Lets clarify a few things:
Posting this does not mean I hate little Ugandan kids (thanks Chels).
(See, look, I love kids..)
Nor does it mean I don’t respect Invisible Children as an org.
But, Invisible Children asked for awareness, and here it is.
The Video - Anything to get the people of the world more conscious of their surrounding and world issues is good by me.
Invisible Children is a nonprofit org primarily comprised of filmmakers whose focus is to raise awareness about child soldiers. I have been a big fan of the org for a while, I think they are amazing souls and incredibly talented.
They posted their KONY 2012 video with hopes that people would wake up, learn more about the topic and engage in the issue. What happened? All the people sitting at their desks at work in NY, SF, Dubai, Quito, wherever found something actually interesting and worthwhile on their radar. Finally!
Well, unfortunately for some of those more sensitive people who now have dedicated their life to the cause after 25mins… I am here to show you there is another side. There is always another side when talking about international development, poverty, destruction, aid etc.
In development issues, especially in Africa, no situation is as simple as Invisible Children portrays. Maybe not everyone who’s watching the video understands the complex history, rampant corruption, conflicting cultures, and widespread poverty that one single African country like Uganda has (aside from the mess of problems the whole continent faces).
The Critique - What they are doing is engaging the public, not fighting bad guys
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
“To call the campaign a misrepresentation is something of an understatement”
“Many African critics are unsurprisingly crying ‘neo-colonialism!’ This is because these campaigns are disempowering of their own voices. After all, the conflict and suffering affects them directly regardless of if they hit the re-tweet button or not. “
“But there’s one glaring problem: the campaign reflects neither the realities of northern Ugandan nor the attitudes of its people.”
“Indeed, this post is not intended to take aim at Invisible Children as an organization but rather to debunk some of the myths its ‘Kony 2012′ campaign is propagating.”
“Coming back to the “Kony 2012” video and its celebrity endorsements, what are the consequences of unleashing so many exuberant activists armed with so few facts? Defining Uganda in the international conversation by issues that are either geographical misfires (Save northern Uganda!) or an intentional attempt to distract the international community (Death to the gays!), do a disservice to the many critical problems Uganda has.”
“In addition to the problems of poverty and nodding disease Izama highlights, Uganda is barely (if at all) democratic, and the president Yoweri Museveni ushered himself to a 4th term last year, taking him to over 25 years in power. Corruption is rampant, social services are minimal, and human rights abuses by the government common and well documented. Oh, and oil is on the way.
Stopping Kony won’t change any of these things, and if more hardware and money flow to Museveni’s military, Invisible Children’s campaign may even worsen some problems.”
“Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.”
Kate Heryford, Development Economist
“I think the social media influence is a bit scary. I mean no one checked it and everyone donated before knowing about the organization itself. I think it’s awesome that people are taking a stock in how good organizations are, checking into their charity finder results and wanting to know more about how they are evaluating their programs and successes, but clearly this shows us that the whistleblowers of the world need to be more on edge.”
The Reality - Everyone knows this guy is terrible and should be arrested but it’s not that simple.
Since you are all bleeding hearts about Uganda, child soldiers and making a difference, you should not be upset. Taking the time to outline more of the problem is important to help everyone be more informed so we can take the right action. If you actually care about changing the world, this post shouldn’t upset you. If you actually care about changing the world you should be open to hearing as much as possible to do what’s best for those in need.
The destruction Kony has left behind and continues to leave behind is overwhelming. I hope that readers, along with Invisible Children, realize that this campaign can do a lot more than just make Kony famous. This campaign can spur global and local organizations and government officials to realize that poverty, unemployment, violence, and disease are not going to change with Kony’s arrest. In this moment, millions of passionate and capable people around the globe are looking at Uganda together. Can we actually make a change or will we all just go back to what we were doing before the KONY 2012 video went viral?
Alyssa McGarry holds a Master’s Degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She currently works in Guatemala helping rural communities access better education.