Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kony 2012 Should Only Be Beginning of the Beginning

If someone came into your house, dragged you outside onto the sidewalk, hit you over the head and burned your house to the ground it would only be natural for people to call for the criminal's arrest.

There would probably be reports on the nightly news and in the daily papers and maybe online petitions to the cops to take their search for the culprit to another level.

And when the police finally found the person who destroyed your house and physically and mentally hurt you, of course you would be happy, you would be joyful. Justice would have been served!

But in the end arresting that person didn't heal your wounds or build you a new house.

Now maybe this isn't the perfect analogy for the whole Kony 2012 thing that is filling up Facebook pages and campus conversations in the last 48 hours, but there are similarities.

Capturing Kony, a war criminal, murderer and rapist who forces children into committing horrible acts of cruelty, is definitely something everyone on this planet who has a heart should be concerned with. And for garnering support for this cause the Invisible Children project should be applauded and supported.

But the process that IC has started will really only be successful if it doesn't stop at educating people about Kony and securing his arrest and trial.

They say in the Kony 2012 movie Do Not Stop and they should live by those words. Once Kony is arrested there are others who are like him, others who will be like him. There are soldiers, many of them children, who need to be disarmed and reintegrated into society. There are homes and schools destroyed by fighting and whole villages and cities riddled by HIV/AIDS and other illnesses like malaria.

I've seen a lot of ragging on people for sharing the Kony 2012 video on Facebook, accusing them of "slacktivism" or a passive form of activism. Or some people are saying that even though they saw the video they still know nothing about the issue or the somewhat flawed organization that made the video.

These things are all true. Watching a video must be just the start, action must follow. Knowing a little should lead to knowing a lot. And looking at any media or claim with a critical eye is a must (as a journalist I believe strongly in looking deeper into everything).

HOWEVER, I would prefer to look at it this way. Forty-eight hours ago there were tens of thousands of people, mostly youth, who knew nothing about Joseph Kony, who had never really thought about Uganda and who were probably sitting around playing video games, watching talking dog videos on YouTube or complaining about homework (I've been guilty of all three lately). And now suddenly these people are talking about the issues that are really important, how to help change them and most importantly looking critically at what they had been told and finding out how to learn more.

A rose can have thorns or a thorn can have a rose, it's all about how you look at it, and I prefer to see the positive in this even, as in everything, there are flaws and obstacles.

But back to the main point. We must not stop at putting posters up one night, or posting a video or catching Kony. These are all important things, all important steps, all things we can all be included in and work together to achieve.

But we must look into how to help improve the lives of the people affected by the war and the multitude of obstacles it has presented to those people. And this doesn't mean throwing money at the problems or going to solve the problems all in one day by yourself. It means working with others in your community and in the local community to create a society that can sustain itself and improve itself. Building up education is a great start. Working with locals to transfer skills, both ways, to create more teachers, lawyers, doctors, politicians, activists, jobs, etc. that can then pass the skills on to the next generation is crucial.

And you don't have to go half way around the world to make the change. You can look half way down the street to help people in your community by doing these things.

It may seem like a stretch, helping to raise awareness to capture Kony to helping rebuild a country, but it takes dedication, it takes small incremental steps and it takes compassion, something we all have in us and something those people the Kony 2012 video seem to have in heaps and heaps. You can love them or hate, but you can't deny that there is genuine passion for the cause shown in that video.

So my message? Same as the message from Invisible Children. Don't stop. Don't be satisfied with a post on your wall or a Wikipedia search of a country, a conflict or a company. Ask questions, learn about history, culture and context and take action. Look deeper and reach deeper for answers and for change.

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