Monday, March 12, 2012

I just can't stay quiet: Kony 2012

Last week "Kony 2012" took over my Facebook account. I'm not on Twitter, but I've heard it also took over that as well. Everyone was posting up and watching a half hour documentary made by Invisible Children. Like everyone else, I spent a half hour of my life watching this polished little video. I've been passionate about the putting a stop to the use of children as soldiers for years now, and have been involved with Romeo Dallaire's Child Soldiers Initiative for about a year now.

Of course, there was a huge backlash against the Kony 2012 film. After all, it asks people to actually pay attention to global events and care, and put that compassion into action and pressure on their government. I will admit, the film did shine a spotlight on an issue which has been ignored for years, and to that I am grateful. But it felt.... MTV generation. It felt like the issue was dumbed down into sensationalized morsels designed to spark quick emotion and hope for the best. No lasting real information was passed on.

I've read conflicting reports on the film- some say Kony is no longer in Uganda, but in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. If this is the case (I have no evidence to support or deny it), then sending US troops to help the Ugandan military won't do much good. Ugandan soldiers have no jurisdiction in the DRC.

I also find the reports of Invisible Children's funds going to prop up the Ugandan military as a way to stop Kony. While I can't say that I have the solution to stopping Kony's use of child soldiers, I can't say that I want my money supporting the Ugandan military. My taxes pay for my (Canadian) military, and that's really the only army I care to financially contribute to. Because what happens if a Canadian soldier ever comes face to face with a Ugandan soldier on opposite sides of the battle? I would never be able to forgive myself if I knew my money was supporting an army that was attacking my own.

But my personal criticisms have nothing to do with where Kony may or may not actually be, or how Invisible Children spend their money.

One of my issues is with inconsistencies within the film itself. Maybe the producers were hoping we simply wouldn't be smart enough to notice. There are images of a document claiming that the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA- led by Joseph Kony) has no goal other than to perpetuate it's own power. Where did this document come from? Who stated this? Is this an LRA manifesto, or is it something the International Criminal Court said about Joseph Kony? If this is someone else's interpretation of LRA actions, it isn't fair to include it in this "documentary." We cannot put words into Joseph Kony's mouth as a way to condemn him. Let him do that on his own.

My other major problem with this film is that the filmaker claims that if anyone in the US were to do what Joseph Kony does- kidnap children and force them into combat- obviously has never seriously looked into gang mentality in poverty stricken areas across North America. Children are regularly being drugged, brainwashed, and used by adults as a way to increase and hold the adult's power. I highly HIGHLY recommend reading They Fight like Soldiers, They Die like Children by Romeo Dallaire for more information on this. Actually it gives you a broader view of Child Soldiers everywhere.

And the crux of it is, this DOES happen elsewhere. It's NOT isolated to Uganda and Joseph Kony. But funny enough, it tends to correlate with areas of poverty. People just don't care about poor people, they only care about the wealthy and the famous.

And that's my biggest issue: this problem won't go away just by arresting Joseph Kony. Sure, he's the ICC's most wanted, but he has SO MANY generals under him willing to step into his place. His method of kidnapping, drugging, brainwashing, torturing, and all around destroying children is an entire system, and it won't go away if you pull him out. If you want to stop Joseph Kony, you have to take away his resources. Protect and empower the locals to protect their children. And that involves helping them dig their way out of the extreme poverty that plagues the area, providing education, providing medical training and aid, and about a billion other small things that we take for granted here in Canada. This film took an EXTREMELY complex issue and oversimplified it as though it solved everything.

I will admit to some positives of the film: more people now know who Joseph Kony is and what he's doing than ever before (although he's been doing this for 26 years, so why did it take so long for everyone to start caring? Oh right, it needs to be in a flashy video first!). More people are starting to actually look into the issue, and many are smart enough to do their research before giving any organization any of their money. I've even had one friend admit that the Kony 2012 film was the kick in the pants that she needed to sponser a child in Africa. So the film wasn't all bad. It just wasn't all good either.

No comments:

Post a Comment