Displace Me: In Solidarity with IDP’s in Uganda

Invisible ChildrenI decided if there was one word to describe the event I attend last night it was: Cool. I mean cool in the trendy sort of way too, but I realized maybe that’s okay, at least for now. I drove out with some house mates to a field in Hendersonville, TN to participate in an event called Displace Me, put on by Invisible Children.
Here is a summary of the event: 500 people showed up at a field (60,000+ total in 15 cities across the USA), we bring cardboard to make a home with, a box of crackers and a water bottle. Throughout the night we hear video testimonies of people from the camps and we ourselves build homes to sleep in for the night, get our food from ration stations and write letters to political leaders asking them to respond to the situation in Uganda. A video was also shot to be shown on the Senate floor this week to encourage them to action. It was a protest of sorts, a stand of solidarity and a trendy event (this last part made me uncomfortable).
The folks at Invisible Children are doing good things. They are marketing an end to a war in a way that has never been done. It’s catch and cool and it makes you want to be involved, and the end results are that people are fed, educated, and violence is ended; that’s a beautiful thing. I wonder though, how long our attention spans will be, and how serious we are about fixing the problems and willing to change our lives to do so. The event I went to was full of college kids, fired up about making a difference, may that passion carry them through adulthood and the rest of their lives.

I have hope that some will, but cynicism that it will be too few to even notice. I wonder if all our fanfare is really just for us, because it’s more fresh then boy bands and football games. There’s a tension in me. I went to the event to support others in their statements, rather then give way to my cynical attitude, but I still wonder whose right. I feel a tension between joining the folks at Invisible Children, and joining the folks at Geez Magazine:

At that point in history doing good rose dramatically in popularity. It was cool to care. Hollywood strode awkwardly off the red carpet into a one-US-dollar-a-day village. Rock ‘n roll walked streets that had no names. Smart stars drove smart cars. It was a good era for smooth-talking doomsday sayers and drop-dead gorgeous do-gooders.

Benevolence became a brand. It was marketable. It sold. It increased one’s cultural stock value. It went well with sunglasses by . . . whoever made the hot shit sunglasses in those days. It flowed seamlessly into the show script of Entertainment Tonight. You weren’t a star if you didn’t have a cause. It was a new era.

Philanthropy practically became a sport. Gates dropped $30 billion on good causes, and Warren Buffet put in $31 billion. The big boys bought race horses, or football teams and set up charitable foundations. Goodwill was in the air.

Every corporation on earth adopted sustainable development practices – triple/quadruple/quintuple bottom lines. They all won green awards from each other’s foundations and associations, and added “environmental responsibility” sections to their websites. Click.

Both hope and cynicism could hardly have wished for ground more fertile. But neither seemed like satisfying responses. Eventually, weary of salvation, Africa said no thanks.

And we started looking for a less popular way to care.


4 thoughts on “Displace Me: In Solidarity with IDP’s in Uganda”

  1. Don’t get cynical! It may be the trendy thing to do, but I don’t think that’s bad. Remember that as Christians we are grounded in Christ and have a very specific reason for seeking social justice and caring for the poor. We do because Christ did for us, and called us to follow Him.

    Even if it’s just trendiness (and maybe it’s more, something stirring in their hearts) the Hollywood do-gooders and the corporations that become more sustainable because it helps their bottom line are helping the cause. They are able to do things that we cannot do.

    It may not be perfect, and it may not be with the right motives, and they may not stick around forever. But we will. And I am glad for the extra help at the moment. They may start out doing it selfishly or because it’s trendy…but God works in all things for good.

  2. Thanks for that post, Ariah! I agree with Joel above, although I won’t lie it always stirs me up when I see a Madonna infomercial “Donate $1,000 and we’ll send you a Malawian for free!!” I do think it’s cool that awareness is up, but there is definitely an exploitative quality in the marketing that goes on. I want to defend myself: “I was green before Walmart,” or “I cared about Africa before there was Brangelina!!” But look at Bono…I don’t think the celebrity thing is all that bad. It’s more the frequent double standard that gets me the most. How much was that Chanel dress you wore at the Academy Awards?

  3. I agree with you. I am torn, moreso than the above commenters. I appreciate the good things that are happening, but the underlying problems with trend-based societies turning “doing good” cool can cause long-term problems.

  4. Hey, I may be a bit behind in posting on this but I felt the need to anyways. I attended Diplace Me in Seattle, WA last year and was overwhelmed by the turn out. There were people from every walk of life there! It was amazing to see so many caring faces together in a park, sleeping in cardboard houses. I hope the energy put into that one night can spill over for years to come. I know I’m a supporter of the Invisible Children program now as well as a number of my classmates. I look forward to seeing what the future brings us. Only time will tell, so I guess we’ll just have to wait. 🙂

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