P.S. The link to her Blog does not save the world. It does not destroy it either. So you can click on it as many times as you want to.
Who is Joseph Kony? The name had been trending on twitter for some time now. Whoever he was, of one thing I was sure; He had not fought with or got slapped by any Bollywood celebrity. If he had, he would have been on India TV before I could click the trending topic.
In spite of other trends that included replacing a word in the movie with a vegetable (it usually trends every 3 days) and a Rakhi Sawant hash tag that kept me hooked for 2 hours; the question still haunted me. Who is Joseph Kony? And more important, why should he be stopped? Has he broken the traffic light or something? My curiosity got the better of me and I finally clicked on the trend link. And lo and behold, a list sprang up, that was growing at an alarming rate of 20 tweets per second.
From what I read, I could gather that he is a war lord in Uganda, who has done what every other war lord has ever done. And some Americans had made a documentary about his crimes that went viral.
Hate them or love them but you cannot ignore social networking sites. They have changed the way we connect to people, the way we speak and the way we protest. The Arab Spring was successful because of the mass support it was able to generate through Facebook and Twitter. The first step to curb a rebellion or a movement, is to prevent communication. Earlier, the governments used to do it by imposing curfews and preventing people from gathering at public places. Moreover, the spread of information took time.
The social media sites ensure the spread of information and at a fast rate. A protest can be organised about anything and everything in the blink of an eye. But more than actual results, the rise in on-line activism is breeding armchair activists. As the urban dictionary defines it, “One who sits in their armchair or desk chair and blogs or posts Activists issues on facebook without ever really doing anything about said issues or exercising any form of activism as it would require that person to actually leave the armchair.”
And the Kony tag was, according to me, the biggest example of it. The documentary that became viral, claims that Joseph Kony kidnaps children and
forces them either into prostitution or uses them as child soldiers. I take their word on that. In any land ravaged by war and lawlessness since such a long time, such brutalities are everywhere. And everyone knows about it, but it takes a Viral Video before everyone actually notices it.
The video has already been criticised a lot. The founders of Invisible Children have shown Africa as a place that can not rise without the help of the western world. To be frank, the western mentality of viewing themselves as the saviour of all non whites has been the cause of miseries in Africa and most of the other parts of the world. Add to it the fact, the organisations that are pitching in to support the cause, have a dubious reputation them-self.
Slacktivism, is another term that has been doing rounds. It can be termed a synonym for armchair activism and basically means the art of blogging or sharing something on a networking site, to show your support. Similar thing had happened during the Anna movement last year. The number of people who signed on-line petitions eclipsed those who actually came to support the cause.
It always makes me smirk when I see my Facebook wall flooded with shares. That will supposedly help save a child with cleft lips or provide food to malnutritioned children in some godforsaken place, if some ten thousand people like the link. Yes, it does make a good change from the photos of cats and puppies that some how send everyone into an orgasmic frenzy. But it amuses me when I see the pretentiousness at play.
Not that I am an inhuman bastard who is not moved by the sad plight of the millions that the social net-workers are sharing to save. But the fact remains that we have a better chance of cracking Fermat’s last theorem. Most of the times, it is nothing but marketing. Some time ago, Coca Cola’s India plant had come under fire for the misuse of water resources. A campaign was started. In the end Coca Cola pledged to donate a percentage of their earnings from India towards the conservation of Polar Bears. Yes, you read it correct.
Slackivism ensures that each and every event gets talked about. With just a click of a button one can show support for a movement. It increases the numbers on the page of the said movement, but the question to be asked is, how much of it is authentic. Check your own friend list or rather check your own FB profile and you will find pages that you had liked, but will have no recollection of when and why. And when something goes viral, it is but natural to share, like and comment on it. Like a fad it keeps changing, since the on-line world is fickle. Everyone lacks patience. A thing will trend on day 1, will be replaced by another on day 2 and by day 3, day 1 is already ancient history.
Moreover, how many of us have ever given a thought before clicking that share button or making a random tweet. To be fair, I personally participate in half the Twitter Trends to make some joke on it, in the hopes of attracting a few followers. But how many even think of the long term consequences. The Arab Spring was considered a success of On-line Activism, but what after that? Fundamentalist forces have taken over Egypt which is as bad if not worse. Somehow slacktivism is breeding herd mentality, in which each person follows behind the other, without asking much questions. And the behaviour becomes similar to a mob, just that it is on-line.
And at a time when the blinking images of a small town UP boy can become a rage, On-line activism can be summed up in the following points
- Log in to share a new photo from the party last night or check a new lol cat meme
- Look at the trending topic of the day.
- Is the topic fascinating enough i.e. How many people are talking about it and what are the chances it will make you look good.
- No – keep sharing cat photos
- Yes – Like the topic, share it, add a personal line if possible.
- Good deed of the day done.
- Share cat photos.
Anyway, the long and short of my rambling is that, it is easy to comment or have strong opinions against an issue, while sitting in the comfort of an air conditioned room. But tough to go out and try to change it. The African tragedy has been going on since ages. My Grandfather talks about civil war in Congo when he served in the forces. My father went on a UN mission to Somalia in the early 90s. And not just Africa, but every place where there is poverty and lawlessness.
But I always question myself before I jump the bandwagon to support a cause. Does it help anyone? Thanks to Kony 2012 a few million people can now point out Uganda on a map. Nothing more will come out of it. Or rather it will, but when the resources of that areas have been fully exploited. And why should we Stop Kony when there are demons to be dealt with in our own closet. Have we ever given a thought to them or are we just going to sign another on-line petition against Sri Lanka?
Teaching your maid’s child will do more good to the society than random likes on FaceBook. And if you really support a cause, then go out and work for it. Be a volunteer somewhere. Change the political establishment by joining it instead of cribbing and then working for a posh firm in the US. Slacktivism does nothing except give us a false sense of altruism