Sl(ac)k(tivism)?

You’ve probably heard of  the term activism before – simply googling it comes up with the definition “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.” Sound familiar? Probably! And hopefully you’ve been given opportunities to become an agent of change through a campaign or movement you’re passionate about. But what does that mean or entail?

Well, if you recall my previous blog post about child soldiering, I included information on the happenings in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the campaign started by Invisible Children awhile back – Kony 2012. Leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), he was known for kidnapping children and using boys as child soldiers and girls as sex slaves. Kidnapping now over 30,000 children, he is responsible for leading the rebel group that has prolonged armed conflict in Africa for quite some time now. Below is more information on Joseph Kony, from the Invisible Children website.

The Warlord

I had the pleasure of reading two articles, co-authored by my professor Aaron Noland, titled “Argumentation and the International Problem of Genocide” and “Making Humanitarian Advocacy Less ‘Abstract and Remote’: Kony 2012‘s Representation of an Agent-Centered Approach.” Both center around the verbal approach in discussing genocide, civil war, armed conflict. They applauded Invisible Children’s campaign, because it drew attention to the perpetrator of injustice and cruelty (Joseph Kony) which put a face to the campaign and not simply a country. Many times, organizations create campaigns centering on geographic regions or they broaden their campaign names to include a whole slew of activities that “there’s no clear crystallizing locus for our attention” (Brigham & Noland). What’s important to note is that these campaigns and movements are well-intentioned, but by focusing on a scene, we automatically cannot withdraw the association of the injustices occurring within said country or region. Furthermore, “in these agent-act-driven situations, assigning responsibility to a certain person [like Kony] creates a tangible goal and sense of urgency” (Brigham & Noland).

I thought it important to note the simple things, like campaign titles, that may get looked over but serve as a highly influential motivators in the audience’s response to a movement. So, when Invisible Children released their multimedia campaign in response to Kony and the LRA, it included a 30 minute video expressing the exponential use of the internet and social media and how this can be tied to activism for major issues, specifically Joseph Kony’s reign beginning in Uganda. Below is the video, which I sat and watched four years ago from today.

I remember seeing it and realizing that it was different from most videos I had seen before. Before coming to college, I was painfully unaware of global issues and this was the first exposure I had to getting a glimpse of child soldiering and armed conflict. After watching this video, I was very moved but didn’t know the next step or why I felt moved in the first place. Looking back, I wish I had formed more of a heart for the issue and taken action. But all I remember doing is feeling very upset and disturbed and clicking “like” and “share” on Facebook.

While my intentions were good and I wanted more people to know about the issue, I hadn’t educated myself on it and I didn’t know anything past the video. What I engaged in was called slacktivism – defined by google as “actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g., signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.” Where I went wrong was that I didn’t know anything about the issue I wanted more people to know about. Where I went wrong was that I engaged in what seemed like action to me by sharing this video via social media, but what was really slacktivism. I didn’t engage in real action or open up the issue to conversation with friends and family members. With a little tap of my finger, I felt I had done my part in the movement…while sitting in front of a computer screen.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from sharing – videos, articles, personal opinions. But rather I want to encourage you in your sharing to be knowledgeable on the topic and stirred in your heart to participate in it. We, human beings, are the agents of social and political change. We have the capacity to create significant change if we mobilize ourselves in united efforts to promote justice. To quote Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children and film director of the Kony 2012 video, “Who are you to end a war? I’m here to tell you who are you not to?”

– Ashleigh Stratton

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