the little bit that I do know

I do not claim to be a journalist, or social activist, or a cultural anthropologist, or a political scientist, or an international criminal lawyer.

I am just a student. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and my grasp on social activism/international relations/NGOs is better than some, and worse than others, so in no way am I claiming to know a lot more about the Joseph Kony thing going around than most people. I have lots of questions, and I ask them of the internet, and of people smarter and more worldly than I.

So with that disclaimer, let us discuss.

I have worked with only one non-profit for an extended period in my adult life-time, so although I do not know all the ins-and-outs of the NGOs and non-profits and relief-aids, I understand the importance of researching and doing your homework about what institutions you want to donate your time and money and effort to. And let’s be real, it’s a lot of work to be thorough.

I am not a worldly person. I am untraveled and my knowledge of international relations is pedestrian at best, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care. I am not any sort of expert about the tragedies that occur, but I do understand storytelling.

The Kony 2012 video/campaign from Invisible Children has recently exploded on facebook and twitter; it’s through these mostly frivolous social media sites that I heard about the IC campaign. I watched the video late last night, shared it on my personal fb page, and then this morning, watched as the backlash and passive aggressive finger pointing and scolding began.

I know that the editing and overall voice of the video sensationalizes all the information, but why is this inherently a bad thing? I’m not saying that institutions have the right to fudge up details and numbers, but I think the IC movement wanted more than anything to make an emotional connection, and you can’t make an emotional connection without telling a story, without putting a face to the victim and a face to the villain. And I’m not saying that it’s okay for non-profit institutions to only donate 30% of what they raise to the actual charity itself, but think about what we do take away from the IC campaign that we haven’t with other, maybe more efficient, maybe less prominent groups. The IC campaign does rely largely on storytelling instead of journalism, but it gives people an emotional connection, and it makes people feel like they are a part of a movement, instead of dropping money off in a donation can from a distance. It makes people feel good. And while there may be more efficient ways to distribute funds, I think this gives the donors more (human? spiritual? emotional?) value, and that’s important too.

However.

You should not watch a thirty minute video and believe you know all there is to know about the issue, and then buy a relief kit. Know that media has motives and incentives, and even an institution that is progressing social work will edit a piece to make you feel something or do something. It is a form of advertising, and they want you to believe the call to action. So arm yourself with your own research, your own questions, and your own opinion. Then no one can say that you are making an uninformed, lemming decision.

But, on the other side, I also don’t agree with the people who are writing off Invisible Children completely, and dismissing those who share this video as good-guy-greg-turned-social-activist-because-it’s-so-easy. I believe that people really do want to help, want to make a difference, and shaking your finger and shaming them this way is not going to make world peace spread faster.

In the end, I think the surfacing of this campaign is great, because it’s creating a discussion. The best part of IC and this video, is that it has reached a critical mass, in which people who aren’t usually exposed to these topics have now been introduced, and now it’s time for us to ask questions and discuss intelligently. And I think that’s wonderful, because how do you know what you know?

And, as with all good design and design advice, it’s surprisingly more applicable to design-unrelated things than you realize, and you can’t design in a fucking vacuum (thanks goodfuckingdesignadvice), so ask questions and do research (and start using typefaces other than Helvetica, lol).

Don’t knock people who want to be a part of a movement and make a change, and don’t blindly follow the most trending social/political/cultural movement.

And since I can’t put it any better than Chuck Klosterman, here’s a little tidbit by someone more eloquent and intelligent than I. (Link sent to me by Phil, after beta-ing this post <3 Thanks Peel!)

Every wrongheaded sentiment in society derives from our ever-growing culture of unconditional rightness. We’ve become a nation of reflexively loyal fans. As I grow older, I find myself less prone to have an opinion about anything, and I’m starting to distrust just about everyone who does. Whenever I meet someone who proudly identifies herself as a Republican or a Democrat, I think, Well, this person might be interesting, but she’ll never say anything about politics that’s remotely useful to me. I refuse to discuss abortion with anyone who is pro-life or pro-choice. I refuse to discuss affirmative action with any unemployed white guy or any unemployed black guy. All the world’s stupidest people are either zealots, atheists, or ideologues. People used to slag Bill Clinton for waffling on everything and relying solely on situational pragmatism. As far as I’m concerned, that was the single greatest aspect of his presidency. Life is fucking confusing. I don’t know anything, and neither do you.

full article here

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