‘Kony 2012’ tells us more about ourselves than about Uganda

Why do many of us feel a strange resistance to the Joseph Kony internet campaign? The Kony 2012 video received 50 million views over four days.

Isn’t this a good thing? Thousands of young lives are ruined by the Kony-led Lord’s Resistance Army. Doesn’t this need to be publicized? Why has Kony 2012 never sat comfortably for me and others?

A facebook post by a supporter of the Australian arm of the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign helped me to understand my discomfort. It read: 30,000 children affected in Kony campaign. 800,000 lives will be saved in the #DontCutAid campaign. ‘Make Poverty History’ was drawing attention to the Australian Government’s failure to meet the goals for development assistance which they signed up for in 2000, called the ‘Millennium Goals’. Many more lives are lost through Australia breaking its promises to contribute developmental assistance than through Joseph Kony’s deplorable acts.

So who is the villain? Kony is a problem, but so are we! Lack of action on the part of donor nations is more damaging to the two thirds world than Kony and his LRA. Is this not a case of the ‘plank in your own eye’. Why do videos advertising 1st world stinginess not go viral? Why do posts calling attention to consumerism not make American teenagers mad? The problem of poverty lies more with 1st world politics and lifestyle than Joseph Kony. The record breaking spread of a video that exposes the sins of another suggests that the 1st world has not noticed the plank.

Secondly the video and its sharers have not taken the time to hear what Ugandans really care about. The N.Y. Times wrote: Ordinary Ugandans are worrying about other things. The government needs a strategy for assessing its capital needs by sector. Should Uganda build an oil refinery or forgo the profits and send crude to Kenya for processing? And if it’s Ugandan children in peril you’re looking for, there are those suffering from “nodding disease” — an unusual neurological disease that’s killed hundreds of children in the very region Kony once terrorized.

The Kony 2012 campaign exposes how isolated western teenagers, and westerners of every age, have become. (Paradoxically the world wide web shrinks our world rather than broadens it.) It is critical that westerners become informed and active on global crisis points.

We must hope that this campaign prompts young people to immerse more deeply in global issues. Perhaps the campaign will inspire young people to use the web as a tool for education and advocacy. For the eager, a good place to begin would be to read the New York Times online a few times a week. Regular visits to the Micah Challenge website, a Christian global poverty advocacy group, will help too.

For we who felt a strange resistance to Kony 2012, perhaps a fresh awareness of the power of social media is gained. If ‘posting’ and ‘sharing’ informs and mobilises, then let us ‘post’ and ‘share’ on issues of significance.

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About Mark Glanville

Mark Glanville, a pastor-scholar, ministers at Grandview Calvary Church, Vancouver and is on the faculty of the Missional Training Center, Phoenix (missionaltraining.org). Mark studies towards a PhD in Old Testament at Trinity College, Bristol, U.K. (supervisors: Craig Bartholomew and Gordon Wenham). His research topic is the ‘ger’ (refugee) in Deuteronomy. Mark lives in Vancouver and speaks regularly at conferences on justice, mission and the Old Testament (e.g. Pastorum Live, Chicago, Apr 2013 and Missional Hermeneutics Conference, Grand Rapids, Nov 2013). Mark is theologically reformed and is ordained in the Presbyterian Church of Australia. Mark’s previous career was as a jazz pianist in Sydney and around Australia (Chick Corea and Wynton Kelly are his musical heroes). Mark spends his spare time mulling over ideas in coffee shops with Erin his wife and bushwalking with Mahla and Lewin their children. Mark is Aussie; he can break a crocodile's neck with two fingers. Mark blogs at markrglanville@wordpress.com
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4 Responses to ‘Kony 2012’ tells us more about ourselves than about Uganda

  1. Elly says:

    And the Canadian government has cut aid to the most needy countries, and is giving aid only to those countiries with whom they see a trade potential.. An I Have not expressed my indignation…yet.

  2. Mark Elkington says:

    Sins of omission are insidious, aren’t they. They slip under the radar from the schoolyard onwards: nearly always stop hitting him rather than start helping him. There’s an assumed if unspoken asymmetry to our default ethic: do no harm (none) and optionally do good (some).

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