Opinion: The Dangerous Ignorance of Kony 2012

"In terms of activism, the first step is to re-think the question: Instead of asking how the US can intervene in order to solve Africa’s conflicts, we need to ask what we are already doing to cause those conflicts in the first place. How are we, as consumers, contributing to land grabbing and to the wars ravaging this region? How are we, as US citizens, allowing our government to militarise Africa in the name of the "War on Terror" and its effort to secure oil resources?"

Political science professor Adam Branch, an expert on Uganda, in an editorial criticizing the Kony 2012 movement for Al-Jazeera.

Foreign Aid and Democratic Transition

"We rush in to complex situations with reckless offers of complex, expensive solutions. We rarely wait to make sure we understand the political, cultural, and economic dynamics of the society we’re dealing with. We offer platitudes about inclusion and local ownership, but are quick to designate and cling to our favorite indigenous interlocutors, often selected more because they tell us what we like to hear (at first anyway) than because they represent anyone in particular. We start by overspending, and our presence and aid distorts local economies, fueling corruption and incentivizing talented locals to abandon other jobs and serve instead as our interpreters or drivers. We micromanage, eagerly urging the wholesale revisions of institutions and legal codes in an effort to make them look more like our own. And then, inevitably, we — or our donors and constituents back home — get bored."

From “I Know That I Know Nothing,” by Rosa Brooks for The European.

"We Are All Digital Immigrants"

"By the time we get a grasp of new technology, it has already passed through our fingers. I sometimes get confused by new technologies and platforms — and I am a former programmer and spend my working days thinking about this stuff. So what happens with people for whom this is not a priority in life? When you then consider that technology is not just a minor determinant of how our lives are lived, this becomes incredibly consequential. We like to be able to predict what might happen to us in the future – but right now, it is very hard to predict anything."

Professor Zeynep Tufekci of UNC Chapel Hill, in an interview on the effects and future of social media with The European.

Human Rights as Quantitative Science

Yet we need to know about the world. Those massive databases and advanced technologies mean we now expect answers, and precise ones at that. Journalists, politicians, activists, and citizens all demand numbers and labels. How many have been killed in Darfur or Libya? How many raped in Congo? Who was more deadly in Peru, the army or the guerrillas? Was it ethnic cleansing in Kosovo? Genocide in Guatemala? The answers can tip the balance between intervention and nonintervention, between justice and forgetting. They shape how those who emerge from catastrophe design new governments. They affirm or explode the stories every culture tells about itself.”

From “The Body Counter”, an article about statistician Patrick Ball’s efforts to quantify human rights abuses everywhere from Serbia to South Africa. Courtesy of Foreign Policy.

"History moves at such a glacial pace much of the time, and moments like this it seems to move at the speed of light…But we can’t expect it to continue to move at that pace. A hundred years might be a good distance to judge whether this has been a good idea. It’s going to take that long for these events to reverberate."

Hisham Matar, oft-exiled Libyan writer and intellectual, on his country’s revolution and the death of its longtime leader at the hands of rebel forces. He discusses the complex and convoluted future of his nation-and its prospects for democracy. From The National, “Hisham Matar on Libya’s Awakening.”

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