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Monday, December 17, 2012

When enough is enough.

You cannot have failed to have heard about it. Have seen the images of primary school children being led away from their school, the images of a normally stoic and self controlled President of the United States visibly shaken and barely able to hold it together. The images of twenty happy smiling faces whose lives should have just been getting started, the image of six adults who gave their lives so that fewer of their charges would lose theirs, the image of a mother who kept a veritable arsenal of weaponary in her home and taught her children how to use them, the image of a disturbed young man who wiped out 27 lives including his own.

On Friday the 14th December, a young man, now formally identified as Adam Lanzda, got his hands on his mother's legally owned and registered firearms, shot his mother and headed to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Here he used a high powered rifle to murder twenty children between the ages of six and seven and a further five adults before turning one of the guns on himself.

Since then the rhetoric has been endless. Those who favour gun control have argued that surely this event, the last in a long line of similar massacres and one of several just in the last twelve months, should lead to increased legislations, those who favour 'packing heat' have given the usual barrage of excuses. They have blamed lone sufferers of mental illness, they have claimed that they need their weapons for self defence, that they like to hunt (and given the nature of some of the high calibre assualt rifles and various other semi automatics that are readily and freely available in the US one can't help but wonder what exactly they are hunting. Orcs? Dragons? T-Rex?), that people who want to break the law still will. And on and on and on. Excuse after excuse after excuse.

Because that is all that they are. Excuses. Nobody needs to own a firearm. If people want to hunt then they should have to join registered hunting clubs where all weaponary is checked out and returned to a centralised armourary. The self defence excuse doesn't fly because countries that have stringent gun control have fewer instances of gun crime and so the need to defend yourself against an assailant carrying a firearm is much depleted. Also, one needs to bear in mind that we are not talking about people owning a small calibre pistol, which feasibly might be a defence measure, we are talking about people owning multiple weapons, assault rifles, thousands upon thousands of rounds of ammunition. Unless you're house is surrounding by ravening hordes of zombies, just who or what exactly are you defending yourself from?

The only excuse given thus far that carries even a modicum of credibility is the issue of mental illness. Now, not all perpetrators of gun crime suffer from a mental illness that seriously impairs their ability to judge and moderate their actions, but some do (James Holmes the assailant in the Aurora Cinema attack being an notable example) and there are some serious issues with regards to the treatment and identification of mental illness to be raised from such incidents. However, to even attempt to make these incidents about mental illness is a gross over simplification and misses the bigger picture. Yes, mental illness is a horrible, isolating and debilitating thing to suffer from and it deserves its own forum, but, and this is a big but, it is not the mental illness but the easy acquisition of firearms that is the issue at play. Of course people suffering mental illness that do not have access to firearms do go out and commit violence against both others and themselves, but the scope for destruction is radically decreased. Had Lanza walked into that school armed with any weapon other than firearms would 27 people be dead today? It is unlikely. Without access to firearms would men like Lanza even attempt these act, for the most part, I again, think not. Even in incidents where mental illness (and by this I'm generally excluding pyschopathy) there is a huge difference between the detachment of shooting strangers and the act of physically attacking them in a more up close and personal way.

In short, with stricter gun control, without people claiming their constitutional rights to keep weapons that are made for no reason other than death in their homes, without people claiming that schools should have armed guards or that more civilians should be armed, without people being able to stock pile assault weapons in preparation for the 'end of days' , without people claiming 'guns don't kill people, people do' (which whilst undeniably true ignores the fact that it make it a hell of a lot easier), would have saved dozens of lives (possibly hundreds and maybe even thousands if we factor in all gun related deaths in the US) just this year. Tighter gun control would mean that first responders at Virgina Tech would not have had to endure the horror of listening to cell phones going of in the pockets of dead students as their anxious, desperate families tried to reach them to see if they were ok, 12 people's fun night out at the cinema wouldn't have cost them their lives and there wouldn't be 20 Christmas Trees in Newtown, CT with Christmas presents sitting under them that will never be opened...

Thus far the NRA and other major gun lobbyists have kept a low profile and those gun enthusiasts who have spoken out have been unable to offer anything more useful than that schools should have armed guards and metal detectors. And these people seem to miss the point, the 'thin end of the wedge' situation that they are creating.

Why people are so attached to their guns I do not know, as someone who grew up in a country with stringent gun control its not a mentality I understand. Maybe its fear, maybe it makes them feel more important, maybe they are purely constitutional pedants, but the fact of the matter is that the current gun laws across the US are simply not fit for purpose and people are dying as a result.  And I will say this and I believe it wholeheartedly, those Americans who believe in loose gun control and the availability of automatic weapons are complicit in these acts. Every excuse that the pro gun contingent make is a spot of blood on their hands. Every person that cites their Second Amendment rights is in some small way culpable. You have placed a higher value on a piece of metal than on the lives of your children and there is no condoning this.

If you live in the US and want to help bring about the tighter gun control that could save lives there are a few things you can do.

1. Get in touch with politicians at a federal, state and local level. Ask them their views on gun control, tell them yours. Make them accountable
2. Don't vote for candidates that accept money from the NRA or other gun lobbyist
3. Get involved in  One Million Children March on D.C
4. Be engaged, talk about it, tweet about it. Keep it front and centre.

Finally, I'd like to take a moment to remember those children who won't be going to bed on Christmas eve filled with excitement at the prospect of the following day, who won't have graduations and weddings and children of their own. I'd like to take a moment to remember the adults who died trying to protect them and a moment to remember those families, hundreds and hundreds of them through the years, who have huge holes in their lives where their loved ones should be simply so gun enthusiasts can keep their weapons of death.

This blog is dedicated to the memory  of
Emilie Parker Age 6
Lauren Rousseau Age 30
Ana Marquez-Green Age 6
Dawn Hochsprung
Noah Pozner Age 6
Mary Sherlach
Jesse Lewis Age 6
Avielle Richman Age 6
Caroline Previdi Age 6
Nancy Lanza
Catherine Hubbard Age 6
Charlotte Bacon Age 6
Chase Kowalski Age 7
Daniel Barden Age 7
Dylan Hockley Age 6
Anne Marie Murphy Age 52
Jessica Rekos Age 6
Josephine Gay Age 7
James Mattioli  Age 6
Olivia Engel Age 6
Victoria Soto Age 27

Monday, August 13, 2012

Isles Of Wonder

This is not the normal Cranky Pants offering. Mostly because my pants are anything but cranky. In fact my pants are filled with joy, pride, optimism and verve and are covered in in Union Flags.

And the reason for this new found joy? Well its the Olympics of course. After 16 wonderful, exciting drama filled days they drew to a close on Sunday and whilst I'm currently suffering from the mother of all Olympic hangovers, I can't help but suspect that in some infinitesimal way I'm a better person for them. And I would put money on the fact I'm not the only one.

Like a lot of people whilst I wasn't opposed or especially skeptical about the Games but I was certainly apathetic. I liked the idea, but I'm not 'into athletics' so I wasn't so fussed. I vaguely rolled my eyes at news of mounting costs, because whilst the Games cost an obscene amount of money to host, its worth bearing in mind that a significant proportion of this goes back into the British economy through the jobs it provides, particularly in construction, an area of the economy incredibly hard hit by the recent economic downturn.

It was definitely a slow burn run up. The timing helped. The Queen's Jubilee (and last year's Royal Wedding) got the Union Flags out and then the Euros got us into the mood for some international sport. There were some wobbles along the way, culminating in the G4S fiasco and Mitt Romney telling the press that he basically thought it might all go a bit Pete Tong.

When the eve (or the unearthly hour of the morning in my case) of the Opening Ceremony came around people in general seemed to have warmed up to the idea of the Games (though there were still plenty of doomsayers to be found), though I suspect many people tuned into to see just how bad it might be. And then there it was.

Danny Boyle's opening ceremony, his love letter to Britain. It was wacky, confusing (especially for those people who don't know who Isambard Kingdom Brunel was), a bit chaotic and absolutely wonderful. It started with 'Our green and pleasant land' set to the tune of Jerusalem, Danny Boy, Flower of Scotland and Bread of Heaven sung by the Four Nations choirs. I can't lie I was a sobbing mass of snot and tears before they hit the second verse. From there it highlighted the History of our wonderful isles from the Industrial revolution, through women's suffrage, the Windrush and the wars. It was a powerful, emotive and utterly gutteral experience set to the sound of Underworld's I will Kiss You featuring the amazing Dame Evelyn Glennie (who was clearly channeling her inner Gaga with her look), the sound of the drums, the enormous smoke stacks forging the giant Olympic rings, it left me breatheless.

And set the tone for the entire games. Fun, informal, dramatic and utterly British they showed us all at our very, very best. Our athletes showed what could be achieved when sufficient time and funding is given to them with a medal haul that we barely imagined two weeks earlier. The athletes played as a team and we got behind that Team. And this was what the games really did for us. It made us a team. The medals helped, of course, but it was the feeling of a collective identity and common goal that really made the games. Even here in Malaysia I felt like I was part of that Team, that it was something we all shared. For the first time I really understood the power of sport. How it can bring us together and unite us behind a common goal. And you know what, I LOVED being British. I loved it. I'll miss it a lot when the next big sporting event rolls around that will no doubt divide us back up into our respective smaller nations. And I hate that it will no doubt be the football, where we don't have a decent team between the four of us.

The Games gave us so much not least in that it brought to the fore games other than Football. It gave us real role models. One's that we can all identify with. It showed us that you don't need to be earning 200k a week to be a sporting great. It introduced sports that some of us had never heard of (the Omnium anyone?) and brought them front and centre. I know I certainly wasn't the only one who found myself watching Kayaking or Women's weightlifting on a Wednesday afternoon. The athletes themselves ran, cycled, swam, jumped, rode, danced, tweeted, smiled and cried their way through the games and into all our hearts. The whole thing was one massive two week group hug and now its over, I'm feeling the cold.

Like the Opener, the Closing ceremony once again showed its unique Britishness. Parts of it were crap and left me wondering at just what they were thinking (the Supermodels? Really?) but other parts were brilliant and random and quirky. Plus they had the Spice Girls on top of glittery Black Cabs. It was a great big party, but brought with it a melancholy that the one thing that made us collectively happy probably since the end of the Second World War was coming to an end. I know I wasn't the only shouting "No Boris, don't let them have it' when he handed over the flag to Brazil (whilst hoping against hope that Boris didn't set it on fire on the Olympic Flame). It ended with Take That. With Gary Barlow, embodying the very spirit of the Olympic ideal, albeit in a different arena, showing strength, control and emotional fortitude in the saddest circumstances imaginable.

So thank you Lord Coe for your sterling work it making it happen. Thank you John Major for being the reason we have lottery funding in the first place. Thank you Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for bidding, thank you Boris for being a bumbling buffoon, but an amiable and entertaining one. You've been hugely supportive as Mayor of London, plus you gave us "Boris dangles from a zip wire' and "Boris dances to the Spice Girls' both worth their weight in Mars Bars. Thank you to the people of London for your patience in the face of what must have been massively inconvenient for many of you, Thank you David Cameron for extending the lottery funding through to Rio (though I still think you are a buttock faced pillock and we need to talk about your attitude to sport in schools), thank you to the Post Box painters of Yorkshire who were kept incredibly busy, thank you to the volunteers, the Gamesmakers who worked incredibly hard and were, by all accounts wonderful ambassadors for our country. Thank you to all the athletes who were incredible. Who showed us what hard work and determination looks like. Who showed us what sporting success looks like, who taught us what real sportsmanship looked like and conducted themselves with good humour, discipline and were justly rewarded. And lastly, but by no means least, thank YOU. My fellow Brit, my compatriot, my team member. We showed how much better we can be when we stand together and forget how much we like to complain, if only for a fortnight.

I'll be back, no doubt, in full on Cranky Pants mode but until then...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Flights of Angels

This post is dedicated to the children who have lost their lives this week both in the Doha Mall fire and in the Houla Massacre.

My heart hurts. It actually hurts. Its almost unbearable. This week has seen the loss of innocent lives on a scale its almost impossible to comprehend.

In what is undoubtedly the worst atrocity since the Arab Spring began 108 people, many of whom were children in Syria's Houla region, were summarily executed, Reports say most of these received single bullet wounds to the head. The culprits are reported to be the Army under the orders of President Bashar Assad.

The horror of this massacre comes after over a year of violence is Syria and mounting pressure from the international community on Assad's regime. It leaves me wondering how far things have to go in Syria before that same international community step in.

The second is a tragedy on a smaller scale, but that has touched me more deeply and more personally. At 11am local time on Monday 28th May 2012 a fire broke out in the Villagio shopping centre in the capital of the Gulf nation Qatar, Doha. A fire that was to claim the lives of 19 people, 13 of these young children, little more than babies. Whilst the cause of the fire, is at this time, unconfirmed, what is known is that the fire caused a stair case leading to a nursery school to collapse, thereby trapping the children and their teachers inside the burning building. Fire fighters attempted to break through the ceiling to rescue them and two lost their lives in the process, but alas in vain.

I lived in Doha for several years, shopped in that mall, was part of that community and I will admit, this event has hit me harder than expected it could. I don't know any of the families personally and yet my heart is utterly broken for them. At least two families lost three children in the blaze and it is hard to imagine that these families will ever fully be able to heal from such a loss.  As a parent I have spent a lot of time looking at my own children today and in turn counting my blessings and feeling horror and anguish at the thought of what it must be like to have your children taken so suddenly and so young. Imagining what it must have been like for those children, not much more than babies, a million what ifs in my head. And what I am feeling probably does not even scratch the surface of what these families, families from across the globe, are going through right now. Families who have lost children, those lives that will never reach their potential. I'm not a religious woman, but if anything would make you hope for something after this world, it is a tragedy like this, like Houla. Tragedies in which the most innocent of us pay the price.

Tonight I hugged my kids extra tight before they went to bed. My bigger girl got an extra story and and when, as she does every night she attempted to get me to hand over some extra smarties, I gave them to her. Because I am one of the lucky ones. Tonight, I got to put my kids to bed, to kiss them goodnight, in the morning we'll have breakfast. I'll nag at my eldest to eat her breakfast, brush her teeth, put her shoes on. I'll trip over my baby boy as he crawls around whilst I'm trying to get everyone ready. And I'll be grateful. Because tonight not everyone is so lucky...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Zumba can save the world.

I woke up  this morning, it was dark, I'd slept badly and was woken from the middle of really interesting dream (I was lion if you're interested, a talking one) and I won't lie I was not in a good mood. In fact, had I been a cartoon character I would have had big cartoon bags under my eyes and a black cloud over the top of my head. I did my usual early morning stuff and then trudged to gym for my Zumba class. In fact trudged might be too tame a word. Stomp, might put it better. An hour later I was red faced, sweaty had almost lost my balance at least three times had ground to a halt in confusion twice and been stood on by the woman next to me once. And, I was (and still am) in a brilliant mood. Yes, of course I know a large part of it is the endorphins, a rush I could most likely have gotten doing any kind of physical exertion, but there is something a bit different about something like Zumba and this is why, I think, it can save the world.

(Zumba is, for those who are unaware of its existence a latin dance based exercise class that popped up a few years ago and seems to have been on the rise ever since.)

 So let imagine, that every morning of the G20 summit, or the G8, or any get together of the UN, or basically anywhere that those people who make decisions that the rest of us have to live with gather to make said decisions, all those people had to have a big Zumba class. I genuinely believe the world would be a happier place. Its a lot harder to be cross with someone who you have just busted out a high energy cardio workout routine to LMFAO's 'I'm Sexy and I know it' with. Even when the lady next to me stood on me and put a big mark on my new trainers I just smiled and shrugged it off. If that had happened an hour previously I would have cut the bitch. Another reason it has to be Zumba is that it is completely non competitive. You could get them to run round the park together, but that would turn into a race, you could send them to the gym but that would turn into a competition to  see who could lift more, team games are right out for obvious reasons. But Zumba is a level playing field. 99% of the people who do it are at best mediocre, a significant number of those are completely crap. (In the class I would say out the 50 or so people about 5 are decent and one of them is the instructor, I look like I'm fighting off a swarm of angry bees whilst running across hot flag stones and there is a lady who appears to be dancing to an entirely different set of songs to the rest of us) Yet every single one loves the class, comes out smiling. You catch someones eye during a turn and smile at each other, you're are in it together. A flailing mass of uncoordinated limbs united in the sheer joy of putting your hands in the air like you don't care.

So lets make Putin, Cameron, Merkel, Hollande, Obama and the rest bust a move every morning. It won't make the problems go away but it might make them feel a bit more like they want to work together to solve them. (Plus it would make Parliament TV a lot more interesting than it is most of the time)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bricking It

Oh she's at it again. Many of you have probably read this article in which journalist (and I use that word in its loosest possible sense), Samatha Brick bemoaned the fact that women hate her purely for the crime of being pretty (conveniently omitting the fact that having read the article it was apparent to many of us that women didn't like her not because she's prettier than us, but because she doesn't really come across as someone you'd especially want to be friends with). She received a massive backlash across several mediums, including twitter, made the news in the US and reached a certain level of international infamy. Not content with her 15 minutes of fame Ms Brick is back with this . Here she extols the virtues of life as trophy wife, valued for her looks not her mind. And I won't lie, I'm a little bit frightened.

Almost every woman I know who has read this article has rolled her eyes and responses have ranged from stomping around the house muttering profanities (mine) to questioning just how tenable her position is if this is really how she views herself. Leaving aside for a moment the very serious issues such the message articles such as this send out to young women as to what a relationship should be, she seems herself unaware of the fact that if the scenario she puts out for us, is in fact the reality of her relationship, she's on borrowed time. Her husband is in control of everything in her life from money to her weight and  looking good is her job within the relationship. She appears ignorant (willfully or not) of the fact that her looks and youth will not last forever. And if her husband, regardless of the love and respect she claims they do share despite the fact that she is viewed (and views herself) in such light, no longer feels she fulfils her end of the bargain, what then?

Its safe to say that Samantha Brick is not my kind of woman.

Whilst Ms Brick, in isolation, is an irritant, just the Daily Fail stirring the proverbial latrine, it is part of a bigger and slightly more worrying trend that seems determined to set women back fifty years or so. There are the machinations of Nadine Dorries and her ilk who are actively campaigning for significant changes to the current abortion laws in the UK and the way that education on this matter is approached. In America although it has gone a little quieter in the light on President Obama's statement in favour of same sex marriage, the battle over the right to access abortion rages in many states and the argument over whether employers should be made to cover contraceptive costs for female employees. Women and their role in the world seems to be firmly front and centre, but there seems to be huge debate over just what that role should be. Brick and those like her would have us all nothing but purely decorative, there to stroke our men's egos (amongst other things, she claims to be a 'consummate professional both in the kitchen and the bedroom'), the likes of Dorries would have us returned to the 1950's when our bodies were not our own, men like Rush Limbaugh would label us as 'sluts' and 'over educated but not necessarily intelligent' for daring to speak our minds on issues that effect us. Even the women who we should be able to hold up as examples, women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, women who, regardless of your opinion on their politics have climbed to the top of their professions, yet still pander to the idea that women are somewhat less than their male counterparts. Bachman herself famously stated during her run as a presidential nominee that a wife should 'obey' her husband.

So where do we go from here? Will we continue or march forward and be allowed control of our bodies, careers and god dammit out wardrobes? I for one hope so, the alternative is just too scary to contemplate...

What do you all think? Feel free to leave you comments below.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Bashar?

Unless you live under a rock or exist in some parallel university where newspapers, 24 hour television news and Twitter don't exist you'll be aware that there is something of a situation in Syria. A situation that is, tantamount to a genocide in the eyes of some people, a situation that is costing the lives of hundreds of innocent men, women and children all in the cause of keeping Bashar Al Assad and his regime in power. Its not an unfamiliar scenario. It was one that was played out only a short while a go in Libya. The only real difference is the reaction. Whilst a myriad of countries including the USA, UK, France and Qatar were quick to condemn the situation in Libya and the Ghaddafi regime and support that condemnation through a variety of military and diplomatic  actions, this time round many of these countries are less quick to commit. Whilst most politicians across the globe have expressed their horror at what is happening in Syria, many have removed their diplomatic missions and dismissed Syrian diplomats from their countries, beyond that they seem hesitant to act. A UN security council resolution on the issue was vetoed by both Russia and China and the situation remains in a holding pattern. And whilst the men and women in power hold their breathes and mark time the death toll rises and the atrocities mount.

So the big question here is 'Why'? Many would counter that this question has a brutally simple answer. Oil. Syria doesn't have any. There is nothing to be gained or lost by the continuing situation for the majority of countries who would be best placed to intervene. Its close relationship with Iran, a country long viewed with suspicion by much of the world, might be another factor. This is, quite obviously, an appalling state of affairs and one that sits very uncomfortably with the majority of decent people who care about the lives of others and feel that a government is there to serve its people and not the other way round. Go through your Twitter feed or check your Facebook news feed. Thousands of people around the world are watching in horror and asking 'Why aren't we doing anything?.

Unfortunately, to many policy makers this makes perfect sense. Whilst they decry the actions of Assad and his government they are simply not willing to put lives and hard cash on the line for something which is not in the interest of their countries. Its a terrible state of affairs, but in a world where the global economy is in free fall, we're all still reeling from the failed war in Iraq and the failing one in Afghanistan and a US election year, everyone is more cautious.

So what can be done? Clearly its not a situation that can be allowed to continue. The question lies in just whose job sorting out this mess should be. The UN is currently stymied, at least until such time as China and Russia change their position (and there is immense pressure on them to do so), individual countries such as the US and UK are reluctant to act outside of this for both political and economic reasons. So who should it be?

In my opinion its time for the Arab world to step up and take action. There have been stirrings of it. The Arab League have been attempting to mediate in countries such as Yemen, Qatar has been highly vocal in its condemnation of the various regimes whom have been challenged by the Arab Spring. Its a solution that makes sense. Western intervention in incidents in the region has been fraught with problems. Lack of cultural understanding on the side of the western forces, a feeling of being 'occupied' by those being aided and alas, often a general lack of understanding and respect from both sides mean that whilst western intervention can get rid of one problem it can often cause a greater one and the impact of this can be far reaching. The events of the last 10 years in general and specific events in the more recent past are testament to this. By using Arab forces, not only would the region be empowered with the idea that they can be the makers of their own destinies, something which a number of these nations are now beginning to realise, but it nips many of these problems in the bud. The problems work both ways and are creating further division and giving those who would damage international relationships fuel to their fire. Had Arab forces been fully involved in current international situations mistakes such as the recent Quran burning might never have happened, the trashing of the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Libya, in the wake of the UK's intervention might never have occurred, or at least might not have left quite such a  feeling of distaste in so many mouths. In addition to the cultural aspects, The Arab League contains a number of incredibly wealthy countries. Qatar alone was very recently estimated to have somewhere in the region of 9.5 Trillion dollars worth of hydrocarbon reserves. They can afford to fund military action within the region. In addition greater involvement of other Arab countries in the reconstruction period could help these countries find what better suits them. I also feel that by letting the Arab world 'keep its own house in order' so to speak, it could have a positive impact on relationships between not only the Arab world, but the wider Muslim world and the West. Greater influence within their own regions coupled with an increased profile on the world stage, I feel would lead to greater understanding between nations and lead to a decrease in conflict and prejudice on both sides.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A new start.

I initially started this blog a while back to replace one that never really got off the ground and wasn't really going in the direction I wanted. A couple of the posts found their way here and then real life got in the way and this one was pretty much abandoned too. I'm hoping to blog a bit more regularly from now on.

This blog will cover a wide range of topics. I live outside my home country so I have my finger in a lot of different pies, so to speak. You're every bit as likely to read an article about things going on in South East Asia, the States or the Middle East as you are about happenings in the UK. One post might be about a parenting issue, another an educational one, another a political one, and, well you get the picture. My interests are eclectic and this blog will also be eclectic. Please feel free to comment on what you read. I love spirited discussion and as adults I'd like us to be able to share our opinions, however, abuse either towards me or other commentators won't be tolerated and I'll simply remove your comments.

In it together?

So Kony 2012. Its the latest viral video and unlike many it carries a message. Those of you haven't seen it can view it here . I think you'll agree its emotive stuff. Whilst the video is being seen across the world thanks to the power of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, the backlash to this seemingly well meaning campaign has, of course, begun in earnest. Many, including the Guardian's Michael Wilkerson, who posted this article and the Daily Want who posted this article have criticised both its methods and its aims. The main complaints, from both talking with people about the phenomena and reading the numerous articles dedicated to it,  seem to be that the campaign is naive, that its too narrow in scope, that its  not addressing the heart of the problem, that the problem isn't as bad as the film leads us to believe, that the film maker is being less than altruistic in his motives, that by targeting US policy makers its not targetting the right people. And I can't help but think that in all but the last point, which I concede willingly, its all a bit, well, picky.

From the off I will state that this blog is op ed. I'm not affiliated in anyway with the Kony 2012 campaign, Invisible Children Inc or Tri. These are just my opinions, but something that I felt sufficiently strongly about to merit writing about after a fairly extended hiatus from the blog (and one that will hopefully give me the impetus to actually blog a bit more often!). This is not a 'rebuttal' of particular article, simply my two cents on what is fast turning into a contentious issue.

Whilst there are issues regarding the legitimacy of the charity and how the money is spent, I'm only going address, that fleetingly, purely as I know very little about how charities are organised and administered and the percentage of money that generally makes it to where we think it does whenever we make a charitable donation. I won't talk about things from a position of ignorance so I will work on the assumption that the article in the Daily Want, which does address this has done its homework, and I will concede to them that the charity needs to look at how its funds are being disseminated.

One of my biggest concerns when reading pretty much any of the criticisms of the video and the campaign seems to be the tendency to down play the issue that Jason Russell and his cohorts are trying to bring to light. Yes, Joseph Kony isn't the baddest of the bad guys out there. Yes, he might not be responsible for quite so many kidnappings and murders (at least in recent years) as the video might lead us to believe, Yes, the video might turn out to be fruitless in the attempt to capture and bring to trial Joseph Kony. However, in my opinion, all these criticisms miss the point and in doing so do a grave disservice to the video, those who are behind it and the millions of people across the world who have taken this cause to heart.

It is clear from the outset of the video, from the very personal nature of the way the video is structured that this is a cause close to Russell's heart. His desire to bring this cause to light stems from his real encounters with real people who lived this. None but the most cynical and hardened of us could fail to be touched by the young Jacob's very candid views on just what life was like and its lack of worth to him in his situation. I'm sure there are some who are accusing Russell of gaining fame off the backs of those less fortunate. To those, I say, more power to him. There are people who are famous for a lot less and for a lot worse. If professional success happens to be a by product of this particular project, is anyone seriously going to say he doesn't deserve it? Russell cites a desire to create a better world for his son, again, why is that so wrong? In a world where the value of the legacy you leave behind is counted increasingly the number of material possessions you amass, why is this idealism so misplaced?

Several articles have also cited the fact that Kony is relatively 'small time'. To me, this is the poorest and most diabolical of any of the arguments against the campaign. This argument supposes that value of life lies in the quantity of those taken and that it renders the campaign somehow fruitless. Why? Why does the fact that according to critics of the campaign Kony's recent victims number only in the hundreds some how mean that it is a less worthy cause (this view also ignores the fact that the 30,000 children that have fallen victim to the Lord's Resistance Army over the last 30 years.)? What if that was your child? Or your neighbour's? Or the person you stood next to at the bus stop everyday? If this happened to only one child in most societies, there would be uproar, there would be parents on the street, it would be on every 24 hour news channel around the clock. We would care. That life would matter ever bit as if it were 100. So why is this situation any different? Why are these children's lives so much cheaper in our eyes?

There have also been accusations thrown at those who support the cause of 'fauxtivism'. Again, I find this a cheap dig. Another thing this movement has managed to do, that others have more than failed to, is galvanise people in their hundreds, if not thousands. Its showing people that no one is too small or too busy or too unimportant to make a difference. In a world that is increasingly selfish its shown us that by uniting behind a common purpose everyone has the the ability to make a difference. It might be a small thing, but a lot of people doing a small thing creates a big thing. One of my biggest beefs with this particular line of criticism is that it undermines this principles. It reinforces the idea that we can't make a difference so why should we bother? Accuse the people involved in this cause of naivety and idealism all you want but its certainly better than the stony cynicism echoed in this particular sentiment.

Many have countered that Kony himself is unworthy of the prominence he is receiving and again, I say, 'So What?' Kony is just one warlord, just one of the many butchers of children in the heart of Africa, but all things start somewhere. Its true, these men should be as well known as the George Clooney's, Rihanna's and Angelina's of this world. People should know who these men are and just what they do. Why not start with Kony? The message it sends is sound. That we will no longer stand for such brazen criminality, that these children are important to the world. Just because Kony isn't the biggest fish in the pond, it doesn't mean he should be allowed to remain in it.

I'll be the first to admit that there are intrinsic flaws in the campaign. The financial administration, its support of military intervention, its tacit support of corrupt regimes in Uganda. Yet, somehow this has done what countless of other charities and causes have failed to do. It's roused people. It's touched people. At the time of writing approximately 5 million people around the world have watched the video. That's 5 million people who now know Joseph Kony's name. That's 5 million people who now know that there are children that are afraid to go to sleep in their own beds for fear of what the night might bring. That's 5 million people who might never have realised they had a voice who know believe that they can make a difference and that they matter in the grand scheme of things.

The strength of Kony 2012 lies not just in the immediate results in which the campaign hopes to effect but in that which it instils in others, knowledge, understanding, compassion, humility, cooperation, the belief that we have the power to change things for the better. Those who criticise the campaign and its methods should look not at what it wants to achieve but possibly can't, but what it already has.