Thursday, March 8, 2012

Righting the wrong wrongs?

Saying anything negative about the Invisible Children campaign makes me feel like the big bad wolf. Or, even worse, one of those pedantic people who trolls the internet, leaving negative and misinformed comments on the pages of well-meaning organisations. By nature an optimist, I try fervently to avoid what Stephen Fry refers to as the “stinking, sliding, scuttling, weird entomological creatures that inhabit the floor of the internet.”

Yesterday, like hundreds of thousands of other people around the world, I ‘shared’ the ‘Stop Kony’ video on my Facebook page. I complimented it with a spiel about the failure of the Western world in its moral obligation to humanity.
You know, dramatic, self-righteous stuff.
A few hours later, I removed it.
While I am under no illusions that my sharing of the video or otherwise makes any difference in the grand scheme of things, I felt uncomfortable supporting a cause that I was dubious about. That is not to say I am against the Invisible Children campaign per se, it is undoubtedly a worthy initiative, targeting what is a very serious problem. Joseph Kony has perpetrated gross human rights abuses and child soldiering is an issue that we cannot afford to turn our backs on.

From my first-watching of the ‘Stop Kony’ video, however, I have had several inherent reservations about the campaign.

Cinematically brilliant and emotionally engaging, it’s not surprising that the 30 minute-long video now has Kony trending on Twitter from Singapore to the Dominican Republic. In a nutshell, it encourages people to “make Kony famous” in order to pressure the American government to maintain its commitment to finding the indicted war criminal.

However, by focussing on Kony as an individual perpetrator and “devil incarnate” the video simplifies a far more complex situation. I don’t think the founders of Invisible Children, or the Obama administration are ignorant of this either. By contrasting the ‘bad man’ Kony with the innocence of the film-maker’s young, blond-haired, blue-eyed son, the video provides viewers with an identifiable target—a figurehead to associate with what is actually a massive and systemic problem. Identifying tangible aims and symbolic figureheads is an effective way to raise awareness of wider causes. The Free Mandela campaign, for example (on the other end of the spectrum), was an effective and emotive way of drawing the world’s attention to the injustices of apartheid.

As much as we’d like to deny it, the world does not always distribute aid or resources on the basis of need. Strategic interests and cost-benefit analysis, as well as genuine philanthropy dominate the “global morality market”. Particularly today, in a world where social media can make issues go viral in a matter of hours, sensationalism sells.

Thus, it is understandable that Invisible Children have chosen to focus on the apprehension of Joseph Kony. What people need to remember, however, is that he is just one actor, in a much wider problem. A very significant individual, but just an individual nonetheless. Invisible Children have demonised Kony (admittedly, this is not a hard task), presenting him as evil, egocentric and entirely inhuman. While Kony may well be any or all of these things, attributing the problem of child abduction and soldiering in Uganda as the consequence of one individual’s lack of humanity ignores the very human elements at play in the issue. He is hardly a “sacrificial lamb,” but the LRA is, after all, an organisation and its crimes encompass more than just the inhuman actions of a single ‘evil’ individual. Attributing the blame of the Holocaust (I know, but they pulled the Hitler card first) entirely with Hitler is to ignore the network of individuals, societal prejudices and institutional factors that contributed to the murder of six million Jews. Capturing and arresting Kony is obviously important, but it is by no means a comprehensive solution, or an end to the story.

Furthermore, Invisible Children are in favour of direct military intervention, having provided funding and support to the Ugandan government army (UPDF). Not only have the LRA not been active in Uganda since 2006 (they have now moved into the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic), but the UPDF and other military forces that Invisible Children have supported are far from democratic. The UPDF has been perennially accused of rape and sexual assault and Human Rights Watch has alleged than many former LRA soldiers are recruited into the Ugandan army against their will. The US has a history of working with less than angelic allies (read: Saddam Hussein) who have come back to bite them in the long term. Finally, if the US and the UPDF are engaging in military conflict against the LRA, are they not fighting against many of the child-soldiers that they aim to protect?

For these reasons, I have conflicted feelings about the ‘Stop Kony’ campaign. I don’t want to detract from good work of the organisation but I believe the campaign has several inherent flaws. It has tailored itself to a modern media environment, and has thus condensed a complex issue into a 30 minute video, intended to tug on the heartstrings of the world’s conscience. This is not necessarily a bad thing—it has raised vital awareness about an unfairly ignored issue—but people need to be aware that the story doesn’t end with Kony. Perhaps this is a necessary trade-off for publicity, but viral publicity doesn’t always equal justice.  

In short, I’m not condemning Invisible Children or their ‘Stop Kony’ campaign outright. Until recently I was one of many people who, ashamedly, knew virtually nothing about the LRA or its crimes in Uganda. Raising awareness of the atrocities perpetrated by Joseph Kony is, of course, important. But it is necessary to consider the wider issues. Could funds be directed toward a more beneficial cause for Ugandans than apprehending a middle-aged war criminal? Will military intervention cause more conflict? If you capture Kony, what next? Would funds not be better directed toward positive campaigns, such as re-integrating former child-soldiers into society?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t support Invisible Children. I don’t want to be a hater. You should never abandon a cause because the messenger is not perfect.   But I’m concerned that the organisation is concentrating on the righting the wrong wrongs. I'm concerned that it is commodifying the “white man’s burden” for the social media age. I encourage you to make you own decision about the ‘Stop Kony’ campaign but be wary of Facebook statuses that claim that Invisible Children are angels of humanity, seeking justice against the devil on earth.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ruby is a girl's best-friend.

When the name of your two major clothing lines are the country's most popular baby-names you've obviously got your finger on the right pulse. You've also got me wandering drooling into your store more than once a week and stretching my bank-account to its limit. 
Ruby's latest collection, Capital City (once again, the name has me sold already) is absolutely lust-worthy. I'm completely enamoured by this stunning bronze tunic dress in particular and may be just about to purchase it in over-eager anticipation of graduation. Justified, right?

I've always thought that diamonds are over-rated, and would much prefer to one day have my fingers adorned with more colourful gems (potential future suitors take note), so perhaps a little more Ruby in my life is just the ticket.

Here are some favourites from the Capital City collection.

The End of an Era

It's the end of an era at 45 Ghuznee Street.

Although I never lived there myself, I feel in a sense we all lived there. Whether by sleeping (or dancing) on their couch, sharing stories in the courtyard, or taunting danger on the rusty corrugated iron roof,  there was many a hazy memory gained, and braincell lost at the Ghuznee Street Commune. Those three beer-stained, earthquake prone, at times almost squalid flats, constituted the immoral backbone of our friend group for years. 

Aptly, of course, the moving-out was left right to the last minute. Cleaning up layers of alcohol-infused grime unearthed reminders of a multitude of parties past- a bag of cable ties, empty casks and a Hawaiian shirt so mouldy it was beginning to support its own eco-system. The vast amount of dignity lost by countless people in that place, however, can never be recovered. 

The packing-up of this flat seemed symbolic of something none of us want to accept- we may be finally 'growing up'. Indeed with people finishing uni, getting careers and engaging with that strange foreign place known as the 'real world', 2012, put dramatically, is the apocalypse of our studenthood. 

Nonetheless, although we may have shaved off our dreads, updated our CVs and forced ourselves to rise before 10am each day, I can't envisage us hanging up our party hats just yet. 2012 promises exciting possibilities for travel, student-loan repayments and new adventures. I certainly will be doing all I can to allay my constant fear of settling-down and wearing black. As for the former residents of 45 Ghuznee Street, I believe an epic flatwarming is in order.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A few of my favourite things...


Many of you may be familiar the eclectic cacophony of colour that is my wardrobe. I recently laid out all my clothes for a much needed sort-out, and resulting spread looked something like a regurgitated rainbow. 
Nonetheless, in my wardrobe there has always been one colour glaringly conspicuous in its absence- YELLOW.
I have recently developed an obsession with yellow, yet, try as I might, I have never been able to wear it. And, believe me, I’ve tried. 

But, today, however, I miraculously managed to discover a yellow dress that doesn’t make me look like I’ve contracted an unfortunate case of scurvy. Perhaps it’s a trade-off for exposing myself to a higher risk of melanoma than I should, but for once I didn’t look ghostly pale.
Needless to say, the dress has been purchased and I am as happy as I look... Which is like a giant sunflower.
*I must also advise that I do not endorsement the prioritising  of fashion choices over sunscreen. 

Sadly the flowers are flowers are starting to fall and fade, but I take solace in the fact that they look nearly as fabulous strewn across the ground in a giant red carpet as they do on the trees.

I was a late bloomer when it came to watching t.v. During high-school my best friend and I were literally the ONLY people who did not crowd the boarding house common room for weekly O.C. episodes. (I think we thought it would harm our already fragile punk-rock personas). When the rest of the year-group fell one day into sudden, hysterical mourning we were genuinely concerned that a) someone had died and, b) we seemed to be the only people who hadn’t known this ‘Marissa’ person.  

However, fortunately for me, I have now become an avid O.C. fan, and now wonder what I was doing without Marissa, Ryan, Seth and Summer for all those years. 

My most recent addiction however is to the British drama, Misfits. Somewhere at the intersection between Skins and outrageous science fiction, ‘Misfits’ is utterly outlandish, yet equally enthralling. Nathan, my favourite character, is, to be frank, a complete fuckwit, yet totally irresistible. This speech by Nathan at the end of the first series, in particular makes my own attempt at youth feel woefully inadequate and the life of a young offender seem strangely appealing.

I really want one. I also really want a skateboard. I’m not sure that I have the swagger to pull of either, but now I can wear yellow I kinda feel like I can do anything…. Right?

This beautiful gems that I live with warrant a blog post in their own right, but I feel it needs to be noted that I fuckin’ love them. I’m heading out the door to drinks Pimm's with strawberries and ginger beer in the sunshine on the beach with them right now.

Here Goes

I don't believe in new year's resolutions.

But, wait,
Before you brand me cynical and leave me to wallow in the endless, toxic mass of self-pitiful cyber-space, let me assure you that I DO believe in resolutions.
In fact, I believe very strongly in whenever-you-resolve-to-do-something resolutions. 
Resolutions you make when you're genuinely inspired, rather than 358 days since you last went to the gym.

Undoubtedly, overindulging a little in the festive spirit(s) over the holidays (and the inevitable surfacing of accompanying half-naked photographic evidence) may get us reassessing priorities, but why should we need a new year to be proactive?

If you want to do it, as I'm sure Nike's marketing team would say, 'just do it.'
You can write your own future, provided you're wearing a sweet pair of sneakers.

This blog, having been at the top of my easy-to-procrastinate-from-list for some time now, is the spawn of one such proverbial 'kick up the pants'.

This is not a blog about anything particular. It is not strictly for drooling over dresses, bemoaning the disturbing fact that 6.6 per cent of New Zealanders would vote for Winston Peters, or for launching into potentially irrational boy-rants (although it may feature any of these at any given time). Nor I am endowed with the generous genetic blessings that allow some bloggers to make a living prancing about the world in beautiful, gifted designer clothing.
Instead, this blog shall become host to my musings on everything from power lines, to Pohutukawa trees, to how good is that new song by Annah Mac??!

No doubt there will be a lot of colour and a photo or two as well.

So hi for now, and let's see how long this resolve shall last.

*The creation of this blog within 3 weeks of the New Year is entirely a coincidence.