Thursday, March 8, 2012

Beyond Kony

Remember when I said I was going to focus on fitness and geek stuff from here on out? I guess I sort of lied.

By now, you've probably all seen the Kony 2012 video that has gone viral on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. (If not, you should be able to check it out by clicking on the link above, or doing a YouTube search.) The video makes a pretty powerful case for insisting, as a global community, on the arrest of notorious Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony -- a man responsible for kidnapping tens of thousands of children, forcing them to fight in his army, and otherwise abusing them. The Kony 2012 movement also proposes a bold approach: make Kony famous through posters, social media, and other means...not to celebrate him, but to bring awareness and attention to his crimes.

I first encountered this video yesterday afternoon, and I must admit, I found it compelling. Since that time, I've noticed several of my Facebook friends re-posting it to their timelines. Conversely, I've read criticisms of the campaign and of its parent NGO, Invisible Children: that it is less than scrupulous with its funds, that it exaggerates statistics of child soldiers, that Joseph Kony is no longer even in Uganda, that the Ugandan government itself is corrupt, etc. The criticisms naturally give one pause, especially in light of the somewhat recent scandal surrounding Greg Mortenson .

As I mulled this all over this morning, it occurred to me that, at this point, I really have no definitive way of knowing whether or not the Kony 2012 thing is legit. I suspect it may be, based on some of the personal testimonies I've heard, particularly from people I know who've done mission work in Uganda. Also, I think if the campaign does prove successful, it would really demonstrate how the global community can come together to effect real change.

But let's say, for argument's sake, that the whole thing is bogus or misguided, or that 2013 rolls around with nary a Kony in site. What, then, is the takeaway?

First, let's look at the creativity of the campaign. Social and print media -- often used to celebrate people for being rich, good-looking, or simply "irritaining" -- is essentially being turned on its head here, used instead to bring attention to a man whom, until about a week ago, most people hadn't even heard of. Featuring "villains" on magazine covers isn't new, but often we've heard of those people. What I see here is great and unusual potential to highlight other lesser-known causes and issues, both international and domestic.

Then there's the video itself. Step back from the statistics and even the possible "propaganda" involved, and a greater truth emerges: watching this, you realized there are bigger issues that yourself out there. Things like flat tires, sinus headaches, and the dog chewing up your favorite pair of sunglasses seem trivial in comparison. You become truly humbled by all that there is to do in the world. If you're like me, you're reminded of the old story about the man throwing starfish into the ocean. You know you can't save them all, but you want to make a difference to at least one.

Kony 2012 may be a huge success that results in the capture and arrest of an international baddie. It may be a spectacular failure. Or it may be a trendy, celebrity-studded cause that people forget about two years from now. (Yes, I know that sounds cynical, but think about some other causes that have come and gone from public awareness.) Ultimately, however, we live in an age in which technology can connect and unite people like never before, and I have to believe that, ultimately, a great deal of good can come from that.


  1. well thought out! I have felt the exact same way and several of my friends on FB have "shunned" me for my neg. thoughts or questions of it's legit-ness......oh, well

  2. Thanks, Lorrie. For my part, I think and hope that it is legit. That being said, I do think opposing arguments need to be taken into consideration. (I tend to take that point of view on most issues, which is why politics give me such a headache!) And I don't think anyone should be "shunned" for being a bit skeptical, since there have been instances in the past of NGOs embezzling funds and otherwise behaving inappropriately. I'm actually excited to see how this all plays out.