Aidan’s take on Kony 2012:

Today’s blog post comes from our son Aidan, who weighs in on the YouTube phenomenon Kony 2012, the video by non-profit organization Invisible Children about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony that to date has more than 77 million views:

The thing that sucks is that this may be a deciding moment in history, a spark to ignite change that decides whether the most powerful social media networks to date become tools that humanity uses to improve conditions for others, a way to create a less violent and eventually more egalitarian world. And we don’t know it.

What if Facebook weren’t about liking statuses and pictures, but rather a way to spread valuable information about national and international problems? We could be learning about who needs what, where, and how to get the things they need to them. What if every post was a link to a website for a non-profit organization that had figured out a way to get inexpensive water filtrations systems overseas to those who can’t get clean water? What if, instead of looking for funny pictures of kittens, we looked for valid and worthy social and scientific causes on the Internet?

We are so many educated people who know nothing better than our advantages in life, spend all of our time celebrating it, but aren’t as good at anything as we are at repressing that fact. “Studying is so hard!” No, it’s not, it’s a privilege. If  you want to work in diamond mines or die when you’re 12 of unimaginably painful diseases, that’s always an option, too.

There are different levels of understanding of everything social-media related. There are those who actually embrace carefully chosen causes knowingly, have all along, and are both aware and active (I am not one of these, and you probably aren’t either, as they are an underwhelming minority). We should all be these people, because if we don’t know, we make mistakes, and we can’t know from one YouTube video.

Why are people disputing whether Kony 2012 is really a legitimate cause? Because some people have actually known about it for a while and actually care about violence in other countries? Maybe they are right, maybe they aren’t, but we can’t judge that unless we do some research ourselves. Not searching “Africa” on Google once, but maybe reading books, or being humble enough to ask the people who seem to know something how they know it and reading what they’ve read. Don’t read one side of the argument, either, read both, because you don’t know which side is right.

Then there are those with different, but never truly thorough, levels of awareness (of the plethora and variety of world struggles) who are active, but only to the extent that it is convenient. At the extreme there are those who embrace blindly, bowing to social pressure, but understand shallowly and are barely active in creating real change. 

There are also those who sit to the side and comment cleverly and sarcastically about the stupidity of those who blindly follow their social media shepherds. But what are they contributing? They accomplish a feeling of superiority, make a few people laugh, but not much else. They might be clever, but they aren’t really accomplishing much either. Sure, it’s a fad to like and share the message of the Invisible Children, and you can argue there are flaws in the organization and the information, but it is trying to accomplish something positive

Someone took advantage of the ability to like something without actually caring about it in a thorough way, and will use that to convince people with power that there is a popular backing behind a good cause. It’s something Facebook has made possible, the only thing that is up to us is choosing which causes are the most worthy of our time, then putting something in (hopefully in addition to copying a link in a status bar) into them. It’s exploiting a shitty tendency among the youth, but it isn’t hurting anyone except the people who don’t understand it and spread it and donate to it blindly.

The thing is that it’s ok, but its not. I’m using Kony as an example, but as an example of something that worked rather than something that’s necessarily worthy of our time, money and status updates. It’s ok because the 30% (one of the numbers, might not be accurate, but it isn’t the focus) of the Kony 2012 money that goes to helping is good, and the 70% of the money that pays for the organizations expenses is important, too, because the media they create must be perfectly marketed, which requires money, and is really the only reason we pay attention.

This is what caught me up in this whole mess in the first place: Would we be motivated if the kid wasn’t cute? If there wasn’t Flux Pavilion and Mumford and Sons playing, getting our heart rates up, engaging us for a few moments, would we pay attention? Probably not. We would watch a few seconds of suffering, get bored and decide the emotional stress wasn’t worth it, and we would turn back to words with friends. Without the marketing, it would be just another boring history lesson that we would leave for the activists to concern themselves with.

The marketing is necessary because it’s more important that there are Facebook shares and YouTube views because when counted up, organizations can use this data to show Congress what people feel (even if they may not really feel it). And if congress notices public opinion, they spend accordingly (hopefully), and what they spend consists of the taxes we pay, which are proportionally much, much more than the few dollars we donate online (but these dollars are necessary, too.)

At this point it stops being about something that happened, and an ideal thing to happen for society that probably won’t. But it’s worth a try, because everything is always worth a try.

For these weeks to be the ones that change how we see our social media, from entertainment to a source of knowledge, we need to start changing how we use them. There will be a period of withdrawal for many. For most. For every kid who doesn’t want to stop sharing funny things and making clever comments, it might take a few days, a few weeks for the more addicted, to make a switch, and stop stumbling humor and sports and start stumbling environment and social change. It isn’t hard, you just have to find what interests you and simultaneously benefits humanity. You’re being either close-minded or heartless if those subjects don’t overlap. There are great starting points, like TED talks, but you have to find what you enjoy for this to work, which might take a little time and effort, but once you find it, it will become habitual and enjoyable and most importantly, you won’t feel guilty if you stop studying for a while to do it.

Honestly, it doesn’t have to be a 100% switch, you don’t have to cease communication with friends on Facebook. But all of the stupid things, which we know are stupid and do anyway, can easily be replaced by more humanitarian activities.

We talk about change. About being good people. About contributing positively to society. But at the moment, we are on our way to being just another generation of producers and consumers. Our politicians don’t have our interests regarding things like environmental and social change in mind. Why? Because they don’t know what our interests are. I mean, they might be right, we might not care enough about the 1% (which we talk so much about) to even Google approaches to gaining economic equality in a capitalist society. It isn’t hard, and some people might not have the education to get it yet, but that doesn’t mean they should brush it aside, because compared to most of the world, you’re 99% closer to getting it that they are. Just keep it in mind, and eventually you’ll get it, at which point, all it takes is some voting, maybe buying a solar panel or donating to the right cause. If we all get to that point of action, were going to make an incredible difference in the world. But it has to be all of us. So you should start. ASAP.

And if we get it, and our politicians are still playing with their dicks, then we will know that this has to be done without their help. Honestly, we should probably know that by now. And really, we have money. We don’t need most of it. Envision donating ten dollars. That’s a lot. That’s a whole 3 drinks at a bar. Money is tight,isn’t it? Humanity is utterly screwed if you are thinking yes.

If you know what to give to, you can give to it and be part of a generation that fixed the world. If we don’t fix the world, at least we’re the generation that started the movement. You are that generation. YOU. YOU. YOU. Not us, not we, you. “We” is a diffusion of responsibility. “We” means them and maybe you sometimes if you get a chance. Nope, it’s you. By reading this, you have become responsible for the well being of your generation. You already were, but until now, you might not have known. Social media has made it stupidly easy.

This isn’t something you can do later, this is something you do now. Not just because the time it takes to change makes every moment that we put off change another moment of pain for others that we could be preventing, but more importantly because if you don’t start now, you never will. You’ll forget and go about life the same as you always have. But if you do a couple simple things RIGHT NOW, you set precedents that will get you moving in the right direction. Simple things, change your stumble preferences, get off of Facebook and read a book or watch a TED talk, and when you find a good one, look more into the subject, find something worth while, and make that your status.

This might change the world, but probably not. It’s always worth a try, though.


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