Wednesday 14 March 2012

Opinion: Invisible Children & Joseph Kony

This is an opinion piece unlike my usual blogs, I have simply expressed a whole range of views and posted no links within the text. Thank you.
The numbers are big
Nine days on, the legendary #Kony2012 video has had over 78,000,000 views, 1,329,774 likes, 95,942 dislikes – that statistic alone shows the interest, the passion and impressions conveyed – I expect the numbers to retain this basic ratio.
Now, I will not attempt to rehash the issues here, a simple Google search will reveal opposing arguments for and against the video apart from the attacks that Invisible Children has suffered in the last week.
A striker without a team
In my view Invisible Children must feel like a striker in a home football match that got the ball, dribbled the visiting team until he was left with just the goalkeeper, kicking the ball right into the net scoring a goal.
Meanwhile, his team mates stayed on their side of field, retreating towards their own goal in disgust that the striker had scored, the prospect of winning the game being so repulsive that neither the striker nor the team could celebrate, the referee being on the verge of disallowing the goal for the fact it looked like there were three teams instead of two on the football pitch.
That is a somewhat extreme analogy but it so clearly represents the state of affairs today.
It’s not unusual
Invisible Children is an advocacy group that mainly informs and engages people in the work towards helping communities that have been destroyed by the menacing antics of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Their fund-raising activities are not so entirely unique; for decades we have had pop concerts staged for the enjoyment and entertainment of more comfortable parts of the globe to help disadvantaged groups and countries buckling under the weight of all sorts of disasters. Tickets, T-shirts, bracelets, bangles, packs are all means of exchange with the hope that the profits will end up helping the unfortunate.
Another interesting narrative was that of the White Saviour Industrial Complex where the white man comes from afar as Messiah to helpless and hapless ethnic populations. I cannot subscribe to this notion with regards to Invisible Children, the principals could easily have been happy-go-lucky filmmakers travelling around the globe taking snapshots of poverty and suffering but they got involved, got engaged and developed strong relationships in the spirit of compassion and humanity.
It may not have been obvious to some, but the 6-year old son had knowledge though maybe not fully understanding what his father did in Africa, he recognised the people his father had brought to their home and for his little mind had a clear sense of the need for justice.
That White Saviour Crap
A better and extreme example of the White Saviour Industrial Complex is illustrated in the recent game-hunting trip of Donald Trump’s sons to Zimbabwe. Having killed a bull, an elephant and a crocodile they justified their actions by saying they donated the meat of the dead animals to apparently very grateful villagers who could be fed for up to a month.
There is no need to go into the detail of whether the locals were allowed to shoot wildlife that is under threat of extinction in their neighbourhoods but white men could come from afar shoot for thrills and rather than skin the animals for trophies, the meat is given to the hungry savage natives – even one can only be in praise of such uncommon kindness.
Making complex issues simple
Invisible Children gets accused of over-simplification, there probably is just cause in that view but this is a very complex problem and complicated problems do not get solved by relating to the problem as complex or cmplicated but by breaking the problem down into componential parts then resolving each of the simplified tasks until all the simplified tasks of that complex problem are solved, thereby, solving the problem.
In the case of the film, the complex situation had to be simplified for the consumption of a global and varied audience, situations like this will go for the lowest common denominator – simplicity – this simplicity allows for the very basic information to be conveyed and easily assimilated.
It is however incumbent on the viewer to conduct additional research if more detail is required in better understanding the problem.
As in football
Returning to football analogy, more often than not, if one has not had the opportunity to watch a match what the person needs to know is who won. One can then delve into detail as to who scored, when, how the teams played, what strategies were used, the controversies of refereeing, who the substitutes were, the number of fans in the stadium, who the commentators were and where on the league table the teams have ended up.
In other words, football is a complex interaction of commerce and sport, skill and application, conditions and aspirations, 90 minutes or more, goals, personalities, fans, moods, permutations, statistics and whatever else to raucous, volatile armchair analysis – depending on the audience you package the information to suit the ease of consumption.
Just the facts
I do not think Invisible Children is war-mongering by associating with the Ugandan army in the pursuit of Joseph Kony and the splintered remnants of the LRA scattered beyond the borders of Northern Uganda. The fact is if Joseph Kony is to be apprehended Uganda is the only country in that region with the means to go after him.
We must not forget even though there may not be recently recorded LRA atrocities that Joseph Kony is an evil man who needs to be brought to justice for his crimes against children – recruiting boys in an army with the options of death of killing one of their own and girls being co-opted into sexual slavery – there is no authority or length of time that can exculpate this absolutely rotten and despicable man.
For reconciliation
That is not to say the Ugandan regime does not have its faults, it simply calls for a kind of Truth and Reconciliation model that will allow the children who were once abused and are entering adulthood to find their places back in society as able and prosperous members of their communities and worthy ambassadors of their country against these acts. All parties involved should also be made to confess to their complicity in allowing for this untenable situation to fester for so long.
It is a hydra-headed conundrum and Invisible Children has only gone after one of the many heads, I would have hoped the momentum generated despite the other apparent failings would have had others tackle the other heads of the hydra but in ferociously attacking Invisible Children we have ended up within the context of the first football analogy of my blog.
If Invisible Children is guilty of anything, it is at worst naivety; a case of not fully understanding the problem but nevertheless doing something in the context of what they do understand and from the clamour that has ensued it has become evident that they appear to have done a lot more than those who know and understand the problem too well but have failed to act.

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