Uganda: 4th post

Previous post here I'm glad I'm doing this, because this story is seriously resisting getting boring.  The co-founder of Invisible Children and the guy who made the KONY 2012 video, Jason Russell, has been arrested for public masturbation.  Source

I think this is funny, but it's also important to note that the behavior or mental health of the narrator of the KONY 2012 video does not necessarily affect the validity of their cause or claims.  There are a lot of problems with Invisible Children which I've addressed before, but I think it's important to criticize Invisible Children for Invisible Children's problems, not for Jason Russell's personal mental health issues.

***

I said last post that I was going to look into President Museveni, because some of the articles I read cited his corruption as a major issue in Uganda and a reason not to just hand the Ugandan government guns and money to track down Kony.

Regrettably, I didn't do that.  I've been fairly distracted this week and haven't gotten a lot of reading done about the issues in Uganda, so details about Museveni will have to wait until next week.  I apologize to anyone who's reading these posts as a source of useful information and context about the issue.

I did take the time just now to scan his Wikipedia page, though, where a few significant issues stand out.  He's fought against term limits during his administration, and I believe he's eliminated them at this point.  To me, that's a fairly damning concern.  He's also a fundamentalist Christian, and associated with "The Fellowship" or "The Family," a secretive fundamentalist Christian organization oriented towards political influence and breaking down church/state separation.

***

I was also linked (though I can't remember from where) to the Foundation for Sustainable Development's Uganda page, which has a broad overview of the various, significant issues Uganda faces.  I haven't yet done a lot of homework on the FSD's success as a charity, but the picture it paints of Uganda reminds me that the issues the country faces can't be solved by the capture of one man, and that the ability of Joseph Kony to terrorize Uganda and other African countries is a symptom of the broader societal issues which chronically prevent communities from dealing with threats as they arise.  It's as if Uganda's social immune system is compromised, and Joseph Kony and the LRA is an illness that a stronger body could kill, but thrives in weaker nations.

***

Which brings me, again, face-to-face with the question I've been struggling with since I watched the KONY 2012 video.  Of course, stopping Joseph Kony won't solve all of Africa's problems, and of course stopping Joseph Kony will stop at least some of the problems directly caused by Joseph Kony kidnapping children and raising them as soldiers.

I read another article, yesterday, called Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas, which explained that a research team claims to have discovered the percentage of people in a population who hold an opinion necessary to cause that opinion to become the consensus view within the population.

An important aspect of the finding is that the percent of committed opinion holders required to shift majority opinion does not change significantly regardless of the type of network in which the opinion holders are working. In other words, the percentage of committed opinion holders required to influence a society remains at approximately 10 percent, regardless of how or where that opinion starts and spreads in the society. [Emphasis mine]

The question, then, is this:  what is the best way to manage the fact that, suddenly, a huge number of people care very much about Africa, but don't necessarily have the right idea about how to help?  The KONY 2012 campaign offers a clean, comfortable narrative that makes it easy to get a lot of people engaged, and it worked.  It worked on me -- I certainly didn't care enough to do this kind of thinking and research three weeks ago.  It would be a waste to just let that energy dissipate, by persuading all those people who suddenly care that the KONY 2012 campaign is a bad idea, without at least opening the window to some of the other ways they might be able to help.

If at least 10% of Americans, as a result of the KONY 2012 campaign, just come to understand some of the issues in Africa, that could be enough to make a real difference.  It could be enough to tip the cultural attitude of America such that a huge majority of us are motivated to understand what it really takes to offer sustainable aid to the developing world.

That shift could be huge.  It could lead to faster shifts towards a more informed populace and more transparent governments.  It could lead to better economic and environmental policy, and better accountability for the industrialized world's power elite.

Which, again, is why I think the sardonic criticism and condescension towards people who were moved by the KONY 2012 video is irresponsible and contemptible.  I'm becoming more convinced that the appropriate response to Joseph Kony's sudden notoriety is to use that attention to educate people about the nuances of foreign policy and aid programs, and the real, complicated situations of Uganda and of developing countries around the world.