Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I heart the LRA?


I'm sorry, I have no words for the absurdity/insensitivity of Invisible Children's latest merchandise aka "Rescue Pack" (and thanks Julia for the tip).

9 comments:

anstis said...

We're having a field day over here trying to comprehend this marketing plan. Remind me, what are the Invisible Children up to in Uganda again? Is it worth such obscenity (and insensitivity, as you point out)? Thanks for the highlight.

Conner said...

Hello, i recently discovered your article while googling my own ponderization of that exact t-shirt, i also discovered what it means. 90% of the LRA are abducted children that need loving, we love the LRA, just the child soldiers not the demonic leaders.

Melina said...

Hi Conner,
I understand the logic behind the design, but I nonetheless find the shirt offensive. The letters "LRA" represent an organization that has wreaked havoc on this country and others for decades. I recognize that there are many fighters who were abducted as children and forced to participate in these atrocities. This is terrible. But these abductees are not the "LRA", the organization, per se. The design of this shirt is naturally meant to be attention grabbing, but its approach is juvenile in my opinion. To me the use of the word "heart" for example, is immature to the point of suggesting that the wearer/designer of the t-shirt does not take the matter seriously. Invisible Children may or may not have the best of intentions, but to my view, these t-shirts are yet another example of behavior that perpetuates the impression that they are more concerned with their own self-image and promotion than anything else.

Jenna Rea said...

I understand where everybody here is coming from. I too was surprised when I first saw the shirt.

BUT Invisible Children is an organization that is specifically geared toward rallying the youth of the country and the world. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, what we wear says so much about who we are and what we are about.
Melina, it is hasty of you to say that the wearer/designers of this shirt do not take the matter seriously. The shirt is just a method of "grabbing attention" but it is through discussion and advocacy that you see the compassion and sincerity of everybody behind this.
"Promotion" and "self image" are ways of spreading awareness and I believe that they fuel part of the fire that is Invisible Children. Bracelets, t-shirts and scarfs sound silly and trivial in relation to what they supporting, but these items have provided scholarships and jobs to thousands of the Acholi people, have helped to renovate and rebuild schools in northern Uganda and have spread awareness to millions of people world-wide.

You don't have to be behind this, but I am... one-hundred percent.

These children are coming home and Invisible Children will be a part of it.

Melina said...

Jen,

Thank you for your thoughts and comments. I did not mean to suggest that wearers/designers do not take the matter seriously, but I wanted to point out the potential for this perception to take hold (especially among people who have been involved for far longer than IC)if these sorts of products/campaigns continue.


I recognize and appreciate the role IC has played in spreading awareness about this conflict; it is honestly very impressive and I know it has had a positive impact in the lives of some northern Ugandans (who are not only Acholi by the way). It is great that thousands of American (and other) high school and college students care about issues like development in Northern Uganda (and the continuing threat of the LRA in Congo and elsewhere in the region). It is so important to be aware of the world around you and I'm glad we are developing a generation that thinks of and takes into consideration the global community, and not just their own.


I think part of my qualms about IC, despite all the good work they have done, is that good intentions do not always lead to the best outcomes, and I am not sure that the leadership or their many followers recognize this unfortunate reality. I want to promote awareness, but not hubris. We do not know the best course of action all the time, and we do no one any favors by assuming or hoping we do. Northern Uganda, for example, does not need a stampede of American college students coming in to solve their problems or "save" them.

As for the t-shirts, I understand the sentiments and logic behind them, but I fear they are symptomatic of a larger problem when it comes to aid and advocacy. Our youth and exuberance can be a great source of energy for change, but we should also focus on being aware of our own limitations. The fact that these t-shirts have caused such an uproar (see for example Chris Blattman's blog or the blog Wronging Rights) among people who have been deeply invested in this conflict/recovery suggests that they may be sending the wrong message. It is something for IC to take into consideration at any rate.

Thanks again for your comments.

Jenna Rea said...

Thank you for your explanation and BELIEVE ME when I say that we all have our questions and doubts about the effects of western humanitarianism on northern Uganda and the world at large.

The reason that I value being a part of I.C. so much is that we didn't just show up in Uganda one day with bricks and money. We asked the people what they wanted and have modeled our programs after the desires of the communities in Uganda. Our staff on the ground in Uganda consists of 80 people, 3 of them being American and the rest being Ugandan.

I also encourage you to take a look at a comment left on "Wronging Rights" posted by minuteman in reference to the blog "Worst Idea Ever?" That pretty much sums things up.

Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

here's a photo of the mayor of gulu, norbert mao, wearing the tshirt in question.

http://external.ak.fbcdn.net/safe_image.php?d=9d4bbda74f7235687e9fb782c00b08d5&url=http%3A%2F%2F19.media.tumblr.com%2F72ToH94hblr729yefmOO2G5Do1_400.jpg

Rae said...

I would have to agree with Jenna Rea. If you watch the informational video of The Rescue, the event that the t-shirt is promoting you will see the leaders of Uganda in a meeting with Invisible Children. In this meeting they are working together to find solutions, but one thing that was definitely expressed is they're appreciation of IC's involvement and continual support in ending this war. Melina said that there have been groups involved previous to IC, which is true and I'm sure they're contributions have been valued and made a difference, but I think it is safe to say that Invisible Children have made one of the largest impacts both in Uganda and now DR Congo as well as around the world.

Why would one be so critical towards help that has been so gratefully received and requested by the people themselves?

joe|lippi said...

Invisible Children is a very forward-thinking, marketing driven company. As has been noted in previous posts, they target an audience that is, for the most part, very apathetic towards politics--let alone the political situation in a far-off land like Uganda, Sudan, and DRC. They have successfully penetrated the pop music scene (sponsoring their own rock tour and gaining the consistent attention of super famous band Fallout Boy) and reached countless kids through these connections. I would like to see a scholarly journal article or blog post reach that audience. Alex de Waal, for instance, writes a wonderful, scholarly blog on Darfur (http://www.ssrc.org/blogs/darfur/category/darfur/) but I would guess his readership in the 15-22 year old age range is next to nothing.

To take offense at the "I heart the LRA shirt" is such a typical response ("wait...they LOVE murderers!?"), and one, no doubt, anticipated and desired by the group. The shirt and the concept begs of the viewer to step just one inch past the gut reaction of disgust and think, for a moment, about what this whole conflict really is about. 90% of these "soldiers" were abducted youth. 90%. Brainwashed, enslaved, children. Children that have been stripped of love and kindness. Stripped of their families. Stripped of their freedom.

Invisible Children has shed a LOT of light on an all too often forgotten tragedy. I would even go so far as to say the vast majority of the (albeit limited) awareness of the LRA and Kony over the last few years has been because of their campaigns and smart marketing techniques.

Glad to see this debate happening though. Any discussion of the goings on in Northern Uganda are good.

Cheers,
Joe