Friday, April 13, 2012

Don't Kon Me.

I am not from Uganda.
I have never visited Uganda.
But I’ve followed ample literature- be it fiction, non-fiction or news.
And that, I believe, gives me some right to speak on the Big Kony 2012 deal that’s been doing the rounds.
The viral film, needless to say, but must be uttered to acknowledge what has transpired- has caught the frenzied attention of many a person that uses the internet. For some, it was inspiring, for some others, it was their call to activism. For several others, who I believe are like me, it sparked off sceptical responses. Having begun filming in 2003, Invisible Children actually wound up releasing their video well after Northern Uganda is free of violence and war, for over five years now. The LRA, or the Lord’s Resistance Army, has actually gone on to sign a peace accord, and is working towards rebuilding, restoring and keeping peace.
While I completely agree with the fact that Kony is still ‘out there’, statistically speaking, the actual recruitment of children on his part has decreased. And this isn’t because of Invisible Children – but rather, the Ugandan Military and the International Criminal Court. Uganda faced a 21-year long war, involving North Uganda, the LRA, Joseph Kony and Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni.
Although Invisible Children has pushed the world’s focus towards the situation that prevailed in North Uganda, a considerably overbearing dark underbelly cannot be forgotten. Invisible Children is tirelessly lobbying for the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, the act is a piece of legislation that works in the hope of America’s involvement in legally militarizing Uganda under the guise of the humanitarian tag. The act legitimizes AFRICOM’s mission and objectives, and proffers a home-base in Africa in order to fuel the interests of fighting terrorism and to counter China’s growing power. Invisible Children donned the garb of being an organization lobbying for the passage of the act, in the hope of ending Africa’s longest war.
This is all already available information in the public domain, absolutely nothing new. Even if one were to cast aside the ulterior motives of the campaign, the movie itself barely does any justice to the cause.
For starters, the video tends to play on the ideology of good versus bad. A 3-year-old child is brought forward and made to point out - in speech - which the bad guys are, and to assert that his ‘daddy’ goes after them. Yes, there’s good, there’s bad. But Invisible Children fails to note that life isn’t all about black and white. If that is their perception of life and the way the world works- where do they stand themselves? Their way of exploiting a presently-on-its-way-to-peace-country’s past in an attempt to push for legislation doesn’t exactly put them in the “good” side.
Secondly, the makers of the movie seem to lack some semblance of sensitization. What, then, would fuel the ‘I will fix your problem!’ response, to a boy’s painful rendition of a narrative whence he recounts losing his brother during the war? Really, what can fix the child’s problem? Can Invisible Children bring back the boy from the dead? In that little exchange, just one thing bled through – no matter what, no matter how far one’s cause-fighting proclivities may be, there are some things that cannot be “fixed”. Be a beacon of hope, offer to give him a future that he would have goodness in, and follow it up. But how can you offer to “fix” his grief for a brother who moved on?
To my mind, Invisible Children actually played on the sentiments of people across the globe. The movie is every director’s vision- sensational, difficult and tries to make you want to do something. And that is precisely what is wrong with it.
Scores of us world over are armchair activists, or actually on-field activists. We, as humans, have a responsibility for our fellowmen, and must necessarily do our best to reach out to those in need. This is not a “super power” that only some have, but rather, an inherent duty that we all owe to each other. To an outsider, involvement in championing a cause is an opportunity for the one in suffering himself to see hope, to be able to speak out- and just to be able to find support while picking up pieces of his  life. There is no ‘right’ way of doing this – just as there are vagaries in life, there are also vagaries in the outcome one may find emanating from involving oneself in championing a cause. And this isn’t in anyone’s hands, doubtless. But, there is an expected yardstick of behaviour, a sense of ‘correctness’ that is expected – a certain accepted modus of conduct. That, I believe, was lacking in Invisible Children’s video. What would be so wrong in acknowledging the difficulty that prevailed, and assure the boy that if he remains strong, the hope eluded him thus far might just come around? What is so wrong in allowing the boy to the feelings he is entitled to? But instead, forcing the child to allow Invisible Children to ‘fix’ his problems- isn’t that too far-fetched, and absolutely unfair, to play on the child’s psyche by offering him a false hope?