Students frustrated by attempt at change

By Justin Marinelli
Contributing Writer

Have you done great harm to an African child recently? The road to hell is paved with good intentions, after all. You know what you’ve done. Let’s not beat around the bush; I’m talking about Kony 2012.

Odds are that one of your Facebook friends has shared this video–and by “one” I mean hundreds of your friends bombarded your newsfeed with the video by the end of March. But if you’ve only seen the video, you haven’t gotten the whole story. As early as November 2011 (before the video was even finished with production), Foreign Affairs reported that Invisible Children “manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murder.”  The video itself has been accused of promoting a simplistic worldview, hiding inconvenient facts, including that Kony is not actually in Uganda, nor is he fighting anybody at the moment–and prizing feel-good symbolic actions (“1 million ‘Likes’ and Kony will die”) over solving the inherent socio-economic issues that gave birth to situations in which warlords can seize power.

You know why men like Kony take power? Because in a region decimated by poverty, starvation and disease, despair runs rampant. Opportunistic individuals come in with food, promising peace, prosperity and power in exchange for your loyalty and silence. When your other option is starvation, who would choose death? If the government cannot provide for their people, someone will fill the vacuum. Odds are, this person won’t always play nice.

What are we supposed to do? Well, first, find a legitimate organization that knows what it’s doing. Luckily for you, the University’s very own chapter of GlobeMed actually does volunteer work in rural Uganda, working with a local organization that essentially works to combat the real problems of poverty and pestilence. 

Full disclosure here: I’m in GlobeMed. But I’m not name-dropping just because I’m a member. I’m mentioning the organization because its model actually works. Instead of waltzing into any old country and handing out food and medicine, every chapter goes to its partner organization and asks two things: “What do you need and how can we help?” Why? Because these organizations know best what ought to be done.

The biggest problem with Kony 2012 is not the simplistic narrative, the sketchy facts or being ubiquitous on Facebook; it’s that the measures it proposes won’t solve anything. It wants to treat the symptoms without doing anything about the cause. All you’re doing is perpetuating the cycle. One warlord dies, another takes his place. You have to eliminate the root causes.

Deep down, you understand this. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. So try this: if you see an inspirational video on the Internet that makes you think about these issues, don’t share it. Make a donation to a legitimate organization that knows what it’s doing. You’ll feel good, and you’ll actually help. That’s how to do things right.

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