Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Generosity of Spirit: Kony 2012

When I was grew up, my brother and I did not get along very well. When I was quite young, I can remember waiting with him in the car, and him finding pleasure in shaking his bottle furiously so his formula would splatter along the top of the car. He always wanted to do what I was doing, and I, the big sister, wanted to be independent and have special privileges. In my opinion, he was "annoying", "never worked hard enough," and "was always in the way. I was frustrated, and it affected our relationship, My Dad, displeased with our constant conflict, tried to instill within me the concept of generosity of spirit.

Generosity of spirit, as I understand it in terms of my Father's definition, is giving people the benefit of the doubt, and then some. Being generous with your kindness and patience. Having little patience myself, I always found this concept difficult to apply, partially because I never fully grasped the concept. As I am getting older, and finding the world to be more and more difficult, and disappointing, I am finding a greater need to rediscover this concept my Father tried to instill.

Since I have been in London studying abroad, I have been blessed to stumble upon a humble supermarket only a few minutes away from my residence called The People's Supermarket (TPS). I was a bit wary at first, "volunteering at a supermarket", but I quickly learned that TPS is much more than that. TPS is a community of people that are creating greater value for society, that happen to sell food. TPS is a social enterprise that tries to stock local products, use expiring food in The People's Kitchen to make meals, educate/stock Fair-trade products, among many other aspirations and goals. Moreover, they are the warmest, kindest and welcoming group of people I have yet to find. This is important because about a week ago, TPS was in danger of closing because they had failed to pay taxes, and the local government, Camden Council, refused to negotiate any sort of reduced tax agreement for seemingly political reasons. Needless to say, my faith in humanity took a serious blow. It was a bit restored when a non-profit, Fredrick's Foundation, stepped up with a loan in the 11th hour. Camden Council still won't budge on reducing taxes.

Which brings us to today. After a midterm, and an essay due, I was in no mood to watch a 30 minute video entitled "Kony 2012". I figured it was some fad, where everyone would do everything but nothing, and one that would quickly fade. After some food and a rest, I was ready to watch this video.

I was blown away.

I was unaware about Kony, and the army of children, despite the fact I took a Holocaust and genocide class in high school. I was appalled at his actions, and our government's lack of actions. I was amazed at the narrator's video capabilities, and the simplicity and power of his message. Mostly, I was inspired and proud at the actions that young adults, and these coordinators, have taken around the world to stop a very terrible person. I immediately wanted to get involved.

As hours rolled by, people started posting counter articles to Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 campaign. I struggled to see the counter argument, and realize that maybe this non-profit was actually being dishonest, and not doing good they say they are. Bam. Another blow to my faith in humanity. After much thought, I started down a path that I think might make my Father proud. I started with generosity of spirit.

A very angry and tormented person is taking the childhood and lives away from thousands of children. An organization is trying to effectively and swiftly mobilize millions of the most powerful people in the world (yes, that's you Americans) to stop these atrocities, and the best (summarized) counter arguments to take pose away from the campaign are ...

  1. Where were you years ago?
  2. Invisible Children doesn't spend their finances efficiently. 
I have to say friends, this infuriated me.

First, I was unaware of the atrocities that were happening. The whole point of the campaign is to educate the people that are the most powerful to take action.

Secondly, if you notice where  these inefficient finances are going, you might reconsider this argument as well. The information I have received is that a good portion goes to flight costs to Africa, and film costs and not directly to helping the children. These factors are quite a long way from booze, drugs, and party planes. Am I right? Furthermore, who cares if only 1 of the 3 dollars you send in goes directly to helping the children? Who cares if none of the money you sent in went directly to helping the children? To the many of you, who are not putting yourself through college and can easily relate, I spent 6 pounds today on a burrito from Chipotle, which equates to $9. I give money everyday that isn't necessary to for-profit corporations who act much more unethically. Again, I ask. Who cares if some (or none) of your disposable income goes towards helping children that are recruited to be in an malicious army.

In a discussion with my Dad about whether or not to give money to homeless people, he suggested, that yes, you should. Questioning him, he always responds along the same lines. "Who cares if a homeless person uses it to buy drugs or alcohol? What if they use it to buy food or clothing? Does the rewards of the person that uses it beneficially outweigh the costs of the person that doesn't?" My father and I would say yes.

After a long winded segment, here is my take. If you sent in $20 to Invisible Children for the Kony 2012 campaign, I'm not suggesting that you should, but if you did. Would the possible cost of the money not making it to the children directly outweigh the benefit if it did? Moreover, would it outweigh the benefit if the money aided in the awareness of Joseph Kony? My suggestion would be no. It would definitely be worth it regardless of where it actually went, if it had the chance of possibly helping.

It's generosity of spirit. Giving people the benefit of the doubt, and then some.