Call me a cynic, call me a terrible person, call me whatever you want, but as much as I know that videos and movements like Kony 2012 are supposed to inspire and bring the world together, they absolutely enrage me. The video takes a serious issue, and turns it into a trend. Think about it.
TOMS, Product (RED), all those Obama "Change" T-shirts and now Kony 2012 take serious issues that should be addressed head on, and turn them into trendy ways for Americans to spend money, get a cool pair of shoes, or iPod, or Tshirt and make them feel like they're a part of something bigger. I love that Kony informs and acknowledges the absolutely horrific situation that is facing the Congo, Sudan, and other parts of Africa. I really do. The thing is, however, that the video doesn't really describe what Kony is actually doing. It tugs at your heart strings, and makes you think about how horrific it would be if your own hypothetical child were to be taken, but it gives very little information about the true atrocities of what Kony and his army have done. The video inspires its viewers, telling us that if we work together we can do great things (which I don't argue with), but I think it lacks real substance. The video gets people to care without truely informing. The video concludes with listing the three simple things you can do to get involved: sign a petition, buy a box filled with colorful posters and bumper stickers, or donate the the same amount of money as a couple of vanilla frappuccinos to TRI. All these methods are hands off ways to confront a very serious problem. They allow people to feel like they're doing something good for the world without having to know much about the cause.
It makes me angry that the causes that attract attention seem to only encourage passive forms of combating them. Like I said in the beginning of this post; I have yet to see a group of teenagers raise money and collect shoes to donate to children in developing countries who don't have access to them, yet everyday I see dozens and dozens of people wearing TOMS. In 2008 and even today, it became in style to wear Tshirts with Obama's face and inspiring messages underneath, however few were aware of Obama's policies and even fewer actually participated in his campaign. I am not questioning the validity of the causes, in fact I think it's great that people care enough to start them in the first place. I am saying, though, that it bothers me that I seem to see more people get involved through methods like buying a product or signing a petition online without really knowing about the cause they claim to feel so inspired by.
I'm not trying to be condescending, because I am as much a part of this as anyone. I even own a pair of TOMS (They're comfy). But I'm just saying that I think the power we have as individuals is put to much better use when we find a cause we really understand, strongly care about, and put real time and effort into fixing whatever it is we feel passionate about fixing. I felt very strongly about electing Obama, so I went to Gary, Indiana and knocked door to door. I volunteered in phone banks. This past summer I helped register voters and work for the Democratic Party in Oak Park. I feel like the time and effort I spent doing that was much more rewarding because it is a cause I feel strongly about. I think once everyone finds that thing they really care about, we can improve the world, but it's going to take more than a video on YouTube to do it.