The brave new world of social media is buzzing with its latest paradigm shift. It is called, “KONY 2012.”
“KONY 2012″ is a Youtube video with 58 million views, and counting. It is also a plea for international help to right decades of injustice in Uganda and an attempt to use the massive power of the Web-connected world for a single-minded project: To arrest the Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony.
Kony has been identified by the International Criminal Court as their most wanted fugitive. He was indicted in 2005 for actions as the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), including “12 counts of crimes against humanity and 21 counts of war crimes with regard to the situation in Uganda” (source Wikipedia).
“KONY 2012″ was created as a web-based documentary and fund-raiser aimed at stopping the victimization of Ugandan people, mostly children, who have suffered decades of slavery, rape, abduction and murder at the hands of Kony and the LRA. The 29 minute film is a compelling compilation of visceral images and heart-breaking testimony, especially for its intended target – young people. Its creators were quick to recognize that, in the time of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements, it’s hard to change the mind of a community, global or local, without reaching a youthful audience.
As a result, “KONY 2012″ has been viewed in numbers so great that the definition of “viral” falls short. Not surprisingly, I was introduced to the video by my two teenage boys. They had been overwhelmed by the tale – a generation of boys forced to commit unthinkable acts of violence as soldier-slaves of the LRA. My sons, unlike me, were shocked that politicians and the global community had been so unwilling to help.
But then their world view did not include other examples of massive injustive, such as the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda or the more recent atrocities in Darfur, Sudan, which were treated with a shrug of the world’s shoulders.
The horrific events in Uganda (and Darfur and Rwanda) should have been the consummate call to action for the United Nations. This entity is, after all, the first and last bastion for global cooperation and peaceful resolution. In fact, the very first line of the U.N.’s Human Right’s Mission Statement declares that it will, “Give priority to addressing the most pressing human rights violations, both acute and chronic, particularly those that put life in imminent peril.” The situation in Uganda was a textbook case.
When put to the test, however, the U.N. fell well short. Instead of getting immediate consensus of its member countries, launching an international police force, and arresting Kony for his many crimes (a move the Ugandan government has allegedly supported), it chose to make proclamations from committee.
In this and other instances, the world body (not to mention individual countries, including our own) has behaved much like the elected politicians in our republican style of government. In representation of their constituent nations, U.N. delegates seem incapable of raising their hand for a good cause for fear it will momentarily expose their backsides to personal risk. The emasculation of the U.N. has been shameful, and developing countries such as Uganda have suffered for it.
In response, the growing number of people uniting under the “KONY 2012″ posters has embraced the noisy democracy of ancient Greece, writ large on a global scale. Their direct action is not simply compelling, but the movement is also reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln’s description of democracy as being “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Fortunately there are people, far removed from the desk bound bureaucracy of the U.N., who have made justice and freedom their life’s work. They have seen the worst that humans can do to one another and have exposed it to the world in the video, “KONY 2012.” Their message is inspirational. Perhaps it will be transformational.
But first things first. The world needs to arrest JosephKony.