REALLY Kony 2012?! distraction, exhaustion, dilemma
by Molly C
REALLY, Kony 2012, REALLY? You’re going to frame your consumer-awareness campaign this literally in terms of political campaigns in 2012? Yeah, because right now, as unprecedented amounts of Super PAC money are flowing into Romney 2012 and Obama 2012 and Santorum 2012, all we need right now is to focus on what American electoral politics are really missing right now, really. Joseph Kony, fantastic.
Because right now we need “something we can all agree on” — REALLY, Kony 2012, REALLY? The same season that Gingrich 2012 fueled the racist vitriol of undead violence and hate against Obama 2012, we should focus our attention on “something we can all agree on” — the abject need and violent perversions of black Africans, REALLY. Fantastic. Let’s forget how this racist hate rips through not only our public rhetoric but into policies and policing on statistically massive scales and real lives.
Oh great, Kony 2012! You found some spectacular violence for our guilty souls to feed on. Oh thank you, Kony 2012, really. Because it is really difficult to focus attention on the slow violence of the prison industrial complex, or any other given structural endemic problem silently draining marginal Americans capacity to participate politically — to even vote for Obama 2012, much less to run their own candidates (representative democracy, wasn’t it?).
Structural Endemic Problem 2012?! Really, that doesn’t fit on a bracelet or sticker. But if it did, you could mass produce those stickers, and stick them all over their carbon-emitting shipping containers! You could stick them right over the mouths of folks who might speak for themselves — because REALLY, branding is the only way to raise awareness.
Because REALLY, Kony 2012, ‘raising awareness’ is really the only way to effect change. Because not only does ‘raising awareness’ totally confirm our sneaky suspicion that WE, the aware, are the ones that really count, but WE, the aware, do after all live in the World-Historical Pinnacle Democracy where Our Awareness translates into World Governance. Why, look at Iraq and Afghanistan! Look at how accountable the U.S. government was to citizen dissent, and look at what a great job it did of spreading democracy — because those wars REALLY made sense. Why not go ahead and stoke some more American military hubris by denouncing some more dictators in faraway countries where we do not understand the immense political and historical complexity in which previous American political and historical stances have played an important role. REALLY Kony 2012, REALLY, let’s forget about Kony 1961-2011 and everybody else before 2012 for that matter. Because those complexities don’t matter! We’re aware now! Good for us! Because our awareness certainly has an effect in the political process! Especially if Republicans and Democrats are agreeing on something like Kony 2012, REALLY. Because while they are certainly agreeing on the SuperPAC thing, “Billions of Dollars 2012” would be hard to pin to a face.
Because REALLY, Kony 2012, it’s not like the Afghanistan and Iraq examples are even in the past. So let’s all agree on one thing because that whole situation has certainly gotten too complex to agree on anything. Let’s just pretend it’s gone away, REALLY. Maybe sort of like the last time Americans were paying attention to Africa. Remember that, Kony 2012? Remember Jolie 2006? (Or how about Madonna 2011 — probably not). Man, after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, Africa was certainly a great place to redeem our American confidence in our global moral superiority.
I remember that, shit, I went to Tanzania, Kenya, and Botswana, looking for redemption from the unfinished business of racial politics in the US. It was a privileged experience, and I met amazing people who wanted their stories heard, who were exhausted not only by the depleted conditions of making their own lives but by the constant trauma of not being selected for rescue, caught in the powerless dilemma of needing help but being victimized. And this was the humanitarian, even economic development dilemma, much less the conflict dilemma. It was nothing like the spectacular, long-term violence being suffered in Northern Uganda right now.
There’s nothing that feels good to me about banging my head up against Kony 2012. There is no moral satisfaction in condemning it. The complexity the situation carries will not get memed up into the universe: the only memes will be Kony 2012 and <cynicism>Kony 2012</cynicism>.
Okay, Kony 2012, really: you are sparking something despite all the possible nastiness of the politics of representation. The intentions are good; the effects of such media always exceed the corporatized-structures that produce and circulate them. But really, we need to make room for better political discussion than a vote for or against Kony 2012. The world does not fit a political spectrum of left or right, on-the-one-hand or on-the-other-hand, we recognize this problem or we don’t, it’s funny or it’s serious.