ON THE KONY 2012 CONTROVERSY
By Ikhide R. Ikheloa
Saturday, March 17, 2012.
The name is Ikhide. I am an African. This African rises to applaud Jason Russell the filmmaker, and Invisible Children, the geniuses behind the epic video Kony 2012, a riveting documentary that has now been watched by over 50 million human beings. Kony 2012 is a ringing indictment of a silent horror, of the murderous acts of a barbarian and child murderer Joseph Kony and his sick Lord’s Resistance Army, operating in Uganda and neighboring states. Please stop whatever you are doing if you care about the fate of children in this world and watch this 30-minute film. And when you are done, pay tithe to this wonderful organization that has damned the consequences to tell the truth about the shame that is happening to children in Africa. The world is silent as an indifferent political and intellectual elite sips alien wine in stolen mansions. I say to you Jason Russell, do not stop what you are doing, you are an angel. Ignore the nattering nabobs of negativity. They are experts at babbling and doing nothing to save Africa’s children.
Let me restate this to our tone deaf Western liberals and their co-opted African intellectuals: Joseph Kony’s deadly acts are being wreaked on beautiful children whose only crime is to be born in the war that Africa has become, thanks to thieving rulers and narcissistic African intellectuals. Watch the video, it is masterful. If it does not bring you to tears, nothing other than onions will. As a brilliant side benefit, it showcases the rank incompetence and barbaric greed of the African intellectual and political elite. Let me restate once more: I am an African, and I salute Jason Russell and Invisible Children for producing KONY 2012, and for shining a bright light on one of the open sores of Africa (apologies to the venerable Wole Soyinka). I said it, I mean every word, sue me please.
I have been reading on the Internet what appears to be some lame grumbling about the intentions of Russell and Invisible Children. There has been some high-minded whining about Invisible Children’s methods. You can read a sample of such pointless hand-wringing and muttering in this piece in the UK Guardian, Kony 2012 campaign: Oprah and bracelets won’t solve problem by Michael Wilkerson. The patronizing mumbling of condescending white liberals aside, I am not surprised by the loud noise making by many of my fellow African intellectuals. This is what we do best; coolly bite the fingers that feed us. It bears repeating: This über awesome video, Kony 2012, will forever be the visible face of a viral social media campaign that has raised awareness about a war against children and humanity that has been going on now for about 25 years. I say again to Russell and Invisible Children, please ignore all distractions and continue the great work that you are doing on behalf of the beautiful children of Africa. I will make bold to say that there is hardly any African intellectual on earth that has the moral right to point accusing fingers at the motives ofInvisible Children. To Russell et al, I raise my fists to your industry; may you profit mightily for every child that you save.
Hurrah for Invisible Children. A snake is dead and people are wondering who killed it. Who cares? Is the snake not dead? Western liberals and African intellectuals are baying at the moon, their favorite pastime. The mess that is today’s Black Africa has been engineered by her political and intellectual elite of which I am a card-carrying member. We are a self-serving lot parading the streets of Europe and America, sipping lattes and the best wines of the world and yelling at the white man for doing for us, what we are too lazy and selfish to do for ourselves. Let me restate this: There is virtually no African intellectual of stature that is left in Africa; we and our cute children are safely ensconced in the laps of the West from where we write beautiful but insincere twaddle about the West’s obsession with the single story.
Well, the latest single story to come out of Black Africa is the mini holocaust being perpetuated on children and women by Joseph Kony, a lunatic barbarian whose Lord’s Liberation Army has been terrorizing human beings (yes human beings) in East Africa for a quarter of a century. What started out as the lunatic malarial rant of a demented woman soon turned into genocide against children and women. As many as 30,000 children have been conscripted, maimed hurt and killed according to several estimates (we will never know since Africa’s political and intellectual elite tend to loot funds that are meant for niceties like education for children and real data).
Enter Invisible Children a non-profit that is visionary and yes, controversial (who isn’t?). They come up with a brilliant concept. Make this barbaric criminal Joseph Kony famous so that he qualifies for world attention and accountability. Plaster the fool’s face all over the world, make this deadly buffoon the face of a modern day Hitler and hold him accountable. They enlist opinion and political leaders all over the world. The video clip is a hit; by the time you have read this, about 60 million enraged people would have watched it. Please, please, please, be one of this new emerging citizenry by watching it. It is only 30 minutes. You will not be the same again. It is one of the best produced videos on human suffering that I have ever watched. I broke down in tears when a child that could have been mine broke down crying begging to die so he could go be with his brother in heaven, a child who had been slaughtered by these animals. What is misleading about that?
In my Nigeria, Christians routinely murder, yes, murder children for being witches. You do not hear powerful writers complaining about that. Let a white person say a word; out comes their powerful pen in defense of Africa. This is not the first time we have risen in self-righteous indignation. A few years back, BBC produced a harrowing documentary Welcome to Lagos, about the lives of Nigerians in Makoko, the slum from hell. It documented the shame of Nigeria, of women, children and men, living and loving under conditions that would make pigs attempt a jailbreak. This spectacular work was met with derision by some of Africa’s most powerful intellectuals, most notably Wole Soyinka and Teju Cole. I am tired of this, I really am. White man, help yourself, knock yourself out, shine a light on the plight of the children of Africa. They are children too. They deserve a wholesome childhood – like my children’s. Nigeria produces geniuses like Soyinka and Cole and unspoken horrors like the witch children of Akwa Ibom. What is happening to thousands of African children is a silent genocide and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for babbling while children burn. Literally.
I ask: Where is the outrage? There is outrage alright – strangely directed at Invisible Children and those who have dared to do something even as Africa’s intellectuals mutter in their lattes at Starbucks and their friends the politicians loot everything in sight like ravenous simians. To put things in perspective, a former governor of one of Nigeria’s impoverished states, James Onanefe Ibori has just been convicted in Britain for stealing $250 million of his state’s money. $250 million! What did Ikhide and his fellow intellectuals do? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. We mumbled, said the usual nonsense and went back to drinking Argentinian wine. Think of how much that money would have done for the children of that criminal’s state. By the way, Nigeria’s anti-corruption outfit had previously declared Ibori more innocent than Mother Teresa. If you want to see what Nigerian intellectuals and politicians have done to public education in Nigeria, please visit one of their “universities” and ask a random student to write an essay. Visit one of their primary schools; in the West such a building would not qualify as a piggery. What the Nigerian elite steal from each child annually is what the West genuinely spends on each child’s education. Let us stop fooling ourselves. We need help and I welcome those who are trying to help. And to those carping about the methods of Invisible Children, I remind you, we say to the deity, Orisa, if you cannot help us, do not hurt us, get out of the way.
For the avoidance of doubt, Joseph Kony is more than a thug, he is a mass murderer who must be found and destroyed. Uganda’s Museveni regime (yes, it is a regime pretending to be a democracy) crows that Kony is not a problem in Uganda anymore because he had been driven into another country. We are not talking about Mars, we are talking about another hapless African country being ruined by yet another incompetent buffoon. If the man has 300 children in his custody, that is 300 children too many. That should be unacceptable to every one of us. Drop your intellectual pretensions, help a child today.
The hypocrisy around this issue is galling. The columnist Max Fisher, writing the pieceThe Soft Bigotry of Kony 2012 cannot quite make up his mind about the video and the intentions of Invisible Village. He makes assertions that reek of Western liberal arrogance and condescension. Hear him: “The viral video campaign reinforces a dangerous, centuries-old idea that Africans are helpless and that idealistic Westerners must save them.” Dear Mr. Fisher, I have news for you, Africans are helpless many thanks to their irresponsible, thieving leaders, many of them PhDs from Ivy League schools. Africans will take help from Wal-Mart, Oprah, anybody with a wallet and/or a conscience. Because no one else is coming to their aid in the war on them by black intellectuals and politicians. Interestingly Teju Cole and Fisher engaged in some sort of Twitter banter that is fascinating only in the sense that no one is listening to the other. Cole’s tweets collate into whiny poetry, beautiful but not saying more than we already know about white privilege:
“Feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of choice. Worry about that. From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex. This world exists simply to satisfy the needs—including, importantly, the sentimental needs—of white people and Oprah. The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening. The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege. I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.”
Teju Cole is spot on. The West is a big bowl of hypocrisy. So what? Invisible Childrencan’t win; if they had put a cute picture of my cute son asking the question that the cute white kid asked, they would have been accused of being patronizing. If you don’t like their video, go make your own. I am not holding my breath. Let Invisible Childrentell our story the only way they know how, warts and all! Lord knows, Ikhide and his club of fellow intellectuals only lift their arms to grab a Malbec.
Yes, I said it. With democracy as a pretense black leaders are getting away with murder. Literally. White liberals are guilty of double standards – white leaders go to jail for misusing a credit card, African rulers, certified wife beaters, murderers and kleptomaniacs are paraded on the world stage as statesmen. If they were white they would be paraded in front of the world as jail birds. It is time to stop the silliness. Joseph Kony must be stopped, dead or alive, preferably dead. I have one suggestion to make. Invisible Children should put a $10,000 ransom on Joseph Kony’s head, anything more than that is too much, his mother will deliver him any way you want, dead, alive, sautéed, drawn and quartered. We are like that, we don’t ask for much to throw one of our own under the bus. I said it, sue me.
As an aside, it is interesting that folks are now rifling through the financial statements of Invisible Children, calculating how much per dollar they actually spent on a “helpless African child.” Who cares? Those that have not held the thousands of NGOs in Black Africa and Haiti accountable are now baying at the moon. I say leave Invisible Children alone. Every dollar that they spend on a child in Africa is a dollar truly spent that will not be spent by any African NGO that I know of.
Back to the buffoon Joseph Kony: The children of Africa need help desperately; those that have been hurt could use the closure from bringing this man to justice dead or alive and liberals are engaged in hand-wringing psychobabble. Not so for Western liberals and their African intellectual sidekicks. For them ideology trumps common sense. President Bush the Republican had a well-funded, thoughtful policy toward Africa (President Barack Hussein Obama’s has been largely incoherent by the way, he is too focused on re-election and so he is ashamed of Africa). As a result, we saw the dramatic results in Aids abatement (the Lazarus effect happened mainly because Bush flooded the region with funding). You don’t hear liberals giving him credit for anything other than his disastrous foray into wars. On the other hand, President Clinton dismissed the Rwandan holocaust because according to him Rwanda is of no strategic significance to the United States. For such silliness, he is revered in pantheons of the liberal left. Sometimes you want to holler.
We may quibble with the methods of Invisible Children but they have been hugely successful. Thanks to their energy, passion, intellect and doggedness, 50 million people have engaged in a Civics lesson about a part of Africa that would have been neglected. They have also fostered a useful debate about the nature of giving etc. Russell andInvisible Children have shown us the face of the new world and it is populated by citizens without walls. They have forced President Obama to commit and deploy troops to East and Central Africa to help an incompetent regime root out a thug and a mass murderer. What is wrong with that?
Thanks to Russell and Invisible Children, the world has an opportunity to give back to Africans the humanity that is being denied them daily by narcissists who call themselves rulers and thinkers. I say lustily, a pox on all their houses. And as for avuncular patronizing Western liberals, maybe this video will begin to cure them of their condescending avuncular double standards. Now I have to run to go buy me a Kony 2012 Action kit. Please buy one. It is only $30. I am an African. I approve this message.
Ikhide R. Ikheloa is a literary critic, writer and columnist, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . He blogs at http://xokigbo.wordpress.com/ . You can follow him on Twitter at @Ikhide .