Anyone paying attention to social media lately has probably watched the video "Kony 2012" made popular on YouTube. It's a short video about the ruthless African war criminal Joseph Kony. For the past 25 years Koney and his forces have been abducting children, using them as solders, slaves and killing and maiming thousands of Ugandans. The video in just a short time has gone viral and garnered more than 80 million views. People have since sprung into action, donated money, spread the word and are planning future large scale events of activism with the hope of having Kony arrested and brought to justice.
Meeting the widespread success of this viral video has been a backlash of criticism by academics, officials of the Ugandan government and media scrutiny into "Invisible Children," the organization behind the film. Critics claim that the situation on the ground in the past years has recently changed and Kony does not currently wield nearly as much influence as the video portrays him to have. The PM of Uganda spoke in a YouTube video of his own stating that Uganda is a safe place and urged people to come visit.
The accuracy of the video I'll leave to the experts to judge. The criticism of course doesn't minimize the evils of this barbaric war criminal and his fighters who need to be stopped immediately. What I would like to focus on is what I see as perhaps the real message of the YouTube hit "Kony 2012."
Social media continues to change the landscape of the way we interact, go about our lives and connect us in ways that we never imagined. One such example is the unprecedented ability for people to unite for the common good, and to promote truth and justice.
I have spent countless hours researching the internal make up of the human psyche, particularly from the prism of Chabad Hassidut (the deepest layer of Torah and Kabbalah wisdom). We all possess an inner soul power called Chesed, which is an innate desire to affect positive change in our lives and the world.
The message that I took away from "Kony 2012'' is how easy it is to stir people's desire to do good and make this world a better place. Not just inspiring positive change in a few people, but on a grand 80 million-person scale.
Jewish tradition promulgates a universal creed that consists of seven spiritual principles for all of mankind, known as the "Seven Laws of Noah." These universal values were given to the first humans so man can flourish together in harmony and avoid strife. Incidentally, one of the universal principles is the sanctity of human life and its preservation at all costs, a theme which the film powerfully conveys.
The world today is in dire need of a universal code that can bring humanity together and bridge the gaps that divide us. What we need is something we can all agree on. I believe the universal principles offer just that.
In the future I look forward to a time when a well-communicated narrative of these universal principles goes viral and reaches people in the hundreds of millions, thus beginning an evolutionary process of global change for the good. The overnight hit of "Kony 2012" leads us to believe that humanity is ready to be inspired and with a well communicated, stirring message, one day this may actually happen.
Follow Rabbi Berel Lerman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/berellerman