In the space of a few hours, the name Joseph Kony flashed up on Facebook profiles belonging to hundreds of students, students who consequently asked their friends to watch the half-hour documentary detailing this man’s crimes against innocent children. Last night, Facebook events promoting the “Kony 2012” campaign across the nation boasted hundreds of attendees, a clear indication of how phenomenal an impact social media can have on our generation. Simultaneously, a Tumblr blog criticizing the nature of the movement was let loose into the social media sphere.
According to an article published by The Washington Post, Kony’s brutality has persisted for years; and in the past day Kony 2012 has been trending on Twitter and Facebook. The World Bank’s statistics reveal close to 66,000 children have been recruited to join Kony’s cause and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Furthermore, in 2009 the Invisible Children group advocated to pass a law placing increased power in the Ugandan president’s hands, whose army is known to engage in violations of human rights.
The movie as a piece of cinematography is impressive. Slick transitions complement a compelling parallel drawn between director Jason Russell’s young son and Ugandan victim Jacob. Hearts break all over the Facebook realm as Jacob declares he would rather die than live on this Earth anymore. The camera slowly pans out into darkness as Jacob sobs into his hands. From that point forward, the movie escalates in dramatics and momentum. At its conclusion, you feel elated at the effort to stop such atrocities in the world, and yet it’s tainted by a sense of skepticism. Kony 2012 is a cause that has become rooted in American politics with its insignia and color scheme. While narrowing its focus to a set demographic is effective, we need to understand that this cause isn’t about us, but about the kids enduring these horrific conditions.
What an unfortunate situation we find ourselves in, where we are only spurred to act based on how a cause is presented to us. The International Criminal Court identified Kony as an urgent target seven years ago, yet we are only mobilizing ourselves now. Credit is due to Invisible Children for engaging the public in such an innovative way. However, brutal honesty dictates that sharing a viral video does not make you a social activist. Denouncing violence that initially we know nothing about does not make you a catalyst to justice.
This harsh assessment is not criticizing the cause or the volition to stop Kony from traumatizing anymore children. Having the luxury to sleep at night knowing you aren’t in danger of abduction is an inalienable right many of us don’t even consider. Instead, we must ensure we are cautious over how we choose to perpetuate this fighting spirit to pull through and yield results. As of now, our efforts have usually ended in bitter disappointment.
We can’t afford to feign outrage or act indignant toward those who take a minute to survey the situation, as opposed to reacting on instinct. Awareness is a pivotal first step, but it would be despicable if this cause were one of many to fizzle out after a few weeks. The aim is to draw attention to Joseph Kony, not to ensure Kony 2012 bracelets become a fashion trend. We as a generation should not reserve standing for a cause only when prompted to procure an “action kit.” Perhaps it’s time that we equip ourselves with compassion and conviction instead.