Monday, 26 March 2012

Mark Bartels' Kony post


There has obviously been a lot written about Kony2012, and I’m not sure that I have much new to add. But since there are at least a few people that have asked for my opinion, I thought I would write something, as well as point to some links that I think do a good job of discussing one aspect or another of this debate.

My first response basically followed the critique of many that IC is some combination of naïve, patronizing, condescending and self-important. Some good articles that make this point in one way or another are:

My second response was based on my ongoing (generally failed) efforts to be less cynical. I told myself, ‘Hey, at least these guys aren’t still living at home and waking up at noon to play 12 hours of Halo. At least they are engaging the fallenness of the world and trying to do something about it.’ Or, given their technical and creative skills, combined with their obvious ability to connect with a huge section of the American people, they could be selling their work to the highest bidder, attempting to viral videos for Coke or Chevrolet or Microsoft whoever was willing to pay them the most. A well-written, sympathetic view of their efforts can be read here:

I especially find hard to stomach the criticism from those who benefit from white-privilege while condemning IC for speaking from a position of white-privilege. I’ve found the most compelling criticism to be from Ugandans and other Africans.

My third and (to this point) final response is that at the end of the day, I think the video sends many implicit and explicit messages with which I just cannot agree. Here are a few, in no particular order.

1)   That Ugandans and other Africans are inferior to Americans because they obviously can’t fix this problem without our help. Reinforced by the fact that . . .

2)   . . . this problem is relatively straightforward and with enough effort from Americans, it is easily fixed.

3)   That military action and increased militarization of this part of the world is the correct response and the chance of unintended consequences is very small.

4)   That this really is a case of one crazy man and if we take him out, the people of South Sudan, northern Uganda, eastern Congo and the Central African Republic will all be safe.

This ignores the fact that there are dozens of armed rebel groups eastern Congo and very few of the leaders are being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. What happens if another crazy warlord starts terrorizing the people after Kony is taken out? What happens if Museveni actually needs Kony as an external threat to justify his military expenditures and heavy-handed domestic tactics? Don’t believe this? The Ugandan government is already starting to talk about the resurgence of a different rebel group. Just in case Kony gets taken out, Ugandans will still need Museveni to protect them. (

5)   That our best hope for solving the problems of the world is to use the power structures of the world. That governments, militaries, and international organizations provide a better option for addressing this problem than the local church—the local church in America but especially the local church in Africa.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A View from Poisonwood's Adah Price

As part of the Faith and Action class, USP students read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver a modern literary classic which records the fictional story of a 1960s US missionary family who leave their home in the Southern US to serve in a village in the Belgian Congo (present day Democratic Republic of Congo).  One of their assignment is to write a critical insight paper using the eyes and narrative of one of the characters in Poisonwood; this particular student has chosen to represent the physically warped and emotionally sarcastic, yet intellectually brilliant member of the Price family, Adah Price.  

Habari yako, or Wasuze Otyanno, means “What is your news?”, “you have spent the news how?”, or "How did you sleep?" People are Baganda, the singular Muganda. Their Kingdom is Buganda, and their language Luganda, and I once classified it all Uganda. Buganda is the eye of the Man Uganda. The Banansangwa makes the eye see: the Indigenous clans. The eye can see, think, and feel by its animals: the Lion, the Bulldog, the Fish, or the Shit. That is what he said at least. The Muganda must know which clan they belong to, because their roles require so.
The day was hot, and we all peered on, or sneered on, or slept on, as we listened intently to the guide who spoke to us in what sounded like metaphors. Animals represent the Baganda, whom speak in Luganda, and make up Buganda. He named the totems in both Luganda and English, and gave us their Kingdom responsibilities.  For some they guard, others keep the fire burning, while he is responsible for greeting the females in the Kings Palace.
Habari yako? What is the news? Asks more clearly how that day was spent at the Buganda King's Palace. The eye with all of its nerves, vessels, sclera, macula, conjunctiva, rectus medialis, or ora serra is only seen to me as the anatomical eye. I'm aloof; a fool am I. It is usually only understood in its anatomy, rather than its intricate and elaborate work of art. If the eyes is to the soul, and the soul reveals the man, the man is Uganda, and his eye Buganda. I must look, gaze, study, reflect, and appreciate the function of the eye.
We moved on, faster and faster, through the wooden doors that opened our minds to generations of history. The doors that Our Father carelessly entered; trampling on the ground that feeds him. The hungry ground that serves the Reverend Mzungu and the Reverend Mzungu vomits its food back on the hospitable ground. Dogma: I am God is how he carried himself.
I was speechless, as speech for me is less. My sister Rachel would have probably been her own totem; the princess totem of Buganda: the queen of her own palace. As for Ruth May, her image engraved on the wooden wall: the Cobra. And Leah: whatever animal she could hunt. As for me, God saw I was dog.
I was bombarded by imagery, of the clans eating the Lion, the Lion eating the dog, and the dog eating the snake: as Our Father had described the condition of Uganda. I had come to know, however, that the eye instead was the Garden of Eden, at least before we came: Madam, in Eden I'm Adam. And whether or not I ever looked deep into the eye of the Man didn’t matter. You know, I did little for you: for little did I know you. He existed before me, and will exist after me. And as for Our Father, he stood his ground, assuming that it was his God-given mandate to renew and baptize The Man. amen enema.

Tiffana LeMaster (Spring 2011)

Monday, 12 March 2012


Generalizations, Blanket Statements, Assumptions, Stereotypes: All Formed for One Legitimate Reason or Another, but Made to be Broken!

As most of you are aware, I am living with a wonderful host family in Mukono for an entire semester; they are wonderful but not even close to what I expected. Apart from the physical location being much “nicer” than I anticipated, my family members do not fit my previous conception of a typical Ugandan family. I did not anticipate they would fit exactly within the mold we tend to put them, but I did assume they would to some extent, at least in more ways than they do. One dominant ideal in Africa that is discussed in my department at school is that of patriarchy. Africa is considered a traditional society that is extremely patriarchal in countless ways, from perceptions of who does the cooking to men buying their wives with cows. In my family here, my papa knows his way around the kitchen; I am told that once, when my mama was bedridden, a maid ran off because she could not handle sharing kitchen work with a man. He is a reverend by profession; in Uganda, that means people are expected to serve him whenever he goes anywhere. (Traditionally, the more glorified a leader is, the better off his people consider themselves.) But my papa understands Jesus’ mandate to serve as one that applies to him as well as the layperson. One time, he even begged me to let him serve me something, even if it was just a glass of water. The patriarchal stereotype is further broken during our family devotion time. My first Sunday with them, we did not attend church because we were exhausted from a function on Saturday. In the evening, we had a mini church service in our living room. I was nominated the preacher, for some strange reason, my sister the sermon director (not sure how this is different from preacher, but it meant she read from “Our Daily Bread” devotional and I read the Scripture passage), and my other sisters the intercessors. Such practice is typical of our devotion times; he sometimes takes the verbal lead, but he is more often the silent leader, not what one expects to encounter in a society that is labeled patriarchal.
My sister Hannah also proved to be not what I expected. When imagining a young African woman, even one in the city, what do you envision? One who is tough, not easily grossed out, super conservatively dressed, maybe dirty nails, most likely married by age 23 with a child, and certainly more than able to handle a few chickens? That’s what I would have said before arriving here. The reality is that Hannah is super gorgeous. She likes to paint her nails and gets her hair done frequently. Her wardrobe is adorable, and I would wear anything in it in the States (some of her skirts sit an inch or two above her knees). She does not want to be married anytime soon, and she does not want a houseful of children when she does get married. And she definitely needs some practice handling the chickens she owns!
Recently, she is in the process of beginning a small business on the side of raising and selling chickens. Since she works in Kampala, the family pays some guys to tend to the chicks throughout the day. One night, we all strolled down the trail to the “farm” to check on the little animals. Upon arriving, my papa told Hannah to hold one and tell him about how much it weighed. She stepped inside the coop, and bent over to grab one. It flapped its wings rapidly; she squealed and jumped backwards. We all laughed. She tried again, same result, “How am I supposed to catch one?! They fly away! And they feel nasty!” Papa said “You just grab it quickly,” as he demonstrated with his hands. Hannah’s expression persisted declaring, “There’s no way this is happening. Why do I have to do this anyway?” Papa then turned to me and nudged me to give it a try. I stepped inside, took a small breath, bent down and attempted to grab one. This first try was similar to Hannah’s, without the intense squeal (shocking, I know). Then I took a deep breath and told myself that I was smarter than the half grown chicken, lunged quickly, and succeeded in scooping it up in my hands! I then turned to try to give it to Hannah so that she could hold it and estimate its weight (in kg). She again tried to hold it but instantly backed up with an additional look of disgust when she felt the thin layer of feathers against its warm little body. Her quick movements made the bird react with flapping wings, so I set it down. Papa still wanted a weight estimate from Hannah, so I again captured another chicken, hoping she might be able to take if from my hands. She again did not. We left the coop laughing hysterically as I declared we were both born in the wrong country. J

 Reina Allbritain (Spring 2011)