Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When Helping Stops Being Helpful

Hello again! There is something that has been brewing on the back burner of my brain for quite a few days now, and I think I've finally mulled it over enough to where I can now put it into words that will actually make sense. That's just how my brain works. Sometimes, when I am really thinking about something, it takes a few days of deep contemplation before that thought will come out of my mouth in a way that other people can comprehend what it is that I'm trying to say. This thought is one of those....

About a week ago, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to an online article about the KONY 2012 campaign video by the Invisible Children charity. 

**For those of you who do not know who Joseph Kony is, or what the Invisible Children charity does, I have posted a few helpful links at the bottom of this page, along with a link to the article that I read.**

 Out of curiosity, I clicked on it. The article was about an African charity who decided to show the KONY 2012 film to an area of northern Uganda that was among one of the worst affected by the LRA. Many of the people who came to the showing had heard of the film, but live in rural villages and do not have electricity, let alone internet. Despite their high expectations, most of them were angered by what they saw. Instead of "a video that showed the world the terrible atrocities that they had suffered during the conflict," they saw a "foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialized their suffering." The Invisible Children charity, who produced the film, sells bracelets and other merchandise to fund their efforts, and aims at making Kony "famous" for what he has done. One woman who was interviewed after the film compared Invisible Children's efforts to selling Osama Bin Laden merchandise after 9/11, with the same intentions. In my opinion, she has an excellent point, and this was what really got me thinking....

How would we react if a foreign charity, no matter how pure their intentions, now began selling t-shirts and bracelets with messages like, "Make Osama Famous," years after 9/11. Or if they produced a film narrated by someone who did not personally suffer through, or survive that atrocity, that relied on supposedly dated footage from a superficial and commercial point of view? I'm pretty sure that would cause a nation-wide riot, and would do nothing but bring fresh grief and pain to the surface which had already begun to heal. But perhaps that is a bad comparison. I also thought, what if the same thing was done after the Holocaust? Or the Bosnian Genocide? This list goes on and on. While this event is certainly not the first of its kind, and efforts to help have been met with anger and disappointment since the beginning of time, this is my point...

Sometimes I think people take too much of a selfish approach to helping others. We get too caught up in fixing things the way that we want them to be fixed, or how we think they should be fixed, and we forget who we are really supposed to be helping in the first place. I think we can also lose track of who has to live with our fixes after we are finished and have gone away. When this happens I feel that helping is no now longer helpful. The effort is then turned in the wrong direction, and becomes too much of a selfish act, no matter how good your intentions still are. I am a helper at heart, and definitely believe in helping when it is needed. But, while I support the Invisible Children charity in their efforts, I can fully appreciate and understand how the Ugandans who watched the film reacted the way that they did. After all, they are the ones who have suffered the most from this conflict, and I feel that that suffering was met with a little bit of insensitivity. 

Long story short, helping is about the person or thing that we are trying to do good for, not ourselves.


Wikipedia page on Joseph Kony:

Invisible Children charity:

Article that I read:

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