage and be a part of this movement is the Internet? That slacktivism is a potentially powerful means of change.

    You tell other people to engage more, by blogging and hashtagging to generate awareness. But that kind of advice would result in powering this movement. Your advice and input are pushing this campaign further, without empowering or further educating your readers.

    The problem with this campaign is that every bored youth in America wants to start an online rebellion – because they see how powerful it can be. A million Americans want to stop Joseph Kony; and they might. But you know what will happen? Another Joseph Kony will appear. And he will do the same things. And the people still won’t understand why, or what motives this ‘villain’ might have.

    If you want to help Uganda, and the rest of Africa, don’t send guns. Don’t go to fight Joseph Kony. Send education. Send books. Send knowledge that weakens the type of power people like Joseph Kony have. Africa doesn’t need saving from the likes of you. They need to be empowered to save themselves.

    • Ashley Drake says:

      Well, maybe something that I wasn’t so clear on – but I’ll be clear now- is that I’m not encouraging people to necessarily support the movement, I’m encouraging them to engage with it. I think a historical and material context is necessary for any movement and you’re right, it’s severely lacking. I disagree with a lot of their mandate, but I don’t think reposting a critique and washing your hands from a movement is enough. And I’ve come to that after being both a political theorist and working on the ground level in grass roots development.

      I wanted to highlight a couple things that maybe got lost:
      1) that using the same mediums we use to spread cat videos has already successfully brought awareness to a number of issues that would otherwise be kept in the dark
      2) Those mediums have potential and need to be fostered
      3) those mediums can and should be used to help reshape the mandate and if nothing else the conversation.

      I really appreciate and agree with your thoughts. Thanks for sharing them

  2. Sara Brown says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and articles about Kony 2012 and yours is among the most thoughtful and sensible that I’ve come across. Thank you!

  3. Pingback: Invisible Children, Joseph Kony and Complexity :: Part 2 « Empire Remixed

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