Raising awareness

The “Kony” video has been circulating around. I haven’t watched it, the brief intro turned me off. It said something to the effect that the video wasn’t suggesting a solution, but simply raising awareness of the man and the awful things he has done. I don’t doubt for a second that he is truly awful, but I really don’t trust any activity or organization that is about “raising awareness.”

Predictably, actual Ugandans aren’t so thrilled with the video. Apparently, there wasn’t a single instance of talking to people involved in the terrible things that the 20 minute video is about. Kony isn’t even in Uganda any more. There’s a fair amount of backlash. Why? I have always had a difficult time putting into words why I disliked the publicity thing, but I think I can now.

Several months after I got my job, I was spreading the news that I had MS. I was telling it one guy and he informed me that he takes part in a annual MS ride. Now he’s a really nice guy, and he really wants to do well, so the only thing I could say to him was, “Funny, I don’t do that rideā€¦” My gut reaction was to ask him if I should thank him for riding his bike. Yes, that is incredibly cynical. I’m sure the ride made him feel good. I’m also sure those Ugandans probably figured all those white people in California felt good about making that slick 20 minute, high def video about problems in Uganda.

Yes, I’m sure the MS ride drums up money for MS research, but just like the video, I wonder if it is awareness of MS that is being raised or awareness of the National MS whatever that is putting on the event. The same complaint is being leveled against the Kony video. Detractors claim that the video did a great job of raising awareness of the NGO that made the video, but did very little about the actual problems, let alone admit that things were quite a bit more complicated than there being one bad guy.

If you are going to market problems, don’t be surprised when the people that actually suffer those problems question you. All of the effort put into raising awareness, that couldn’t have been put to more productive uses? Maybe it can, maybe. But the fact that you would rather take the chance instead of spending the resources on something concrete says something.

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