In case you haven't heard enough about Kony 2012, I would like to offer a perspective that is truly unique. The thoughts below are brought to you by a friend (Tony) who lived in Africa for over 20 years. You might call him an American-African, someone who grew up in the Northeast and then lived life as an African with his wife and family. After sharing Tony's perspective in this post, I will explain in "part two" why I think we should applaud Invisible Children's efforts.
Tony traveled to Central and Eastern Africa quite frequently, working to empower the indigenous peoples everywhere he went by partnering with them and putting his own agenda aside. He is someone I deeply respect for how he views the African people, gives them dignity and believes in hope for the "dark continent." Here are his thoughts on the Kony 2012 video when I asked him what is helpful and harmful about the viral campaign:
It is helpful in that a whole generation of techno savvy, video watching, FB using, cause-driven young people are being informed about a situation that is thousands of miles away.
It is helpful in that many of those who see the video will be mobilized to want to do something about the LRA and Kony.
It is helpful that there have been those who have traveled to Uganda and helped rebuild schools, it looked like it anyway in the video.
It is not so helpful because it communicates that the USA, or at least this generation of Americans, can cure the world of this ill because we want to and because we can. The underlying belief is that if we just keep pushing the information in front of people, they will respond and they, the US government, will have to send more troops to Uganda. If we just keep up with making Kony famous, the US troops will go in and take care of what the incapable Ugandan army was unable to do themselves. It smacks of paternalism and colonialism.
It is not helpful because there are a lot of groups that are seeking to help and serve the children who are being rescued from Kony's army already working in Uganda. How about if we spent more money giving those organizations food, supplies, clothes, volunteers and more centers to welcome the lost children? Rather than spend thousands on flyers, posters, stickers and t shirts for the April 20 media blitz covering city walls, subways and signs with Stop Kony junk, how about we give it to the folks who are on the ground in Uganda being there for the children? On a side note, who is going to clean up the city after the media blitz the morning of April 21st? Just asking.
It is not helpful because it shows a ton of white young people visiting Uganda to help build a school or meet with the children but who will go on with their lives and forget the relationships. We are such quick fix type of people from the USA. This approach encourages us to get it done by 2012. So, my fear is that many will be involved up front but few will last more than six to eight months after the swell dies down. We will check it off our list of "things done to impact the world" and move on to our self centered living.
It is not that helpful because it portrays Uganda as such a terrible place that only we as young, hip Americans can be mobilized to save the Ugandans from themselves. The African pride is very strong. They are also very wily. We have created a spirit of dependence in many African societies over the years starting with colonialism and even into many years of missionary work by the Catholic church and more social Gospel based groups, unfortunately. While the people of Africa have received from us and do appreciate it, I fear that we risk crushing their spirit again by imposing our way of stopping Kony and bringing him to justice. There are a lot of groups seeking to improve the African society from within. There are a lot of great programs that have reduced AIDS and sexual promiscuity in Uganda. The church is alive there. Why are we not talking about what they are already doing and seeking to come alongside them and help within their framework?
It is not helpful because it seems that it is about this guy's decision to make a difference and it is all about him.
The next blog post will be from my perspective as a new father and my defense of Invisible Children's effort.