Stop Kony Responsibly – My Kony Stance

After watching the KONY 2012 video, I was so inspired to do something good, and make a difference for those suffering in Africa under the ruthless force of Joesph Kony.

Today, after browsing through some of the articles written in response to the Invisible Children Group’s KONY 2012 video, I realise that there are two sides to every story. There are arguments that the KONY 2012 videomakers are using the video for commercial benefits or that there may be some questionable intentions behind the movement. There have been statements saying that the conflict has subsided somewhat in recent times and that any rash actions now may result in a swift return of the violence.

For many of us, who were so motivated to jump headfirst into the KONY 2012 movement, and who fervently believed what the video said, these counter-arguments can come as a slap in the face. I was left confused, and unsure of which side I should believe.

BUT, what I realise now is that the worst possible thing that could happen as a result of my confusion would be a lack of action. If the KONY 2012 movement is questionable it doesn’t mean that the Joseph Kony issue isn’t as important as they made it seem. In fact, it just means that we should focus on the issue at hand, and not the medium through which we found out about it.

These are child soldiers, meaning that any action taken against Kony will also affect the very people we are trying to save. Action must be taken carefully, and in the meantime, I will bring about Kony awareness; rather than KONY 2012 awareness.

I’m using the following picture to serve as my way of spreading awareness. It has nothing to do with the KONY 2012 group, but has everything to do with bringing justice to those who are suffering at the hands of this evil man.





A Little Perspective is Always Important

written by Grant Oyston

We got trouble.

For those asking what you can do to help, please link to wherever you see KONY 2012 posts. And tweet a link to this page to famous people on Twitter who are talking about KONY 2012!

I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.

KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m notalone.

Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them,arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.

As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”

Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.

Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.

Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s somethingSomething isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.

If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.

~ Grant Oyston,

Kony 2012…Please watch this, for you. You won’t regret it.

When it comes to helping others or making a difference, I usually think to myself:

“I’ll definitely be really involved later in life” or

“I want to help those who are most in need, not just any random cause” or

“When I’m in a better position, I’ll do it”

But after watching this video I realise that time is passing by and people are suffering, waiting for me to make the right choice for them. I won’t make them wait any longer, the time to act is now.

Wherever there is suffering, there is the opportunity to make a difference.


Trinidad Carnival 2012 My Top 5 Soca Songs

It’s Ash Wednesday! A day that marks the start of the Easter season. A time of repentance, reflection and spirituality. Often, Ash Wednesday is filled with cleaning up the streets of Port Of Spain, begrudgingly getting back to work after a 4 day weekend and hangovers. Ah Trinidad Carnival, how I love you.

As the season comes to a close, I’d like to document some of my favourite songs. Songs that left an impression on me for one reason or the other this year. Don’t worry, I’m not going to overpopulate this list with Machel Montano!

Baddist – Destra ft Kerwin Du Bois

Kerwin was Midas this Carnival, anything he touched turned to gold. With arguably the most popular groovy soca song (Bacchanalist) this year and numerous features in other artistes’ songs he was, for me, the man to get me in the mood to party. The initial sound in this song, as they sing “Hmm feel that breeze” is my favourite sound in any song this year!


Action – Supa Jigga TC

I playfully coined this song the “ballad” of 2012, because of his smooth voice, and the sweet, groovy rhythm of the song. It feels almost like a love song when I listen to it. It’s impossible not to love the command to “Wine on a stranger, worry bout it later”. This song just epitomises Groovy Soca.


In Charge – Machel Montano

Of course, Machel had to make it on this list. I don’t know if many people would have picked this song to be their favourite Machel this year because he had at least 6 songs that were extremely popular. In fact, anything Machel does is extremely popular. Once you know it’s Machel on the track there’s an expectation of excellence. I like this song because of its tempo and because of the lyric “Like yuh bumper have a Nike sign, just do it girl and wine.”


Bucket – Swappi

Swappi rampaged onto the soca scene fairly recently but his style feels almost aggressive as he sings. His fast-paced energy gets people so hyped up they lose control. This song is testament to that, as many patrons carried their buckets to throw up in the air for him at the International Soca Monarch.


No Pain – Iwer George

Perhaps a controversial entry, but it’s actually my favourite song this year and I had to include it. I agree, it sounds eerily similar to his 2011 song “Come to Me” but that doesn’t change the fact that this song has an inviting beat. Its high energy and the pounding sound of the oil drum encourages poor conduct and no behaviour! I was sold as soon as I heard the first line, “If you know they rob me last year put yuh 2 hand in the air” not because I believed him, but because I was amazed that he would be so bold. Then I remembered…its Iwer. Love it bad bad still.


Be Extraordinary!

As a result of reading one too many self-help books, I’ve decided to share something! Recently I attended a seminar by FranklinCovey on the ‘5 choices to Extraordinary Productivity’ and it got me thinking. They share a really simple recipe to push oneself past the borders of average results and sometimes I use it to inspire myself to do something special or get rid of a lazy mood.

1. Divide your life into the most important “roles”. I like to use a pie-chart:

Some examples of roles could be :

  • Daughter/Son
  • Mother/Father
  • Student
  • Self
  • Child of God
  • Businessman/woman
  • Cousin
  • Friend
  • Spouse/Partner
  • Manager
  • Coach
Make sure the roles you list are truly important to you!

2. Then ask yourself (and write it down): What would it take to be an extraordinary __[role]__? 

3. List some simple things you would like to achieve or do differently to become extraordinary in each role. An example could be “To be an extraordinary daughter I am going to call my parents every day to make sure they are ok and I will take them out every month.” Another example could be “To be an extraordinary student, I will dedicate 2 hours every day to revise my work and aim for a 90+ average.”

4. When you’re finished with this list, examine your life and see where the gaps between ordinary and extraordinary are.

5. The most important step is constantly thinking about what you are doing and always asking yourself if you are doing it in extraordinary ways. When you have a moment of boredom or you’re looking for something to do, reach out and do something special for someone. They will appreciate it more than you know.

Top 5 Valentine’s Day Songs

After watching the Grammy’s I realised how much I miss music of the 60’s, 80’s and 90’s. The Beatles’ ending was the best part of the night for me and seeing Sir Paul McCartney rocking out on stage like that at 69 years old made me realise that for truly great musicians, music is timeless.

So I decided to compose a list of my favourite love songs in honour of Valentine’s Day. Here they are, in no particular order (except # 1):


1. Something – The Beatles

This song is my favourite because it was written by my favourite Beatle, George Harrison. Frank Sinatra called it “the greatest love song ever written” and if you listen to the lyrics you can see why. It played an important role in getting George recognised as an individual songwriter and paved the way for his solo success.

2. The Search is Over – Survivor

It’s a personal favourite of mine because it was my parents’ wedding song. The lyrics are eerily applicable to their tumultuous marriage and to this day, it still holds the power to bring me to tears.

3. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

This song sends chills down my spine when I hear it. It always reminds me of the movie “Ghost” that I watched as a child. It was a beautiful depiction of true, selfless love and you can feel the passion in every word of this song.

4. Please Forgive Me – Bryan Adams

He has one of those voices that make you stop and pay attention. His songs seep with sincerity and you feel every word is genuine when you listen to him. The song is about an everlasting and pure love that will remain, even if it must remain alone.

5. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston

RIP Whitney. This song would have made the list regardless of the events of the last weekend. As soon as it starts, you feel the power that the song brings with it. Her vocals are flawless in it and this song will remain forever in the hearts of those lucky enough to have been exposed to it. I remember this song with fondness because as a child I would be lifted and danced with, every night to it until the neighbours complained. I will always love you…