Kony, Expertise, and Influence

If you’re active on social media, you have, no doubt, seen some buzz about “Kony 2012”.  If you’ve been in a cave for the last few days, or worse, if you haven’t had an internet connection, I’ll fill you in with the quick and dirty version.  Invisible Children is a “movement seeking to end the conflict in Uganda and stop the abduction of children for use as child soldiers”.  The organization uses film, creativity, and social action to carry out their movement.  This week, they released a 30 minute video that was a call to action.  Their goal: To make Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, famous.  Their goal behind the goal: To continue to hold the attention of governments in order to stop the violence, rape, and damage of the LRA. 

The video is up to over 40 million viewers on YouTube & Vimeo and it’s still spreading via social media.  But the video isn’t just getting positive reviews.  The video and the organization are being met with a great deal of criticism.  

Experts are calling into question the presentation of the conflict, the statistics, and the methods of the organization.  For as many reposts as I see in my facebook feed, I’m seeing critiques. 

I’m not here to argue whether the video is accurate or whether Invisible Children’s methods are the most effective.  I won’t even pretend that I am educated enough on the LRA, Uganda, or Invisible Children to wager in on this issue.  I am here, however, to argue the critics. 

Critics and experts: I’m not arguing your information, but I am arguing some of your presentation.  The weight of being an expert is great.  There is a challenge in not only gleaning correct information, but also in sharing that information.

I’m not advocating for experts to be quiet with information when it can help the masses, but rather, I’m cautioning experts to think through how they share their information.  

The reality is that a video like this doesn’t go viral unless there is a longing in humanity to make the world a better place.  People want a cause.  People want to make a difference in the world.  And every once in a while, something snaps individuals from their monotonous self-absorbed worlds and calls them to action.  There are occasions when a spark of passion ignites in a soul. 

And what the experts, or critics, or leaders, or researchers, or elders, or parents, or pastors, or teachers do with that spark is their responsibility.

We are all experts in something.  From stay at home moms to grounds keepers to CEOs, we are all experts.  And in our expertise, there is responsibility to care for the sparks in others.  In my expertise, do I coach or quench the sparks of passion in others?

Our hours of research, years of hard work, and living through difficulty often makes us forgetful of what got us into our research and work and difficulty.  For most of us, our expertise started as a spark; just a little passion.  It was probably an uneducated passion that led us to action, and then to more action, and then to toil and research until we became an expert.

So before we go boasting our correctness, our data, our superior knowledge, let’s be cautious to share our information in the spirit of encouragement and support, like that of a coach.

This applies to moms and dads whose independent teen just learned their own lesson (that you taught them over and over but they just now “got”), and pastors whose parishoners just returned from an emotional retreat, and social activists who meet a group of passionate and unimformed college students, and youth pastors whose students have experienced their first mission trip…  It applies to all of us.

What about you, expert?  Do you tend to quench out of cinicism or coach out of passion?

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3 thoughts on “Kony, Expertise, and Influence

  1. Allison, I really appreciate what you said about this. I think it’s true that people want a way to be able to help. Sometimes it is apathy, laziness, or lack of awareness that keeps us from it, but sometimes it is honestly confusing. You hear so much contradictory information and for every “good cause” there are plenty of critics.
    I definitely think it’s important to be as informed as possible and not just throw money at something that may end up with very different consequences than what was intended. A lot of harm has been done in that way. However, if we wait around until we understand all the ramifications or until the perfect solution presents itself or until a flawless motive is found, it will never happen and we will never do anything to help. We’ll always have a good excuse for inaction.
    I also wish that people who are ‘experts’ and have a lot of knowledge about a situation would present a better alternative. All this passion and excitement are great, so rather than squashing it – redirect it! Which is what you were saying in your post.
    Also, I think as Christians we are called to be wise but NOT to be cynical. It’s very easy to fall into cynicism but mostly it seems like a good excuse to sit back and judge everyone else while doing nothing.
    I really have been impressed with your wisdom about these issues, Allison. Not that I didn’t see it in you in college, underneath all that pink leopard print, but (sniff) it’s like we really have grown up.

    1. Ruthie, I always love your feedback and thoughtfulness (and the hilarious college memories you often bring up). I like what you said a lot about Christians being called to be wise but not cynical (hear, hear). I’ll need to process that some more because it’s quite easy for me to be cynical, and judgmental…

      One of my greatest passions is to see people get out there and do something. There is so much to do in our world! I want for us to get out and do the work of redemption. But I also have this cynical tug in me at times, when I see people out there doing things, that I have studied, researched, and tried, and know are not effective. (i.e. some Church Service Projects in the ghetto)… but I have to push back on that cynicism because it’s those very type of projects that I did, way back in Jo Johnston, that got me thinking, that got me fired up, that got me into the business of helping people. Thus, this post. It was as much a message to me as the rest of the experts out there.

      We have both grown up, my friend (me from my leopard print and you from your giraffe print jumpers).

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