Two days ago, a campaign launched to stop Joseph Kony, the leader of a rebel group in Central Africa that has been committing atrocities for a quarter century. It has positively blown up in social media.
Several of you have reached out to me today, asking for a Savvy Do Gooder perspective. I’ve come to a conclusion: many of us are caught in a false choice on this one.
The two choices
Joseph Kony is bad. I haven’t seen any argument about that. Therefore, this is a good cause; one that good people (like those who reached out to me) understandably want to do something about.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of backlash to this campaign. My personal favourite example is this video from a woman in Uganda. These critics complain that; the KONY2012 campaign victimizes Africans; it perpetuates the ‘White Saviour’ complex; it oversimplifies the issue; it misprepresents the facts; and more. I happen to agree. A lot of what KONY2012 is doing will accomplish more harm than good. I’m not an expert, but I have studied African history and political science, and there are more red flags here than I can count.
So these same good people who feel they should do something are torn between two choices: participating in the campaign and risking doing more harm than good, on one hand. On the other; staying out of it and implicitly endorsing atrocities.
But are those really our only choices? Do we really have to do as KONY2012 tells us, or do nothing?
If you believe the video at the heart of it all, then yes. ‘Get involved’, means getting behind their rhetoric and their approach, donating, sending away for their kit full of swag, and putting up posters all night on April 20th. Either drink the KONY2012 koolaid, or be part of the problem.
A third way
In reality, that’s just not true. Child soldiering is complex issue. KONY2012 doesn’t own it. There are many, many people already working on it. There are many, many factors involved. This means there are many, many ways for you to get involved.
If this campaign has made you feel that you’d like to help end child soldiering, it may be the beginning of a very meaningful journey for you. You can start reading up on it. You can find out who’s operating in the space. You can develop your own ideas about how to create the change you believe in; which will surely be more sophisticated than KONY 2012′s ‘get the bad guy’ approach. You can contribute in an informed way, and really make a difference.
But if you’re not prepared to put in that kind of time and effort, that’s ok, too. We can’t all be involved in everything. It’s your prerogative to choose which change movements you want to invest your resources in.
The one thing I’m asking you not to do is ride the fence. Either become a meaningfully informed and involved part of this issue, or stay out of it.