Sunday, March 11, 2012

KONY 2012 – His Invisible Employers

Joseph Kony is, without question, one of the most heinous criminals of our time. His elaborate scheme of exterminating the innocence of childhood through the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) represents a level of sociopathic cruelty that must be ended. Having had numerous interactions between our organization and Invisible Children, I have been impressed with the passion with which the Invisible Children team has persisted to shine a light on the human tragedy unleashed by the LRA.

I encourage you to watch Invisible Children’s KONY 2012… but, here’s one tiny caveat. Joseph Kony is not a deranged sociopath who came out of a vacuum and exsanguinated the life-blood of children in Uganda and the Central African Republic simply because he’s incarnate cruelty. Joseph Kony’s impunity was possible because an ecosystem was created which celebrated injustice and inhumanity. He represents the malignant end of a disease that KONY 2012 does not address.

Central Africa is a land filled with diamonds, timber, oil, gold, tantalum, tin, tungsten and other minerals. And the cold reality is that the funds that arm the LRA are not anonymous donors sworn to promote genocide – they’re the consumers of the products that are being ripped out of the ground and have been for years. In compliance with Dodd-Frank Section 1502 – a law that was passed to allow public companies to report and justify the “necessary functionality or production” of the use of “conflict minerals” – companies like Intel report the fact that they are aware that part of their supply chain funds “human rights atrocities.” Now, the reason I’m highlighting Intel is because, while admitting their ‘potential’ role in the conflict metals genocide, they also have been leading industry efforts to deal with this issue.

What’s missing, however, is the recognition that the Joseph Kony phenomenon is not without its patronage. Children are being robbed of their innocence not merely by ruthless warlords. Girls are not being forced into sex-slavery and death because there’s a #1 bad guy indicted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Young boys are not killing their parents because there’s a rogue scout troop that took things a bit too far. These crimes are happening because real companies are supporting a supply chain that they, and their investors have allowed to operate in opacity. And remember, the same Congress that authorized military trainers to go to Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and wherever Kony may run to hide, is the Congress that passed a law stating that companies can justify their use of resources produced through genocide!

Ten percent of Facebook’s users have watched the Invisible Children video. That’s awesome. But most of them watched that video on an appliance that holds the ghost of a killed family, a raped girl, a childless gun-toting boy, an Asian indentured laborer…, and the list goes on. And until we realize that Kony is just the homicidal end of a road that our consumption has paved, we’ll stop him while hundreds of his inspired spawn operate in anonymity. As long as Section 1502 of Dodd-Frank is the best we can do; as long as we don’t pay attention to the corporate profits and the investment banks who finance the corrupt industries that provide liquidity to warlords; we will continue to inherit a world in which Joseph Kony will continue to rob, abduct, kill, and maim.

On April 20, 2012 – let’s also name the real beneficiaries of the LRA and the chaos they maintain so that corporations and investment banks rob the countries where the LRA operates. Look at your diamond ring, look at your mobile device, look at your 401(k) and realize that the ghosts in the mirror are the Invisible Children – the one’s you still don’t care about. And then, get informed and cut off the money supply so they cannot persist. How about having a day of NO ELECTRONICS PURCHASES? How about having a day where NOBODY GETS ENGAGED WITH A ‘GIRL’S BEST FRIEND’? See, if we really want to make a change, we have to stop merely naming the ‘bad guy’ and start realizing that it is US that made him and WE HAVE TO CHANGE OURSELVES to exterminate his kind in our world.


  1. Nothing to say but a full-throated AMEN!

  2. Yes, there are many distasteful groups and governments in Africa involved in the trade of natural resources but your article does not in any way explain the link between the LRA and such trade (if any).

  3. So here's a thought: corporations are owned and governed by shareholders. What if even a fraction of those who've been watching the Invisible Children video were to form a mutual fund whose sole purpose is to invest in influencing the governance of these companies? Sufficiently capitalized, such a fund could have a much louder voice than any picket line or one-day boycott.

    The fund's charter could include these provisions: (1) shares will be purchased for the sole purpose and in quantities appropriate to gain entree to shareholder meetings and, if appropriate (and if capital is sufficient) influence seats on boards of directors; (2) the potential for monetary gain or loss is not to be a factor in share purchase, but only the potential to effect good or prevent bad actions as determined by the fund's investment guidelenes; and (3) any monetary profits realized are 100% dedicated to the furtherance of justice causes, not to the gain of fund shareholders.

    I think the idea of subverting the investment mechanism for human-advancement goals has a certain poetry to it. What do you think?

  4. @Anonymous, the link is that the LRA is well-known to be funded by sale of minerals from the conflict areas, and in fact to have conscripted not a few civilians for forced labor mining those minerals. They are smuggled across conflict areas and sold in neighboring states. Google "conflict minerals trade" and you can find plenty of detail.

  5. Thank you David for another continual perspective that the majority of the world forgets. The perspective of how the material luxuries we current enjoy can (and mostly do) come from by the exploits of the suppressed garner actions by people. We all must realize the planet is really not that big. Em Nau.

  6. Thank you David Martin for filling up the picture about this tragedy. As long as we don't own our own responsibility about these atrocities , Kony and other tyrants in the world will continue to conveniently embody these aspects of our collective shadow...

  7. There is much work to do - and Marxist inspired critiques of capitalist hegemonies are part of that important work. And Jungian theories about shadow can be useful, especially when they are deployed with a consciousness of the range of politics that they can enable or silence. People everywhere are doing different kinds of work and it will take all that work - the political, the economic and the spiritual. If people are raising consciousness according to their own perspectives, their own strengths, their own beautiful visions, I feel it is incumbent upon us to see what is made visible and what is made invisible by each offering, but not to mistake this discernment for the deadening sophistication of cynicism. This itself is an old pattern, because it is easier to critique than to celebrate all of our work as pieces of a whole - interdependent and necessary. We are in the habit of critique, the habit of separating my thinking from your thinking and resting in the comfort of a better critique, yet one that may be no closer to making a real change. Do you think if you asked the children who are being raped by this man if they would rather (1) have him arrested or (2) wait until corporate capitalism, which enables him, was brought down by the privileged giving up their privilege they would chose the latter? Is it OK to focus on something and make a small difference? As a mother, as a woman, I vote for all of the above and I applaud the efforts, both immediate and far sighted.

  8. A more critical view of Invisible Children


    Slow movement by governments and MNC's are expected due to long supply chain issues - using the Integral Trade model throughout the supply chain would create significant value add in terms of branding and a more stable beginning to the supply chain.


Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave