Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Slacktivism, Moral Imperative, and Why Amanda Lindhout makes me feel guilty.

So, I'd imagine by now most of you have at least heard of the Stop Kony 2012 viral campaign that took over social media over the last couple days.  I haven't watched the 30 minute video, but I read the Wikipedia site on Kony.  He is truly evil, and it's important that people find out what is going on in the world, because someone who finds out about it will take it to heart and be instrumental in finally stopping him.

But let's make no mistake about it.  That is the extent of what we are doing when we share the video, or when we retweet a tweet.  We haven't changed anything.  We. Haven't. Done. Anything. My brother likes to call this Slacktivism.  It's like real activism, but with WAY less effort.   The most insidious danger of this is that people think that they have done their part just by retweeting or sharing, and their guilt is sated for another day.  It could actually stop someone from doing something meaningful if they're already feeling all self-righteous for getting behind the whole #stopkony thing.

Here's my question - the one that keeps me awake at night.  How do you watch a video like that, and then respond by 'sharing' it and forgetting about it?

Anyone heard of the Moral Imperative?  If you saw An Inconvenient Truth, you might remember it.  The principle is that, once you've been made aware of a problem so urgent, so important, it behooves you to do something about it.  You are actually morally obligated to act - you are being immoral by doing nothing.

Imagine being handed a note by a stranger that says, "My child is in danger! Please go to this location and you can save my child!"  Imagine that you respond by reading the note, feeling guilty, then passing the note to another stranger and forgetting about it to go on with your day.  That's deplorable!

Do you remember the story of Amanda Lindhout?  I have a story about her.  Ms Lindhout is from this area, and I've had a couple opportunities to hear her share a bit about her experiences being held in captivity in Somalia.  The wonderful thing about hearing her story is that she doesn't make it about herself.  She uses her compelling (and beautifully told) story to highlight what she is doing to help people from the same dangerous areas where she was abducted.  She showed a video at CrossRoads Church on a Sunday morning about the famine that was happening in Sudan, which showed children that SHE MET who were starving - families that had been cut in half on the pilgrimage out of the desert in hopes of finding food.  2000 people were in that room.  We were bawling.  I was moved to tears.  Those kids are the same age as mine.  The only difference is where they were born.

Full disclosure: I was one of the ones who was moved deeply, but did nothing.  This was probably 6-8 months ago. Ask me how I feel about that.

So here's the thing.  Our hearts are supposed to break when we hear stories like this.  But this isn't freaking Grey's Anatomy, people! We don't get to change the channel!  When you heart breaks (in real life), it ALWAYS leads to change!  Why?  Duh, cause it hurts!  We don't want it to break.  It doesn't feel good. So we change things to avoid having those things break our hearts again.  We make it better.

And everytime your heart breaks and you DON'T do anything about it, and it just scabs over again, you get a little more cynical.  A little more callous.  And you don't grow.

So, here's the next side of it, then.  Ms Lindhout is a beautiful example of someone who has taken her circumstances and grown from them.  She found herself in a unique position where she could make a difference that no one else could.  Even government sponsored charities couldn't do the aid work she was doing, because they couldn't be caught going into 'terrorist' zones to feed families.  When we see a tragic video about Africa, it doesn't mean we ALL have to sell everything and go to Africa.  It DOES mean SOME of us have to though.  You'll know if that person is you.  Because from the minute you find out about the struggle, you'll be dying inside till you go do what you're meant to do.

I heard a great speaker named Bill Hybels say once that if you want to stay passionate, you have to stay close to the thing that outrages you.  That you Just. Can't. Tolerate.  That will keep your fire alive.  We aren't all Amanda Lindhout.  We weren't all 'called' to Africa.  But we are all called somewhere.  What outrages you?  What are you uniquely positioned to do?  Do it!  Do something!  Do ANYTHING!

And about your unique position - where only you could make a difference?  I bet it doesn't have to do with the number of followers and friends you can retweet and share to.


  1. Love it!! Well written, Dan!! I especially love the end where you mention Bill Hybels..."if you want to stay passionate, you have to stay close to the thing that outrages you. That you Just. Can't. Tolerate. That will keep your fire alive. We aren't all Amanda Lindhout. We weren't all 'called' to Africa. But we are all called somewhere." Amen, brother!!

    My heart has been flattened like a pancake and I have been in dark places - I am passionate about befriending, helping, supporting, loving and encouraging broken people (mostly women, in my "world"). It is dark and murky and messy but it never has to be alone and I want to outline there is hope for them... in case they just can't see it.Even if one women doesn't feel like she's drowning for quite so long.

    Thanks for "putting it out there", Dan!

    1. Thanks Heather! That line stuck with me when I heard it. It was a great wake up call for me to hear that possibly the things that drive me crazy do so for a reason. I hope this post encourages others to do the same thought experiment with themselves.