If you were plugged into social media at all last week, it was hard to avoid the Kony 2012 campaign. For those who managed to avoid it, the campaign centres around a video produced by the group “Invisible Children,” and targets Joseph Kony, the enigmatic leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group originating in Northern Uganda. The video is a glossy attempt to create a heartfelt response: hundreds of children fleeing their homes after witnessing the murders of their siblings, the well-edited presentation of inspiring quotes, and the implied promise of motivated youth making a difference. The video describes Kony simply as a “bad man” who makes others do “bad things,” and ends with a three step solution: sign the pledge, buy the merchandise, and make noise to pressure the United States government to increase their “advisors” in the region.
And despite criticism of the video flooding the internet, it proposes a change. After all, the desire to bring someone to justice is a valid concern, and the sheer fact that there are at least 40 million people are now aware of the issue is commendable. The slick use of social media to spread their message makes the video nothing short of brilliant.
This internet sensation shows that millions of people are willing to give the message a chance, that over 15 million dollars worth of donations have been raised toward a cause that has inspired people to “vote with their wallets,” which may, in these hard economic times, be more influential than voting at the polls. While I may not agree with the “White Man’s Burden” undertones in the video or the oversimplification of the issue (highlighted here), the video has reached a large subset of the population that did not know the LRA existed, and may not even have known where Uganda was on the map.
In fact, Invisible Children’s singular message is a noble one: “Where you live, shouldn’t determine whether you live.”
But why should that be limited to catching Joseph Kony?
In the health care sector alone, for example, hundreds of thousands of organisations have been working toward this exact principle. These organisations, like Invisible Children, wish to benefit children who are dying, to better the lives of those in remote areas of the world. They target issues such as family planning, nutritional education and the empowerment of women by providing girls and mothers with the tools to take care of themselves and their families. They need support and funding at the same level as, if not more than, groups like Invisible Children.
Sure, finding Kony is important. Seeking justice is important. For the sake of everyone who has been influenced by the Kony 2012 message, I hope he is brought before the ICC with haste. But once it’s all over, let’s not become complacent. If we really want to help the victims of the LRA, let’s get angry about providing appropriate mental health facilities to help those affected by PTSD. Let’s provide opportunities for economic advancement so that Northern Ugandans can create their own LRA-free future.Let’s focus on research for “nodding disease,” a sickness with a completely unknown origin, that affects hundreds of Ugandan children every year.
And why stop there?
Let’s use our newfound means of popular democracy to continue toward global change. Let’s use our voices to highlight how polio, for example, is on the verge of eradication. Let’s plaster the streets of our major cities with posters screaming “Polio 2012,” demanding that our governments provide funding and resources in areas where polio is still a problem. Let’s pressure our governments to continue programs that help the poorest gain access to clean water, nutritious food, and sanitary conditions. Let’s look inwards and get angry about the status of our poorest citizens, and demand that they have access to the same quality of health care available to those in the highest economic strata.
Let’s make videos, sell bracelets, and sign petitions to make sure that at least 40 million people are familiar with the issue, so that the message can reach the few who have the power to actually make a difference.
Image from: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/03/invisible-children-film-kony
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