Those Who Won’t…

Whoever came up with the phrase, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” was clearly on to something.

In the affirmative sense the phrase indicates that as we get older, we lose the strength needed to accomplish, so we move into the realm of teaching, encouraging the younger and more able-bodied to use their strength to accomplish.

In the pejorative, or “insultive”, sense the adage also aptly defines certain able bodied people who have no interest in “doing”- because they prefer talking.

As a known talker, with a great propensity for inactivity, I’d like to propose adding a third “Those Who” to the mix.

If you were paying attention to an internet device yesterday you probably saw, or read, about a viral video produced by the non-profit advocacy group “Invisible Children”.

The video was intended to launch a campaign to instigate global awareness about an African dictator, who abuses children, and appeal for his removal through foreign intervention.

Yesterday they got a lot of views.

A lot of people heard their message.

Now people are responding.

Today, people know about the civil war in Uganda and the tragedy of child soldiers and sexual abuse that has taken place there. They also know the names of Joseph Kony and his LRA.

Today we also get the opportunity to watch the backlash against the non profit behind the awareness campaign.

You might be wondering why people, especially global think-tanks and watchdog organizations, would be critical of a group like Invisible Children?

To be fair, they may have some valid points. As wealthy outsiders who occasionally travel into Uganda, the folks at IC can’t have a fully informed view of what is truly going on there, and what the proper and effective solutions should be.

Because of this their desires and methods may contain elements of paternalism and colonialism (white people can solve this problem if the Africans just get out of the way).

They are also heavily criticized by “responsible journalists” for oversimplifying the Ugandan situation and using “emotionalism” to rally people to their cause.

While these arguments, at their core, may have some validity, let’s not forget that the people at Invisible Children are not actually villains.

They are simply people who were willing to do something about child abduction and abuse when very few others were.

The people at Invisible Children aren’t journalists making fair and balanced documentaries.

They aren’t politicians in the business of nation building.

They aren’t an ethics panel looking to enforce a moral homogeny and consistency.

They are people using what strength they have to stop a very specific form of evil.

IC looked into the face of a wickedness that robs, then kills, and ultimately destroys, and had the courage to act… when even talking was discouraged.

Invisible Children are film makers. They have the power to tell stories, and that is the power that they leveraged this week.

Was it an emotional appeal?

Absolutely, all great stories are.

Was it comprehensive?

Absolutely not, no great story can be.

Was it perfect?

Did it have to be?

You don’t have to know everything about a situation to do something about it… and the people of Invisible Children know a lot more than most.

You also don’t have to have every answer before you begin working to find a solution, especially when the innocence of children is at stake.

Every outside opinion on Africa is going to contain elements of colonialism. That doesn’t automatically make the opinion wrong.

It’s very easy to pick apart IC because they have actually created something that can be picked apart…

…as opposed to just talking about the problem.

Which brings me back to that “Third Who” I’d like to add to the saying.

Those who can, do.
Those who can’t, teach.
And those who won’t?

They can only criticize.

It’s always easier to talk than do.

Feel free to watch the 30 minute video below:

15 Responses to “Those Who Won’t…”

  1. Leslie D. Martin March 9, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    “criticized by “responsible journalists” for…using “emotionalism” to rally people to their cause.”

    The irony of the criticism of course being lost on the “responsible journalists” who make it inasmuch as “responsible journalists” perfected such tactics, as in stories that cry “women, children, the poor and minorities impacted the most,” ad nauseam.

  2. Vicki Hansen March 9, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Well said, Jon. I will be sharing.

  3. Luke March 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    I think we can easily hold onto both sides here – let’s hear their message, of course! And it’s fine to hold ourselves to higher standards as Christian communicators.

    • Jon March 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      I don’t disagree at all Luke, My feeling though is that most of the “critical” response isn’t coming from a place that wants to uphold high standards. We all have room to grow, unfortunately some people don’t criticize to promote growth… Sadly.

      • Luke March 11, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

        That makes sense; as long as I’m allowed to say “that video was vague” without people assuming I don’t care about Africa. To me, the drive to get work done as well as having some frustration with the video’s unclarity are two forces in the same direction.

  4. Nathan March 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    Hi Jon,

    We don’t know each other but have a mutual acquaintance that linked to this.

    It’s very well done. Thank you for writing it. As Vice Admiral of the local Knee Jerk Cynicism Brigade I definitely fall victim to wanting to blow back against any popular belief or viral internet fad. However I agree it is best to remember that the point here is not to score ideological points but rather help enslaved children and prevent more children from sharing their fate. That the picture isn’t clear to me or that I’m not as informed as I could be does not separate the fact the I am compelled to action by knowing that these things are happening. What action am I compelled to take? Hopefully something meaningful. Right now the furthest it’s gotten is for me to take a step back from my cynicism and appreciate this blog post.

    Thanks again.


    • Jon March 9, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

      Thanks man, really appreciate your perspective. I hope we get to meet one day!

  5. MattB March 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    Well said Jon. My post earlier this afternoon was about justice as tapestry. There is no way to have a comprehensive programme for justice without empire building, just a diverse tapestry of people willing to do something, of which God builds a tapestry of shalom. There will always be imperfections, but for my money, I will go with people doing stuff with hearts to serve.

    • Jon March 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

      So money… thanks for posting. And also for being legit.

  6. Darcy Hansen March 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Thank you, Jon. I was hoping you would post on this issue. Well said!

  7. Jeanie Brumley March 12, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    I am glad that the Kony 2012 “story” was told in such away that 30,000 plus invisible children were given a voice. Today’s communication in our global world allows us to hear and see with our own senses what doesn’t make the news on its own merits.
    Where is fair and balanced reporting among our networks? Watching the BBC news offers an enlightening contrast to our broadcasters. It seems that the real issue is whether we have a worldview or a Christian worldview. We don’t have to check our sensibilities at the door. We can certainly ask more questions and obtain more information.
    Ironic that the fear of colonialism is a concern when we don’t have a U.S. special interests in Uganda or Syria unlike Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Where does humanitarianism fit into world politics? “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” God calls us to action…

    • Jon March 12, 2012 at 11:41 am #

      Hey Jeanie, I enjoyed your point of view.

      I’ve found that one of the most difficult things that can happen to an organization is for them to experience success. In my opinion, IC hit a home run and are now open to the petty criticism that comes from envy and jealousy. I understand that, when it comes from people who don’t know Christ, it’s hard to stomach when it comes from other Christians.

      It seems that we all suffer from insecurities, regardless of our worldview.

  8. Luke March 14, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    North Uganda’s reaction to this video is worth considering here:

    Some criticism needs to be heard.

    • Jon March 15, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Hey Luke,
      I don’t disagree with you that criticism is good. In fact, my post asserted that the Kony Video (as with all western intervention in Africa) suffers from elements of colonialism and paternalism.

      While I respect your opinion, I’d urge you to keep in mind that the anger being expressed by the men in this news story isn’t about the atrocity. It’s about the fact that the Kony Film wasn’t about them and their friends who were killed.

      That’s an admission that they believe that Kony is only a personal/community problem. The Kony Film asserts that his reign of terror is a global problem, evidenced by his destruction of Northern Uganda and then moving into other regions.

      Because he has moved on, this clip asserts that the Kony Film is “too little too late”, a tacit agreement that Kony is “just a problem for Ugandans”.

      The point of the Kony film was not that Ugandans are suffering. It was that kids in Uganda have every bit as much right to live safely as a kid from San Diego. I’m certain that people who were told to come “watch a video about them” would be upset if it instead focused on anything else.

      IC isn’t perfect, but this news report only demonstrates that humanity always struggles to see a pain beyond it’s own. Something IC is trying to do.

      IC isn’t exploitation. Joseph Kony is.

      Respectfully- Jon

      • Luke March 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

        I wish IC the best, man, for sure. (For the record, I’d be pretty surprised if we somehow found out the whole thing was a money-making scheme. I’m not really suspicious there.)
        It would appear there’s some “zeal without knowledge” going on – which matters – but they’ll live, and hopefully realize that while effective, their Kony video has also been confusing to some of its intended audience.

        My personal frustration is if criticism is equated with being against something – people tend to critique things they like, things they expect a lot from. Maybe it’s up to us to find a positive… “constructive” way to make that feedback encouraging.

        As for today’s development… Yikes. I hope (sincerely) IC comes out of it OK. They’re in a position to be of great help, and I want to see them succeed.

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