15 December 2017

CONSIDER…

I have recently celebrated my 32nd birthday. I don’t feel old at all – thankfully all my joints are in working order, my memory is functioning well and my hair is still predominantly black (although, if I am honest, the odd flash of silver is making an appearance). However, one thing that is sure to make me feel ancient is when I look back to my childhood and adolescence and consider the vast changes that have taken place in the world of technology.

When I was about ten years old my dad invested in a full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. We actually had to purchase a new bookshelf to house the numerous tomes and they took pride of place in our home for years. The encyclopedias were of great benefit to my sisters and I as we researched information for school projects and studied for exams. Many of you will remember the process that had to be undertaken in order to extract the information from these books. Firstly the reference book had to be found and the subject title had to be located in the alphabetised list. When this was discovered the book number, page number, column number and finally paragraph number were offered and (after a lot of counting) you could find the snippet of information you were seeking. We thought it was ingenious and so handy! Nowadays we simply Google it.

Or, in my free time if I wanted to play a computer game I had to pop a cassette into my Commodore 64 and wait anywhere between 15 minutes and half an hour for the game to load – all I was entertained by in that time was a screen full of colourful flashing lines and the noisy squeals and whistles of the information transferring. Often, after a ridiculous amount of time, the computer would simply display the word “error” and I would have to decide whether to start again or take the time to find out if the Encyclopedia Britannica could tell me what I was doing wrong!

In such a short space of time the Internet has transformed our world. The way we learn, the way we bank, the way we do business and even the way we form and retain friendships have all been affected by the World Wide Web. I only have to post a few words on Facebook and, in a matter of minutes, can receive a myriad of responses from friends all around the world. It is so easy to share information globally. With all this newer, faster, efficient technology comes great responsibility. There is no doubt the Internet has been abused, particularly when we ponder the amount of pornography, cyber bullying or fraud that takes place via the Web. However, I believe that when used appropriately, the Internet affords us a great opportunity to make a difference in our world and affect some change in situations where we would otherwise have no voice. One great example of this is the KONY 2012 campaign. Consider this with me…

If you have taken five minutes to look at a Facebook account over the last few months you will certainly be familiar with the KONY 2012 campaign. Using the networking power offered by the way Facebook functions (you share information with your friends and they share with their friends etc) Jason Russell, working in conjunction with the charity ‘Invisible Children’, has shared his 30-minute film with people all over the world. The film made national news a few weeks ago as it became the most viral video in history, topping 100 million views.

The video has one clear aim – to open the eyes of the world to the atrocities carried out by Joseph Kony and his army (the Lord’s Resistance Army) in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. The aim is to make Kony’s name familiar in every household, “not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.” (kony2012.com). The film takes each viewer on a journey of discovery along with the filmmaker’s son, Gavin. We are introduced to the violence, fear and horror that Kony continues to administer amongst innocent people. The focus is on the effect his actions are having on children and this is exemplified so clearly through Jacob, a boy who witnessed the murder of his brother at the hands of the LRA and who has lived in fear and hopelessness ever since. It is powerful viewing. My plan was to watch the video and write my article straight after, in response to what I had seen. However, I had to take some time away from it as my emotions were too raw to write adequately or objectively on the subject – anyone with children in their lives will be hard hit by the injustice of what is happening at the hands of Joseph Kony.

Having taken some time to think about the content, there is no doubt that every effort has been made to pull on the emotional heartstrings to extract a strong and definite response to the film and the reality of what is happening in our world. I understand that this is a deliberate tactic of the filmmaker, but I am ok with that – if we don’t respond in an emotional way to the violations of human rights outlined in this movie then I worry about the state of our humanity.

The film has come under a fair degree of criticism. The most common objection has been the amount of money spent on producing the movie. Many have suggested that the finances could have been better spent if they had been used to practically enhance the lives of those affected by Kony’s regime. I can understand this view, but do not fully accept it. The movie was only ever supposed to raise awareness and it has certainly succeeded in its aim. I watched Helen Skelton travel to the South Pole to raise awareness for the charity ‘Sport Relief’ and have not heard any outcry about the money spent on her travel, equipment or support team – that’s because she was raising the profile of the charity and doing a good thing! In the same way I believe that the Kony 2012 film has raised the profile of an issue that we shouldn’t ignore and that’s a good thing!

Before watching the film I had no idea who Joseph Kony was or what he was doing in our world. After watching it I was moved to call out to God about this situation. I have used it as a starting point to find out more and continue to really think about what more I can do to create change. I would encourage you to watch the film and consider your own response.

Christine Cordner