You may have heard by now of Kony2012, a viral film and campaign by non-profit Invisible Children aimed at shedding light on the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and surrounding countries. It’s not the kind of thing we normally blog about here at Lifeovereasy, but the story is powerful and timely, and I thought I would share some thoughts.
Invisible Children has managed to create a compelling video that inspires people to take some kind of action – generally to spread the word. They are seeking to wake up the world to Kony and his activities, an awareness that they believe will lead to his arrest. Almost 68 milion people have viewed the video so far on YouTube, their site has almost 3 million likes on Facebook, and the hashtag #Kony2012 has been trending high on twitter all week – that’s a lot of people who have been woken up.
With this kind of success has come the inevitable criticism toward Invisible Children – their oversimplification of a complex problem, the inappropriateness of Western intrusion into African affairs, the low percentage of donated funds used for work in Africa. These criticisms may be valid but critics are missing the main point – awareness is a powerful weapon, and in that Invisible Children has succeeded dramatically. The way social media can mobilize and connect people around the planet is astonishing, and a very new phenomenon. My ancestors lived for most of the last 500 years in the same village in northern Italy – their world was limited essentially to a few square kilometers. Today my children know, and care about, what’s happening to kids their own age on the other side of the planet. That’s big. The roots of our connection to other human beings are compassion and empathy, and those only come through our awareness of other people and how they live, and where they come from. Without this awareness and sense of connection, how can we care? And if we don’t care, people like Joseph Kony can operate with impunity.
Life is complex, and clear and easy solutions may be impossible to find. But Invisible Children has shown that at least 68 million people care. That will mean something to decision makers who can help bring Joseph Kony to justice, and possibly to the man himself. Their video starts by reminding us that nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Ideas have never spread as quickly as they do today. 68 million of us have seen the video – that’s pretty powerful.