Joseph Kony. There, I’ve said enough for you to get a truck-full of images. I doubt any are pleasant. So it’s no surprise that Kony 2012, the online video now seen by an incredible 100 million people and counting, isn’t bringing the warm fuzzies to Uganda.
Locals in Lira even recently shut down a public showing. No, in Uganda Joseph Kony is not a cause to take on, as much as an evil from which to heal. Even so, the video is out there and Kony is being made into a sort of dark global celebrity.
The t-shirts are being bought. At least a million Kony posters are expected to go up all over the U.S. alone.
Support groups for the Kony 2012 campaign have been set up especially
in that country’s schools and college campuses for a concentrated day of awareness on April 20. It is all apparently to help bring Kony to justice.
It is unfortunate that Invisible Children, the video’s producers, didn’t better convey the current picture of Uganda and Ugandans. Neglecting to note that Kony hasn’t been in Uganda for years is a significant wrong, and the video comes across like Ugandans can’t manage their own affairs.
But despite the video’s imperfection, I wonder if there’s not a larger lesson in all this. That is, despite the growing smallness of the planet, ease of information can misinform and divide our world as much as it can inform and bring it together.
We’ve had warnings of this. Aldous Huxley, author of “Brave New World” feared information technology would make certain cultures trivially preoccupied with entertainment, what he called “the equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.”
Following Huxley was Neil Postman, author of ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death.’ Similarly, he said information would be a commodity to be bought and sold or worn like clothes for status. It would ‘come indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, disconnected from usefulness.’
So the world is glutted with information, drowning in information and we have no control over it, the equivalent of having water and water everywhere with nothing to drink. This is what these men said.
Most interesting, though, they prophetically said it decades ago, long before iPads (the status clothes) or Facebook (the useless information) or Twitter (the information directed for one in particular).
And now we live in the unsettling and bizarre age where 100 million people can be fed so-called “information” about a place like Uganda before most Ugandans even realise the information exists.
These millions, drowning in what can be disinformation, can then move into action they believe is good and necessary when, in fact, it’s likely useless.
Kony – apparently running around who-knows-where between Congo and Central African Republic and Sudan – isn’t likely to be affected by any of this. But I can’t help but wonder if he were to ever learn of what’s happening, if he might not laugh aloud. None of this to say that technology is inherently evil by nature. I am writing from Seattle, Washington, where I am doing some studies.
Not many years ago, if I wanted to get this message to Uganda, I’d have to write it by hand and send it in envelope. Technology has given us enourmous advantages.
But, like anything worthwhile, it needs care. My father used to tell me “where there is much light, there is also much shadow.” It seems to me that a whole lot of folks in the information-rich world need to listen to their prophetic fathers.