Kony 2012: My Generation Only Cares About Human Rights When It's Trending On Twitter
Joseph Kony first came to power in 1986 and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) developed in 1988. Kony is not a new threat. He’s been at it for years. According to the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, the conflict has led to the displacement of more than 2,000,000 Ugandans from their homes and forced an estimated 66,000 children to fight as part of its rebel force since the group's formation. In recent years, Kony has still been able to evade capture. However, he and his small group of thugs are barely hanging on by a thread, and are merely trying to survive. Kony hasn’t attacked in years. Our attention has come too late. The damage has already been done.
This begs the question: Why now? Why does the world suddenly care about Kony now? Why didn’t we care when the vast majority of these atrocities were being committed 10 to 20 years ago?
It’s cool to talk about Kony once it’s trending on Twitter. This sentiment is shared with many Ugandans, whom question the timing themselves. Well known social activist and Ugandan Timothy Kalyegira lamented about the new movement. "There is no historical context," Kalyegira said. "It's more like a fashion thing".
It has indeed become quite the fashion statement here in the U.S.
Why isn’t there a Syria 2012 movement? Since protests in Syria began a year ago, more than 5,000 civilians have been brutally killed. Thousands more wait for aid helplessly. Syrians are in dire need of food and medical supplies.
Fleeing the violence is a hazard in itself. It has recently been discovered that the pro-Assad military has been planting land mines along borders with Turkey and Lebanon in routes that are commonly used by people trying to flee the violence. The situation has gotten so bad that it has prompted the Arab League Chief to say that the regime’s actions amount to “crimes against humanity”. Despite all of this, not many of my peers seem too concerned about the people of Syria. We have forgotten about the struggles there, and have moved on to more recent news. Perhaps it takes a cool video and a hash tag to get people’s passing attention.
A quick glance at Amnesty International's "Issues" list reveals that the crisis in Syria is just one of the many human rights challenges facing the world. They all deserve attention.
What about the children of Afghanistan? The voices of Afghans suffering from human rights indignities are often forgot about. Theese voices are drowned out by the noise of political pundits, politicians, war strategies, status updates and Kalashnikov gunfire. In January 2012, over the span of 31 days, nearly two dozen children froze to death because they didn't have adequate shelter from the freezing cold desert nights. Over 70 percent of the population is illiterate. Many don't have access to basic human needs like clean drinking water. The life expectancy in Afghanistan is in the 40s range. Is anyone surprised?
The fact that we have soldiers in Afghanistan should make us feel even more obligated about these living conditions than we would otherwise. Yet rarely are there any protests supporting the kids of Afghanistan.
It is quite discouraging that the people of my generation, those in their late teens and early twenties, treat human rights like a fashion accessory. It’s popular to talk about it online for a while, and then when the hype dies down, the issue leaves our mind. Just like an old TV show or a song that's no longer popular, people move on. To paraphrase Jay-Z song, it's on to the next one.
Social media has the power to gather people and produce social change, but lately it's only produced fads.
My generation needs to start getting serious and getting informed about these human rights issues around the world. These are real people and real lives that are being affected, and clicking a "like" button isn't helping. We need to get serious about human rights. We need to actually start taking action to produce change, rather then idly posting a status about it and then forgetting about it a few days later.
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