My Thoughts on the Invisible Children Campaign about Joseph Kony

So, you’ve shared the video. What are you going to do now?

I don’t know why but I tend to read comments, which are written mostly by ignorant and rude people, on videos, articles, blogs, etc. Of course with anything there are going to be the Debbie Downers that crap on everything anyone says or does. Then you have the other end of the spectrum where everyone is so gung-ho about the project that they don’t even look into the organization or bother to learn exactly what the project is about. They think, “Oh, so and so seem to agree with this, so I will, too.” In Peter Pan fashion, they are “following the leader (read: celebrity) wherever he may go…” Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of that and have done it in the past. However, with this awareness of my past experiences, I feel that it is my duty to myself and others to look into an issue, whether I agree with it or not, and to educate myself to make sure that I am making an informed decision.

I have known about the evil Joseph Kony for about five years now after watching a documentary about the horrible things he has done and continues to do. I included him in a final paper from the previous quarter about the “cumulative and cyclical development” of racism in the world. Here is an excerpt from my paper (I’ve never shared any of my academic writing before, so be nice):

Nigerian-German singer-songwriter, Nneka, captures the essence of Myrdal’s theory of “cumulative and cyclical development” in the lyrics to her song Africans: “It is so comfortable to say / Racism is the cause and it’s not the cause / But this time it is the same color chasing and biting us / Knowledge and selfishness that they gave to us / This is what we use to abuse us.”

This can be interpreted to mean that the dominant group that has created a racially constructed world is continually contributing to their [the minority groups of the world] inferior status and belief in this status, such as white European dominance at the beginning of the slave trade and the “seasoning” of the slaves in the Caribbean, then sending them to plantations for further abuse. Another interpretation could represent Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the abduction and enslavement of children and turning them into soldiers to fight against their homeland in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The child soldiers of the LRA will grow up learning to fight against people of their nation and will perpetuate the cycle by recruiting new child soldiers. However, people tend to become restless with frustration and anger through constant oppression and will attempt to fight back.

And this is where we are now. People are tired and frustrated and are eager to do something about it. After hearing about the Invisible Children campaign and watching the video I felt a bit guilty that I knew about such an evil person and never did anything to try to bring awareness or get involved. Well, here I am. I appreciate what Invisible Children is doing as many of you would not have even heard about this horrible man. But what I want to ask you to do is to further look into their cause. Find out where they have been, what they have done and what they plan to do. Don’t just join because others are joining and because they have cool bracelets and posters. Take the time to research something before getting involved. I am still in the process of researching their work, but here are a few opinions I ask you to consider:

  • Yale professor, Chris Blattman’s blog about IC’s video, specifically: “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa… It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming… The saving attitude pervades too many aid failures, not to mention military interventions. The list is long… One consequence, whether it’s IC or Save Darfur, is a lot of dangerously ill-prepared young people embarking on missions to save the children of this or that war zone. At best it’s hubris and egocentric. More often, though, it leads to bad programs, misallocated resources, or ill-conceived military adventures. There’s lots of room for intelligent advocacy. (http://chrisblattman.com/2009/03/04/visible-children/)
  • I suggest reading this entire guest post by Michael Wilkerson on Foreign Policy: Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things)
  • And this one as well by Paul Bowers on Charleston City Paper (Thanks for sharing this, Steph): We Need to Talk About Kony 2012
  • Or, this Reddit.com entry from Amber Ha. It appears that she has direct experience with working in Uganda but does not provide any sources. However, I find her entry and opinion interesting and am including it as another perspective to consider. Why the Kony Documentary and Invisible Children are One-sided

I still haven’t formed a firm opinion on this campaign, as there are few things that bother me about it. For one, I do not agree with their presentation of it like it is an election campaign, or how they want to make him famous. It’s so sensationalized. The marketing aspect of it just seems so, well, like a cheesy marketing campaign to get uninformed people to join in the fun. To put it more eloquently, “Credwords” from Reddit.com said: “Shouldn’t have to use marketing ploys to advocate human rights. But it might be the only thing to get lazy kids off their asses.” Call me a Debbie Downer, but something about it just rubs me the wrong way. Yes, they’re bringing tons of awareness to the issue but something isn’t sitting well, and maybe with further research I will be able to settle that feeling. But I’ll stop being so cynical about it. Rather, I shall present a thought that I have been thinking about for a while.

We are all aware of the thousands of human rights advocacy groups, campaigns and projects all across the world. I know at times I want to get involved with everything I can to help humans, animals and our planet, but realistically that isn’t going to happen. How can I personally help the children in Africa have a better life? I don’t have the funds or capabilities to travel over there to physically get involved. And honestly, I am not brave enough to do so. So, what can I (you) do?

  1. Continue to bring awareness and educate others. Maybe a friend of a friend of a friend, etc. may get inspired and has the ability to travel and physically take part and get involved with a cause. By researching and educating yourself and sharing this info with others you may indirectly inspire someone to get involved. Read books, watch documentaries, learn more.
  2. Donate if you feel so inclined. Hopefully the money you give goes where it’s supposed to and does what it’s supposed to.
  3. On a smaller, local level: do something good for your own country, your own city, or your own community. If you don’t have the ability to travel to Africa or get involved with an organization that does, perhaps consider doing something that will help humanity on a smaller level. Obviously, the US isn’t anything like Africa and its problems, but we still have problems of our own. Get involved and volunteer at a homeless shelter, in a hospital, help those with disabilities, encourage school districts in your area to serve healthier foods to your children, promote healthy living and eating by encouraging your friends and doing it yourself, etc. Do something good for humanity that is feasible. Small stuff.

Even though we may not be able to stop Joseph Kony, the LRA and save all of the children, the least we can do is something at the micro level, while continuing to bring awareness about other global issues. I believe that if we work on improving ourselves and helping others improve theirs as well, it will perpetuate and travel throughout the world. But you have to do something about it. Don’t just sit there. Get up!

With all of my preaching I feel that I should illustrate what I am doing so I’m not just another hypocritical preacher. I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to share my goals and plans as people’s opinions tend to get in the way, but I figured if I’m going to suggest that people do more, I should show what I’m doing.

I left my career in the music industry to go back to school to do something different with my life. I say different rather than better as I have many friends who still work in that industry and do wonderful things. I guess you could say better for me. (Funny little sidenote: A few years ago when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life I gave myself a choice – stay in the industry and buy an Audi or go back to school and help people. I’m so glad I chose to go back to school. I’ll get an Audi… someday.) Anyway, my original plan was to go back to school so that I could become an elementary school teacher. I just love working with kids. However, after finding CrossFit I realized that I wanted to help all sorts of people but not in a strict, limited setting, such as a classroom. I enjoy being physical and working with people and helping them improve their being. This is when I decided that I wanted to become a physical therapist. However, due to the growing feeling of burnout from school and the thought of having to go to grad school and pay thousands of more dollars I decided to hold off on that for a little bit.

I am currently working for a non-profit organization called Devereux, which provides supported living services for people with disabilities. I work with three wonderful older women and I have learned so much about just how different and similar people are. I have also learned so much about what it really means to have patience and compassion, and in turn have learned so much about myself.

In addition, I will be getting certified in April to become a CrossFit Level 1 Coach, which has been one of my goals over the past year. I’m so very excited. I love coaching and helping people realize their potential. I am also planning (hoping) on getting certified as a Level 1 Sports Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting as soon as I can figure out how to register on their darn website. I have also been thinking about becoming a certified personal trainer so that I can train people outside of CrossFit. Exercise has such a stigma and it makes me sad.

I attend Weight Watchers meetings with one of my Devereux clients every week and it upsets me to hear all of these overweight people complain about how it’s so hard to lose weight or how much their bodies hurt and ache, yet they don’t exercise. These are the people I want to work with. I want them to see that they are capable of lifting weights and doing other exercises and that working out is fun. I also want to create an after-school exercise program for children, especially borderline and obese children. It kills me to see little rotund kids struggling to walk around town. It is at this age that we need to teach and promote healthy living so that it will continue on into their adult lives.

These are just some of the ideas and goals that I have been pondering for a while and what I plan on working toward once I graduate. But enough about me. What are you going to do?

It is up to you to make a change, big or small. Don’t just stop after sharing the video. Go further.

Thank you for your time.

References:

Egbuna, Nneka, Farhad Samadzada, and Sven Waje. “Africans.” Concrete Jungle. Nettwerk Songs Publishing, Ltd., Copyright Control, EMI Blackwood Music, 2010.

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