Kony – Naam Toh Suna Hoga

It’s better this video gets millions of hits rather than a kid biting his little brother's finger.

WrittenBy:Abhinandan Sekhri

Phase one: Huh?

Phase Two: I hate Kony.

Phase Three: I hate people who hate Kony.

Welcome to Phase Four: I hate people who hate people who hate Kony.

This is a simplistic, shallow piece and doesn’t have the depth and nuance the subject deserves. It will not explore the complexities, historical context, social fabric or political realities of the conflict in Uganda, Congo, Sudan etc. That’s because you dear reader are not adequately historically informed, personally inclined, leisure time endowed, or entirely intellectually equipped to get into that kind of detail, as aren’t I.

The fact is I know who Joseph Kony is and I suspect you do too. I didn’t until I saw that video. That viral You Tube one, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about then the American filmmaker fellow old whatshisname hasn’t managed to brainwash you, and you’re better off not knowing anything about the child soldiers and sex slaves, and you aren’t a new age activism fashion victim, and your apathy to neighborhood local issues, national issues and international issues is consistently bad, and since consistency is the most sought after virtue for critics of armchair activism, you’re good.

Now the rest of you ignoramuses who suddenly know who Joseph Kony is, yet do not know the name of your Block Development Officer (BDO), or Councillor (Nigam Parshad) or MLA or MP of your constituency – I’m talking to you. Yes you! And in case most of you don’t even know what a Block Development Officer is or what a Councillor does – what their roles are, what an MLA can do and how his jurisdiction on things around you is different from your MPs, don’t worry – at least you know, that those outraged by Kony’s horrors are lazy armchair activist shits who don’t know jack…. but know Joseph.

I am dumbstruck by the film critic like disapproval of the Kony filmmaker whatshisname’s filmmaking ability. I am a film-maker of limited experience and more limited accomplishment and concur that it’s tacky and self indulgent, and melodramatic and whatshisname’s use of music is like the Nirupa Roy sad scene background score of the 80s.  But this is not the Oscars. Even there, the award went to a French director of a silent film! This Kony film was to go viral. It did. It was to make Kony a hot topic. It did. In case you’re looking at You Tube viral videos for aesthetic contentment, advice: don’t watch porn for acting talent.

The problem I have with critics of this campaign (it’s a campaign, not just a film) are that all attacks are on the quality of the film, the ignorance of online activists (Facebook I hate Kony types) and the ‘look at me and my bleeding heart’ of the film-maker, and that in my opinion is more self indulgent than any of the vomit worthy cutesy love you dad, lump in throat, moist eye moments whatshisname has stuffed in.

The new age online rage is hollow because there are injustices closer home: Does or should geography decide what causes move us to action? That action could be to become armed rebels, full time activists living on fellowships and grants, click a like button on You Tube type activists, or strip to our underwear to ban fur type? Or just read. What determines the extent of our involvement? Worthiness of the cause?

What is a worthy cause to take up? Neighborhood cleanliness? Your Councillor’s track record (if you have found out who he /she is and what he/she does)? The murder of innocents in Gujarat 2002, families of Sikh riot victims in Delhi 1984 or displaced farmers?  There are valid grounds to take up each of these and damn good reasons to start a campaign for each too. But which is better or worse? What is the hierarchy of worthy causes for the activist mind that each of us has in different measure. The defenders of Gujarat say, those talking about the Muslim massacre should first write about the Sikh massacre in Delhi or Hindu persecution in Kashmir, and we go further and further into history. Point being unless you can take up all the issues in the world all at once, someone or the other will have a barb to belittle your activistm/outrage however little or substantial it may be. So I guess the only way to really answer the worthiness of causes question is from an existential philosophical point of view.

If you want to establish the hierarchy of activism worthiness in terms of pure relevance then environmentalists are on top. The compelling logic they can give to the rest of us idiots getting stressed about war, corruption, crime, rape, religious persecution is – if the planet doesn’t survive, what good is anti corruption, of what importance are gender issues when there is no gender, what is child abuse when there is no child, no race, no religion, no planet  – nothing! Indeed what is good or bad, what is morality? Morality is a human construct and if we seize to exist as we kill the planet, then there is nothing to save or to fight for. So then must one fight to save the planet FIRST and earn one’s stripes before thinking of saving children or persecuted women or the starving poor or anything else? Is one’s fight a silly shallow indulgence with no historical context or indeed existential context? The environmentalist’s fight will save the planet – the species. Yours will save a few kids or a few crores or a few lynchings. Big fucking deal.

I like animals and stuff, but honestly seeing a chicken being slaughtered doesn’t wrench my heart enough for me to give up chicken tikkas. Hell when I was 8 years old I watched goats and chicken get slaughtered and it didn’t dent my appetite a few hours later at the bada khana. But PETA people, it moves you enough to take to the streets and work doggedly for animal rights or worse – give up meat for life. Respect and more power to you, but animal cruelty is furthest from my mind in a world where I see human beings get worse. Does that mean all animal lovers are fools? That moves them and that’s great. Something does. Something should, move all of us.

I’ve read about ‘inaccuracies’, the number of kidnapped children is not 90,000 but 30,000! Whew! Then it’s cool? For me that’s still 30,000 kids too many. This Kony guy is high up on the list of war criminals to be tried – fact. He is on the loose – fact! Number of child soldiers he’s recruited and little girls he’s made sex slaves – disputed. Great. Not a clincher for me.

A lady from Uganda had her piece published in the Indian Express.

Ugandan whatshername lady was of the view that this white man’s burden video of whatshisname American film-maker is silly since Kony isn’t in Uganda anymore, and his followers are only a few hundred now, and Uganda has moved on so get with the programme. Kony is so yesterday. So now Ugandan kids are not at risk – forget it? And only the American whatshisname is short sighted and self-indulgent?

Indians online – how many have read a party manifesto in their lives. How many vote merely on the basis of a single event like Ayodhya demolition 1992, Gujarat carnage 2002, Delhi massacre 1984, or Emergency 1975 and have decided for life what they think of a party or candidate. For how many has Gujarat moved on or Delhi moved on just like Uganda has ‘moved on’?  How many of you have even seen a party manifesto let alone read one. Does that pedestrian literature even matter when you vote or is merely liking or disliking the gentlemanly reputation of the blue turbaned whatshisname or the cotton saree wearing whatshername or the dimpled slightly dim whatshisname or the nasal voiced megalomaniac Gujarati pride protector whatshisname – enough?  Are all conclusions arrived at after deep, nuanced, historical context studied, well researched reasons? Not all decisions in life are taken after doing a PhD on the subject. Even after doing a PhD on a subject there is no way to determine whether a decision taken is right or wrong.  Some decisions need more study some need less and some need very little. Like condemning Gujarat 2002, Delhi 1984 and Kony…whenever. That’s the point. Not the film-maker’s aesthetics, self indulgence and certainly not the ignorance of the armchair activist. As Bill Maher says – it seems the young have discovered the world. It’s better this video gets however many million hits it got rather than a You Tube video of a turtle humping a shoe…or a kid biting his brother’s finger.

And if you think this film will ensure a military strike by the US, you need some historical perspective, not the ones demanding action.

I could have bothered to Google whatshisname bad film-maker fellow but I didn’t because I don’t care. The name that I remembered at the end was Joseph Kony and I did Google Kony and read many newspaper reports and profiles about him. I know something I didn’t earlier. I am more informed. A bad film was a trigger to learn about a place and a conflict I didn’t know much of. My world grew.

It’s important for any society or civilization to have thinkers who sit back and critique the social narrative, observing trends and technologies that influence and change society. The collective consciousness churns and the collective conscience evolves. I know those observer-critics play a passive yet important role in this evolution, just like moss does in evolutionary biology. It may not appear to be doing anything of consequence but it’s playing its role quietly, annoyingly.

And that’s how one phase dissolves into another.

Waiting for Phase 5: People who hate people who hate people who hate whathisname… its Joseph Kony, naam toh suna hoga.

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