Thursday, March 8, 2012

KONY 2012

So THIS is why I stopped blogging. I get too worked about things sometimes...

Controversial issues happen all around the world every single day, but the current movement of KONY 2012 through Invisible Children has climbed to the top of the spotlight and is now THE most trending topic on twitter and Facebook.

I just watched the KONY 2012 video on Tuesday night and over the past few days it has already has over 40 million views. Click here for the video.

I have been a longtime supporter of Invisible Children and have volunteered and fundraised for the organization. Most people I have talked to over the years about IC have supported the movement, and I rarely hear negative comments. So I was literally shocked and devastated that as soon as the KONY 2012 video launched, people came out of nowhere and just started bashing IC without even having legitimate facts about the movement. But what REALLY pissed me off was that Christians on Facebook (yes, my Facebook friends), are not only bashing the movement, but they are getting on their high horses and saying - "preach the gospel, not social justice!"

Really?

The whole thing is a hot mess.

All I have been doing over these past few days is trying my best to educate people on this movement. My conversations have been all over the place and it's really exhausting. So I only want to say a few things about IC.

1) IC found its beginnings through 3 college kids roaming around Africa trying to find a good story for a documentary. Was this a form of a "White savior complex?" Most likely. They were young and not highly educated (I think they were finishing up their bachelors degrees). They discover this story of what is happening to these children... interviewing CRYING CHILDREN who had been kidnapped, raped, and forced to kill. What the heck were these guys supposed to do?!

2) So they started a company to MAKE A MOVIE. This was the whole goal - make a short film to take around the world and show everyone a glimpse of what was happening, to raise money for the costs of making a feature length film. From the beginning, every DIME I donated to IC, I knew this is where it was going - TO A MOVIE.

3) Remember those crying children? Well they couldn't just be left alone to fend for themselves in Uganda. The 3 IC guys didn't really know how to run a non-profit for humanitarian reasons... so they stayed mostly in San Diego and then in Uganda to film, while hiring Ugandan nationals to run a company out of Uganda making all the bracelets, purses and fun stuff to create jobs. Along these lines, they also created schools in which over ONE THOUSAND kids are currently receiving an education from. Because there are so many different areas of business now, you can choose to donate directly to whatever cause you wish to donate to.

4) As far as the KONY 2012 campaign goes, I am open to criticisms about that. Not everyone would agree with their tactics and I believe that is fair.

What is not fair is all of these false accusations about money issues and pictures with guns and white savior complex... it's all so unfair in my eyes. I have spent SEVEN years working alongside this company... I KNOW this company... and people who have never even watched the original film are making horrible accusations.

I am really frustrated with this. And I am really frustrated with a lot of Christian reactions to this.

It seems that nothing is ever enough for people.




2 comments:

mattgundlach said...

I can understand a little of why you'd be frustrated based on your personal connection with the organization. And I to would be angry if I saw people bashing on the basis of "preach the gospel, not social justice"--which is a contradiction we both know and don't have to dissect it.

I also hate using my own blog for posting my own opinion about a topic--for my own reasons as a writer, and because I don't like comment threads and social media debates.

But I have a lot of serious issues with IC, and with the KONY 2012 thing. And I felt some sense of responsibility to respond when I read your post, since I have been thinking about the issue as well.

Every successive year since I first heard about IC (2006) I've grown more and more uncomfortable with them, to the point where I now don't support the organization at all. And you might not agree, but I have, at least I think, some legitimate reasons why. There are a lot of dumb reasons people may be criticizing IC, but there are a lot of legitimate ones that come from voices with the Christian social justice movement (especially those who understand race) and from Africa and Uganda. And this here is coming from someone you know is very well steeped in social justice, practice and theory and scripture.

For one, the accusation about white savior complex isn't false, but extremely important and legitimate. I'd invite you to take a close, analytical look at the photo of the 3 founders holding the guns. Forget any presuppositions and just look at the composition of the photo. What you see is three white men, posing with weapons held upward; they are at the center of the composition, they are in the center of the light. The Africans stand passively in the background. That pretty clearly conveys ethnocentrism, especially if you situate it then the context of colonialism and contemporary postcolonial politics, in which whites are the actors: helping the helpless, solving the problems. I posted an article on facebook in which the AP photographer is interviewed about it and it is very telling.

The very name "Invisible Children" makes a similar move, though with language. It can easily be seen to reinforce the white superiority--the Black Africans are invisible. We make them visible. This may seem like nit-picking to some, but words convey more than people give understanding to, in part because we don't pay attention to the way words are used, not just what the communicate but what they embody, especially in the media.

mattgundlach said...

{PART 2]

When I was at the Catholic Worker in Los Angeles, I met a guy who knew the 3 founders in college, and went with them to Uganda on their second trip. What he shared with me affirmed some of my misgivings about them. He was disheartened by what he saw--in the sense that it affirmed his misgivings with what he was getting into and what he knew of them. Although I can't recount his testimony word for word, what it comes down to is that he saw three guys: cocky, arrogant, looking for a story and fame--not really interested in solving problems or in relief and development. They happened upon the LRA/Uganda story, and they used it.

And that makes sense to me from what I've seen--and falls parallel to it as movement/organization that is based on media savvy. They've influenced contemporary activism and Christian activism a lot, unforunately that influence isn't healthy. The focus on media and "awareness/advocacy" and they're very good at it and they get young people very involved. A lot of young people are getting very involved in "social justice" without being a part of justice, or cultuvating justice as a virtue in their walk--rather they are taking a part in virtual justice that is cause and media based, and not, like the example in tradition show (Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Gandhi, John Perkins and the CCDA, the New Monastics, Clarence Jordan, Desmond Tutu, so on) based on Community and rooted in People and Place.

It's known that IC spent $8.6 million last year and only 32 percent went directly to services, the rest went to staff, travel, and film production. That's the opposite of what healthy, holistic community based organizations are doing. And rather than accept the criticism and make changes, they justify it. I wouldn't call IC or what they do social justice. It's new media activism and charity.

Beyond all of this, the most significant thing to me is that Africans, those with a good understanding of colonial politics, and even uneducated people, are voicing displeasure. When the people group says, "don't try and tell my story for me." To the group trying to "help" and tell their story should listen. The attitude of the Christian, especially in cross-cultural situations is to listen.

I don't think that no good at all has come from IC, but I don't think that they embody a gospel-oriented witness of justice and peace.