Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Click here to Save the World


Anybody who's a regular on A-Musing has to know Snow Leopard. The Auntius-Cub duo are "world-famous" for their online sparring. The two years I have known him, I have seen him evolve into a seriously good writer with a mind of his own and a sharp sense of humour. He claws, bares his fangs much to the delight of his readers.

Who is Joseph Kony? The name had been trending on twitter for some time now. Whoever he was, of one thing I was sure; He had not fought with or got slapped by any Bollywood celebrity. If he had, he would have been on India TV before I could click the trending topic.

In spite of other trends that included replacing a word in the movie with a vegetable (it usually trends every 3 days) and a Rakhi Sawant hash tag that kept me hooked for 2 hours; the question still haunted me. Who is Joseph Kony? And more important, why should he be stopped? Has he broken the traffic light or something? My curiosity got the better of me and I finally clicked on the trend link. And lo and behold, a list sprang up, that was growing at an alarming rate of 20 tweets per second.

From what I read, I could gather that he is a war lord in Uganda, who has done what every other war lord has ever done. And some Americans had made a documentary about his crimes that went viral.



Agent x Comics
Hate them or love them but you cannot ignore social networking sites. They have changed the way we connect to people, the way we speak and the way we protest. The Arab Spring was successful because of the mass support it was able to generate through Facebook and Twitter. The first step to curb a rebellion or a movement, is to prevent communication. Earlier, the governments used to do it by imposing curfews and preventing people from gathering at public places. Moreover, the spread of information took time.

The social media sites ensure the spread of information and at a fast rate. A protest can be organised about anything and everything in the blink of an eye. But more than actual results, the rise in on-line activism is breeding armchair activists. As the urban dictionary defines it, "One who sits in their armchair or desk chair and blogs or posts Activists issues on facebook without ever really doing anything about said issues or exercising any form of activism as it would require that person to actually leave the armchair."

And the Kony tag was, according to me, the biggest example of it. The documentary that became viral, claims that Joseph Kony kidnaps children and forces them either into prostitution or uses them as child soldiers. I take their word on that. In any land ravaged by war and lawlessness since such a long time, such brutalities are everywhere. And everyone knows about it, but it takes a Viral Video before everyone actually notices it.
 
The video has already been criticised a lot. The founders of Invisible Children have shown Africa as a place that can not rise without the help of the western world. To be frank, the western mentality of viewing themselves as the saviour of all non whites has been the cause of miseries in Africa and most of the other parts of the world. Add to it the fact, the organisations that are pitching in to support the cause, have a dubious reputation themselves.


Slacktivism, is another term that has been doing rounds. It can be termed a synonym for armchair activism and basically means the art of blogging or sharing something on a networking site, to show your support. Similar thing had happened during the Anna movement last year. The number of people who signed on-line petitions eclipsed those who actually came to support the cause.

It always makes me smirk when I see my Facebook wall flooded with shares that will supposedly help save a child with cleft lips or provide food to malnourished children in some godforsaken place, if some ten thousand people like it. Yes, it does make a good change from the photos of cats and puppies that some how send everyone into an orgasmic frenzy. But it amuses me when I see the pretentiousness at play.


Not that I am an inhuman bastard who is not moved by the sad plight of the millions that the social net-workers are sharing to save. But the fact remains that we have a better chance of cracking Fermat's last theorem. Most of the times, it is nothing but marketing. Some time ago, Coca Cola's India plant had come under fire for the misuse of water resources. A campaign was started. In the end Coca Cola pledged to donate a percentage of their earnings from India towards the conservation of Polar Bears. Yes, you read it correct.

Slackivism ensures that each and every event gets talked about. With just a click of a button one can show support for a movement. It increases the numbers on the page of the said movement, but the question to be asked is, how much of it is authentic. Check your own friend list or rather check your own FB profile and you will find pages that you had liked, but will have no recollection of when and why. And when something goes viral, it is but natural to share, like and comment on it. Like a fad it keeps changing, since the on-line world is fickle. Everyone lacks patience. A thing will trend on day 1, will be replaced by another on day 2 and by day 3, day 1 is already ancient history.


Moreover, how many of us have ever given a thought before clicking that share button or making a random tweet. To be fair, I personally participate in half the Twitter Trends to make some joke on it, in the hopes of attracting a few followers. But how many even think of the long term consequences. The Arab Spring was considered a success of On-line Activism, but what after that? Fundamentalist forces have taken over Egypt which is as bad if not worse. Somehow slacktivism is breeding herd mentality, in which each person follows behind the other, without asking much questions. And the behaviour becomes similar to a mob, just that it is on-line.

And at a time when the blinking images of a small town UP boy can become a rage, On-line activism can be summed up in the following points

· Log in to share a new photo from the party last night or check a new lol cat meme

· Look at the trending topic of the day.

· Is the topic fascinating enough i.e. How many people are talking about it and what are the chances it will make you look good.

· No - keep sharing cat photos

· Yes - Like the topic, share it, add a personal line if possible.

· Good deed of the day done.

· Share cat photos.

Anyway, the long and short of my rambling is that, it is easy to comment or have strong opinions against an issue, while sitting in the comfort of an air conditioned room. But tough to go out and try to change it. The African tragedy has been going on since ages. My Grandfather talks about civil war in Congo when he served in the forces. My father went on a UN mission to Somalia in the early 90s. And not just Africa, but every place where there is poverty and lawlessness.

But I always question myself before I jump the bandwagon to support a cause. Does it help anyone? Thanks to Kony 2012 a few million people can now point out Uganda on a map. Nothing more will come out of it. Or rather it will, but when the resources of that areas have been fully exploited. And why should we Stop Kony when there are demons to be dealt with in our own closet. Have we ever given a thought to them or are we just going to sign another on-line petition against Sri Lanka?

Teaching your maid's child will do more good to the society than random likes on FaceBook. And if you really support a cause, then go out and work for it. Be a volunteer somewhere. Change the political establishment by joining it instead of cribbing and then working for a posh firm in the US. Slacktivism does nothing except give us a false sense of altruism

56 comments:

  1. Thank god,you summed up all the rambling in the last paragraph urging to ACT and not from armchair:)

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    Replies
    1. That is the gist, sire. Action speaks louder than shares.

      Delete
  2. Timely, well defined article....Your growling makes a lot of sense. And yes..
    Teaching your maid's child will do more good to the society than random likes on FaceBook.

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    1. Ahhh....you understand Leopardish! Great! :D

      Delete
  3. I absolutely stand by the last paragraph. Creating awareness, raving and ranting on social platforms, talking about issues and armchair activism is largely an ego boast and does not really achieve much in terms of making a real difference. I follow the policy of paying for my maid's son's school education.

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    Replies
    1. That is a good thing. Charity, they say, begins at home.

      Delete
  4. Brilliant post, Mr. Cub!

    Personally, I think online activism is "taking away" the firepower that we individuals might have. By living in a false sense of altruism, I might not be pushed enough to fight for something that will actually make a difference because, internally, I feel I've done my bit. That's bad.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Mr. Sahay
      True that. People really don't want to get out of the comfort zone.

      Delete
  5. a very thoughtful post......Personally, I see nothing wrong with online activism...but it has to be first step, not the only step towards social responsibilities

    I do not take FB too seriously....its just a tool of communication and ofcourse, it has helped me to be more informative of the goings on around!!

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

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    1. I do not deny it's power of engaging the masses, but we also must realise that we are not the only people. A hashtag gets started to raise awareness, but it does not save the people who are actually affected since most of them don't even have access to basic necessities of life.

      Delete
  6. Excellent post, cub Leopard. The bottom line is that though the social media remains a powerful tool, the people who use it have become slackers. That's probably because Kony isn't coming to their own countries or neighbourhoods and kidnapping children. Cleaning starts at home but everybody has the tendency to think that their homes don't need cleaning and there begin the the allusions to something widely known that is quite atrocious. If it isn't known, make it known. That's the mantra.
    Social media is powerful if used by the right people. The OWS movement is something necessary going on in the USA but there are too many people involved (because of the ease that social media allows them to be involved) who aren't quite aware of the right ways to tackle the said problems.

    PS. Personally, I believe the best ways to do good and let people know of what's going on and do any good is by hacktivism. Hail the Legion.

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    1. If you think about it. The people who we are supposedly helping by sharing about them, do not even have an idea of what is going on.
      It is like, if we meet over a cup of coffee and discuss and dispense away with all the problems that are ailing the world.
      Hacktivism is a good idea

      Delete
  7. I think the neoliberalists sit and gloat every time the media (digital, online and otherwise) takes on a new cause, since it knows that it will fizzle out like the Anna Hazare movement or the Arab spring,and the vultures will finally be free to descend for the spoils. I agree with you that the need of the hour is to start making actual changes, in whatever small way that one can, but perhaps most urgently in becoming role models for the future generation. Let them not look back and scoff at us for having spoken and not acted. Changes do not have to be earthshaking, but like you mentioned, small meaningful ones. Let go of your vanity subscriptions, switch over to basic DTH (or better still, let go of your cable and switch to watching meaningful works of art on DVD), stop impulsive buying (both consumer goods and ideas, like FB and Tweets), one can go on and on. Making these changes and sticking to them will send out a message to those who want to but are scared of the consequences of ethical need-based lifestyles. Start empowering those most in need of power, the ones who turn up in the media only when they are killed or abused, the poor and the marginalized (which in today's world includes the middle class). Ok, this is turning into a post of its own rather than a comment, but I hope it reinforces what you have so powerfully put out in your post.

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    1. That is the only way we can actually make things better. In your own words "Let them not look back and scoff at us for having spoken and not acted."

      Delete
  8. Brilliant Post! Love the amount of thought you've put into this post. Strange, that this is a docile post though :P Angry cubby.

    :D

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    Replies
    1. Err...me angry? You must have mistaken me for someone else.

      Delete
  9. I like the way you articulated these words of yours. It is in fact very true. Most of the slactivism we encounter is rooted from the need to look or sound like a path-breaking youngster.

    I loved the way you concluded. Those words were seized out of my mouth.

    You've won over a fan. Kudos.

    -R.R

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    Replies
    1. Thank you very much, Mohit. Yes, it does stem from our need to be noticed.

      Delete
  10. Wow, Snow, let me hug you tight, my dear boy...
    you have nailed it. I also saw some of my connections sharing this video on Facebook. From the trend I know of facebook activism, I have ignored it.
    To this statement of yours:
    "To be frank, the western mentality of viewing themselves as the saviour of all non whites has been the cause of miseries in Africa and most of the other parts of the world. Add to it the fact, the organisations that are pitching in to support the cause, have a dubious reputation themselves."-- I would like to make a slight comment here. It is not the western world, but American politicians and so called "charity workers". There are people who work from heart, but most of the life in america is only for "marketing" purpose.

    I heard that very recently there was a law that a person who is suspicious of any person/s can shoot in defense. I mean what kind of forward nation is this?
    The latest NEWS of a man shooting and killing a black boy and calling it self defense is very scary to hear in a country such as America who call themselves forward.
    Shame!

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  11. Hope people listen and WALK the TALK rather then all TALK which is what we do mostly

    Bikram's

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  12. Purba,

    A very hard hitting post. I am going to reproduce extracts from what you said which are so true that we all need to think over these honestly :

    One who sits in their armchair or desk chair and blogs or posts Activists issues on facebook without ever really doing anything about said issues or exercising any form of activism as it would require that person to actually leave the armchair."

    To be frank, the western mentality of viewing themselves as the saviour of all non whites has been the cause of miseries in Africa and most of the other parts of the world. Add to it the fact, the organisations that are pitching in to support the cause, have a dubious reputation themselves.

    Anyway, the long and short of my rambling is that, it is easy to comment or have strong opinions against an issue, while sitting in the comfort of an air conditioned room. But tough to go out and try to change it.

    Teaching your maid's child will do more good to the society than random likes on FaceBook. And if you really support a cause, then go out and work for it. Be a volunteer somewhere. Change the political establishment by joining it instead of cribbing and then working for a posh firm in the US

    Take care

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sir, this is a guest post by Snow Leopard, a young boy in his 20's but thoughts way beyond his years.

      Delete
  13. Well done! A meaningful post. Likes and hashtags are not doing anything real out there on the field. Well said at the right time:)

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    Replies
    1. Precisely. But not many are willing to get off their chair

      Delete
  14. This was good and finally someone solved the Kony mystery for me :-)
    I find it absolutely insane how people get duped into forwarding messages and mails and now "sharing" stuff on the net after the conviction that this would actually help or work!
    bah, humbug!

    and that Coca Cola and polar bears thingy, really? OMG!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup...don't you feel proud? Each time you drank a bottle of coke, you were saving a Polar Bear in the North Pole

      Delete
  15. It is easy to abuse any good thing and social networking sites are no exception. Disillusionment sets in when everyone tries to get in their two-bits' worth -- the more sensational and the sleazier, the better the chances of getting noticed. Online activism is not just limited to these sites, but also to blogs. Even real time activism does not always help those it is intended for. It is so easy to trivialise or hijack a cause even in real time. I agree wholeheartedly that action should replace activism, however small.

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    1. And each person has an expert opinion but is willing to do little

      Delete
  16. The things you described are obvious for a reasonable mind, yet the herd mentality that you described and a superficial attitude towards everything has pervaded so deep in the people that it takes someone like you to actually shout out loud for few people to notice.

    Even during Anna's time, it was sooo irritating, looking at everybody getting an India Against Corruption badge on their dps, even if they knew nothing about Lokpal bill proposed. And those who did knew, eschewed from such activities. Facebook-mindless sharing, Twitter-even more mindless trending.

    And nobody is noticing the fact the Kony video came out after large natural reserves of oil were found in Uganda. Joseph had been doing(whatever he had been doing, being the head of a religious sect, apparently killing children)for more than a decade. Why did it had to become obvious now. US's moves are ALWAYS(can't stress it enough) guided by purely selfish motives, with complete disregard to the amount of destruction it can cause other countries.

    I've said enough. Your post describes everything perfectly :). Kudos to you SL, man!
    And yeah, i do sometimes like(not share though) cat pics ;)

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    Replies
    1. Precisely, my point. Most don't even have an idea about the thing they are sharing but still have opinions.
      And you can share cat photos if you like them. ;)

      Delete
  17. I have always believed that social media is an extended tool, not the essential one. The only thing facebook and twitter are capable of doing is spreading the message. If I like or share a story, I am obviously recommending it to my network, what I or my network does is entirely another thing. One can react via social media or one can join the crusade. The first one does not influence the cause directly, the second does. The more people do the first, the more the cause tends to gather the second.
    So, everyone is important, but then again on an individual level, a person who only shares is not involved in the cause, such a person is a mere onlooker. So, the best the person can do is not spread message blindly.
    Thus, teaching your maid would be a good thing, but don't stop doing this on social media, just don't do it blindly, have a little perspective. One should do both, but social media is no truthful place, it is only as true as the person who recommends it, don't take his or her word for it, do your research.

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    1. I never said that one should stop sharing. Social media is a powerful tool and should be used. But it is being misused

      Delete
  18. I save the world so many times a day! :D

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  19. Slacktivism is the word! Although social n/w sites have made today's generation more aware, we still fail to rise beyond a 'Like' almost always.

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    Replies
    1. And that makes us even more guilty. Because, despite being aware, we do nothing

      Delete
  20. I totally agree with your last para-nothing to beat it...you have picked up a very valid topic.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Excellent post. Even though the length of the post made me yawn at first sight, it kept me gripped because I had to nod on as I kept reading it.
    And this is by far the main reason I choose to stay aloof from everything that claims "my support", because who are we kidding? I just have an opinion, not the time or selflessness to actual go about and take a step.

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    Replies
    1. Don't worry, it made me yawn too :)
      Also, I like that you are not a hypocrite

      Delete
  22. Nice interesting write up.

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  23. True. Good stuff. Some have become social media altruists, some bystanders and others like me have given the whole thing a miss. It's the latest blockbuster that I choose not to watch.

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    1. It does make you a cynic, doesn't it

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    2. Cynic is a little harsh and pessimistic. I am a skeptic. Doubtful about the crowd but I believe in the individual.

      Delete
  24. Well said!

    First I thought the title was meant to get hits on the particular blogpost, but after I read the whole I saw the hints of underlying sarcasm in the post!

    +1 in your followers (like you wanted)

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  25. Very relevant and hard hitting. You have highlighted the farce of the virtual world and how we all try so hard to make a difference from inside it. And nicely written laced with your delightful sense of humor.

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  26. i completely agree with you Ma'm. action speaks louder than words (words replaced by shares and likes buttons on facebook)

    regards
    rahul

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    Replies
    1. Not Ma'am but Snow Leopard. This is a guest post by him.

      Delete
  27. commendable post on the Kony khand...i read about it at al jazeera and wondered how we've become slactivists ourselves. Invisible Children along with the whole world seems misguided - only U.S. can save the world. Time will tell:)

    Thanks for sharing here...now going to check your blog!

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  28. 100% agree!! great post!

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