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.

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