On Kony and Social Responsibility

A friend forwarded me the Kony 2012 video today. It got me thinking, but not in the way she or the makers of the video intended.

I cannot deny that there are terrible things happening in Uganda right now. Living in North America, it’s easy to forget that a lot of vile things are still everyday events in this world. It is a fluke of birth that I was born into a country where starvation, standard of living-related illnesses and diseases, violent regimes or any number of things that tend to make life nasty, brutish and short aren’t generally a factor. That artifact of chance is not license to ignore the plights of others


I can’t escape the thought that there’s still serious stuff going on right here in Canada. I have no issue with people who get outraged at what’s going on elsewhere and lobby the government or throw their support behind one organization or the other, but I fear that, feeling they’ve made their difference in the world for the day, many sit back secure in the conviction that all is right in their corner of the world.

It’s not true. Canada is far from paradise; our issues simply don’t involve child soldiers or massacres.

My home province of Alberta is rife with examples. Just off the top of my head, there is the Samantha Martin fatality inquiry. Samantha Martin was born with Tetrasomy 18p; her parents were pressured into placing her in Provincial foster care, where she is suspected to have been abused. Alberta is also stuck in the 1970s in terms of equal pay for equal work, and women are disproportionally working the low-paying, thankless and part-time jobs. The conservative Provincial government under Ralph Klein had to be forced to recognize same-sex marriage, but nevertheless continued to discriminate against same-sex couples. The Athabasca tar sands extraction operations are internationally condemned for environmental damage.

On a national level, the Conservative Party of Canada may have been elected fraudulently. The First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples are still subject to widespread discrimination and prejudice, though some are working hard to challenge it. The immigration backlog has gotten so bad that a woman had to give birth in a hotel bathtub because her permanent residence application has been moldering unopened in a pile for half a year, leaving her without provincial health care coverage.

If you think Canada should have something to say about Joseph Kony or more generally the conflict in Uganda, I encourage you to write to your MP.

But please, don’t let it distract you from what’s going on in your own backyard. There’s plenty here worthy of your attention too.

UPDATE: I came across this blog post at Almost Diamonds. Please take a look; it’s a good pointer to some of the issues and controversies raised by the Kony 2012 campaign.