Saturday, March 10, 2012

There must be a collective conscience about Kony

Unless you've been marooned on a desert island you will have heard about the extraordinary documentary made by the film maker Jason Russell and the Invisible Children movement about the ruthless warlord Joseph Kony in Uganda. In a half hour documentary on YouTube, Kony is accused of capturing and brainwashing thousands of child soldiers, many of whom have then reportedly mutilated other children or returned home to murder members of their own families.
The explicit aim of the documentary and endorsement by several A-list celebrities is designed to put political pressure on world leaders to act on something they have purportedly known about for a long time but did nothing about. It is not the first time western leaders have been accused of valuing the lives of their own well above others living far away.

However a second disturbing element of this story emerging in the wake of the first is the aspersions now being cast on those dedicated to the capture of Kony and what they are doing with donations they have received by those keen to help. Firstly it is worth noting that the rumour they are misappropriating monies that should otherwise be spent on the cause, is ironically itself only a rumour spawned in the same social media the documentary makers themselves are attempting to exploit. However they are not a registered charity, they have dedicated 10 years of their lives to pursuing this man and profiling his horrific deeds. What is the opportunity cost for them in having spent a decade trying to bring this despot down? What good will a couple of million dollars do and haven't they done more than any government to date? How else do they fund the manufacture of their action kits, banners and badges? They have been explicit in stating their primary aim is to highlight the plight of Ugandan boy child soldiers and girl sex slaves and bring Kony into captivity. Are they not acting in a way consistent with that? For the money rumour to gain traction is to detract and distract from the significance of what the documentary makes are trying to achieve and means we play into the hands of the evil perpetrator.

Some world aid charities themselves are borderline exploiters of grief and dislocation in a bid to shock donors out of their compassion fatigue and habituation to human suffering. Linda Polman, a War correspondent in Sierra Leone and Liberia for many years chronicles this phenomenon in her book War Games. Only this week we heard the account of a journalist who paid to attend a Fundraising Conference here in Australia and was dismayed at the lengths charities are being encouraged to go to compete for our hard earned donation dollar in a world where government aid allocations cannot be assumed. Why if Russell has such a horrific, dramatic and emotional story to tell should he not use drama and emotion to do so?

I hold World Vision to account in ensuring our monthly payment assists our young Arcidio in Mozambique to live a better life. I hold the Kony 2012 documentary makers who have opened our eyes and have brought pressure to bear on western governments to expedite the capture of the evil Joseph Kony, accountable for nothing. Invisible Children deserves our admiration and tangible support, not our cynicism nor our self-righteous deflections. The world of social media means we live in extraordinary times. Surely its biggest gift for all its downsides is its power to inform, bring people together in the spirit of a common cause and call us to action.