It started with my old friend Luke. He shared a link with the text “If you’re human, pay attention."
Because I actually consider Luke a friend, I decided to trust him, and watched the 30-minute film by Invisible Children.
Typically, my Internet connection was being incredibly slow. However, whereas normally my impatience would have got the better of me, I persisted and viewed the whole thing. Then I explored Invisible Children’s site for a few hours, and clicked on a few more videos. I found it worthy of attention enough to then share it. Not because it was trending.
Upon sharing the Kony 2012 link, I had no idea that it was already going viral. After watching the film a second time, I decided to donate some money, in the spirit of Lent and all.
Then I was sent several sources by detractors telling me that I made a terrible mistake.
Perhaps I was too trusting, and parted with my funds without investigating deeper about the organisation. The thing is, I already found IC’s story convincing.
I like that someone has gone through all the trouble of getting organised to do something.
Something can lead to success or failure. It creates a process for progress. A thesis leads to antithesis and hopefully synthesis. This is better than doing nothing at all.
I recommend reading Immanuel Kant’s “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” - at least check out the Fourth Thesis about the ‘unsocial sociability of men’.
Here is the rest of my response on some of the issues raised:
1. Questionable Finances
I chose to support by donating, because I think our planet needs more ambitious world domination projects towards improving the human conditions of life.
Instead, I was accused of funding rapists and warmongers. I find this logic questionable.
I don’t think giving money at church means paying the salaries of paedophile priests and a corrupt Vatican. Sometimes I choose to give spare change to homeless people, whether or not they supposedly then purchase alcohol or drugs – and on this subject, I don’t tell users they are wasting their money on recreational contraband, or that they are supporting the wicked cartels and potentially funding terrorism. I don’t tell smokers that they are promoting a cancerous habit and lining the corporate pockets of the evil tobacco industry. I don’t tell Apple customers that their product demands equate to the suffering of Chinese workers.
I believe in keeping the faith, having hope and giving charitably without caveats. I choose to see the glass as half full.
2. The White Man’s Burden
I am aghast that people are criticising Jason Russell for being a white guy, with a white son, trying to save someone black. What has race or colour got to do with the credibility of the campaign? Can’t this be about a human being, wanting to help another human being? As for an outsider representing the story of others, I don't see why it’s a problem that a Westerner is choosing to represent the plight of Africans.
I volunteer for this NGO, Philippine Generations, and there’s this British guy named Malcolm who is a member. Malcolm is a regular promoter of Filipino culture in the UK. I made the mistake of doubting his motives because he frequently narrated how he loved the musical Miss Saigon, and that his marriage to a Filipina was something akin to it. I remember at an Independence Day event, he twisted the arms of his reluctant children to attend because it was their heritage. I asked about the whereabouts of his wife, only to find out that apparently she thinks his work for the Filipino community is pointless. To this day, I have yet to meet the sceptical Filipina who has inspired Malcolm to care for another country’s diaspora issues. Filipinos frequently despair about the state of their culture, and in apathy abandon initiatives towards nation building. Meanwhile, Malcolm is still diligently flying a foreign flag. I learnt to respect him for it.
Sometimes, it takes an outsider’s perspective to shake others out of complacency and inspire further advocacy.
As for ‘western imperialism’, why are people not mentioning the Berlin Conference of 1884? You know, when the European colonial powers carved up the African continent because of its resources. Western involvement is inextricably fundamental to the story. Present and future generations inherit the consequences of historical decisions from the past.
With regards to the ‘saviour complex’, whilst humanitarian programming should aim to be effective, I don’t understand why we’re lambasting people who want to do some good in whatever capacity is available to them. There‘s more than one way to skin a cat, and all roads lead to Rome surely? There is no perfect route in trying to solve the ills of this world.
3. NGO FTW
In my experience, being involved with an NGO is seriously bloody hard work if you want to run it proficiently. Credit to Invisible Children that their grass-roots campaign registered in such an unexpected scale.
The fact is that charities and NGOs dream of this kind of publicity and momentum that IC are experiencing. If the noise that they have made results in drawing attention to other organisations, then what are we complaining about? The amplified awareness of the numerous other humanitarian projects is a positive result.
If you’re really interested in sustainability, I recommend learning more about International Alert, a 26-year old independent peace-building organisation.
As for further reading, check out the Global Civil Society Yearbook. The proliferation of Non-Government Organisations is an incredible phenomenon.
The point is that we don’t have to simply rely on governments. That is the beauty of social media – we can mobilise communities to take action where possible, and influence what becomes news.
4. America, Fuck Yeah.
I wish USA would just claim the title of empire, and embrace it. We can protest about the sovereignty of other countries until we are blue in the face, but we cannot deny the historically unprecedented power of this one first world government. They are the leading nation in this planet.
I’m not entirely sure we can stop the American government from deciding which nation it will intervene in or interfere with. This is the reality of cultural hegemony. A nation is never just subjugated by another. Let’s not forget the crucial factor of conglomerates and collaborators. So if Uganda has oil etcetera, we are all too familiar with the formula. Can’t we nevertheless invest in the potential for globalisation to have benefits as much as it can be detrimental?
As for the Good vs Evil paradigm, this is the lowest common denominator in the history of mankind. It is a simplistic story, but by the law of parsimony, this is what resonates most in people’s emotions: “a simpler explanation is better than a more complex one”.
We can Hamlet on and diagnose a problem’s intricacies, or we can attempt to divide it into piecemeal solutions and conquer it with multiple actions.
5. KONY BALONEY
I didn't know who Joseph Kony was until this week. Now I do, and have participated in conversations that remind us how fubar the world is, and that perhaps we should do something to change it for the better.
It’s bizarre though that people were annoyed that their newsfeeds were inundated by this story, as if we aren’t used to such human behaviour. If it's not about a cat flushing a toilet, it's a girl crying about cats, a dog chasing deer in the park, a dog that looks like a penis, a song about Friday, a tsunami in Japan, riots in London, an obese woman whose rolls of fat looks like Homer Simpson… insert trending topic here ad infintum.
There are filters and settings. Learn how to use them. Though, we should try to be more tolerant or accepting of our friends’ idiosyncrasies, especially since we opted to participate in the web of transparent sociability.
There. Rant over for now. Until the next episode…
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