March 7, 2012

KONY 2012

I didn't watch the KONY 2012 video when it first popped up on my tumblr feed. I bookmarked the link to watch the next day when I could clear a half hour and have the head space to think about it as I watched. I knew, already, that it involved children, "evil incarnate", activism, social media, and global affairs. I knew it was a half hour video spreading among teens - who I think have passionate hearts and short attention spans. I knew it was something to pay attention to, and I wanted to have the head space to think about it. "This is complicated stuff," I kept thinking.

I ended up reading a lot of interesting, articulate, and knowledgeable commentary before I watched the video. I read thoughts on the involvement of the US in African and global affairs - the negative historic impact and possible (probable) negative future impact; thoughts on the accountability of non-profit organizations, their missions, their financial expenditures, their understanding of issues prior to "jumping in to help," their leverage of resources; thoughts on creating solutions that actually reach the heart of a problem and solve it. "This stuff is complicated," I kept thinking.

It is complicated. That stuff is complicated. I work in the non-profit sector. I research issues that have layers of complexity - societal values, personal and social accountability, public safety, individual liberties, public perception, the role of government, the creation of public policies, public spending, historic injustice, psychological development, institutional roles... it is complicated. I look for data - data collected, data not collected, holes in data, skewed data, insignificant data, revolutionary data, quantitative data, qualitative data... It all matters. It's all complicated.

I knew the KONY 2012 video was about using social media to create a social movement on a level that reaches innovative. I am fascinated by innovation. (Who isn't?) Framing an issue and finding an out-side-of-the-box solution. A small change that leads to massive change. A cross-sector perspective. It's all exciting. But I hit dead ends. Often. It's complicated. (For example, this post talks about The LifeStraw that actually takes twenty minutes to sanitize and drink a daily amount of water, the absurdity of teaching people to wash their hands when they do not have soap and water, and the lack of cultural knowledge when suggesting kids in Africa carry laptops - their most expensive possessions - to school each day.) Innovation is difficult. It's complicated. That's part of what makes it so impressive, noteworthy, and important.

I sat down to watch this video, ready to sort through layers of complication. But halfway through, I realized I was wrong.

It's not that complicated.

Yes, yes, it could be. There are aspects that are complicated. Research anything before you throw your support (energy or money) behind it. But.

This does not have to be complicated. Kids are being abducted and forced to mutilate and to kill. The world should know about this. Everyone should know about this. The non-profit organization is successfully putting a spotlight on a terrible monstrosity. These are children. They deserve a childhood.

The heart of the matter is not that complicated. At least for me.

And when it comes down to it, the heart of the work I do day-to-day isn't that complicated either. Kids deserve a childhood. Kids deserve to be kids. The policies, politics, accountability, data, framework, public opinion, and innovation are secondary, complex layers. But the heart of the matter is simple. At least for me.

So it is in that context that I join so many others in sharing this video, in  defending childhood, and in stepping into my office tomorrow morning.

A big thank you to the following for (consistently but also specifically on this topic) framing these types of matters with heart, passion, intellect, and wisdom and for informing so much of what I wrote above:

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