Turning inner space into outer space

March 9, 2012

Kony 2012 may prove that even the hardest lessons are worth learning

This tweet from @JimMacMillan may have said it best: “I’m starting to wonder if the #stopkony blowback is another social media milestone.”

The Kony 2012 video has gone viral in a matter of day and has inspired millions of people around the world to join the effort to bring Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony to justice.

Even here in Kamloops, a city of about 80,000, almost 1,000 people have declared on a high school student’s Facebook page that they will join a rally in support of the cause at an event to be held at one of the local parks.

The organizer is not deterred by the controversy surrounding whether Invisible Children, maker of the video, is legitimate. Her way of getting around this is to not take any donations for the group.

This movement, and the mini-movements it has inspired, has laid bare a hunger to do some good in the world. There’s been a lot of blowback, as MacMillan says, about how this campaign might not be the right way to do it. But even if it does turn out to be a mistake, many people will be left with an awareness of a world outside their community that they may never have experienced otherwise.

Also, the video is a lesson for other — perhaps more genuine — organizations looking for ways to engage people in their cause. What we need is a simple narrative that we can buy into.

It reminds me of the organizations that ask people to donate money to “adopt” a child overseas. The money actually goes to a wider cause, but the idea of helping just one child makes that donation seem so much more real.

The video breaks things down in a way that anyone can understand: here is the evil, here is the way to combat it. Deep down, we know from our own experience in life that this is seldom the reality. But there remains a part in many of us wanting to believe that there can indeed be happy endings.

People taking part in the Kony 2012 campaign will likely learn some hard lessons. But it’s better than learning no lessons at all.