Author Archives: dgeff3

Are you right to criticize Invisible Children for Kony 2012?

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Editor’s Note: Geffken first wrote about Kony 2012 on Wednesday. He wrote this as a follow-up in response to reader’s comments.

Daryl Geffken

It has been interesting to see three waves of iteration on this campaign/viral/whatever hit over the last 24 hours.

Wave 1: Emotionally charged excitement and the desire to do something. Getting on board.  It is interesting to note that the video went viral during about a six-hour window a few days after its release.

Wave 2: Kickback from those challenging the movement in some way or another. This has taken the form of Internet updates linking to a few blogs/posts/articles that criticize Invisible Children (IC) as a non-government organization (NGO) fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Points include: IC’s lack of transparency, lack of support from the Better Business Bureau, poor management of funds — specifically that roughly 39 percent of its budget ends up in “Africa” (more on that later).  The more poignant form of challenge comes from those who argue the methodology employed by Invisible Children. Specifically, supporting official (and corrupt) authority in Uganda and supporting a violent resolution to the issue by “stopping Kony.” I greatly appreciate those who have articulated this. In my opinion, as a person that has worked with and in proximity to Invisible Children for a while, a high percentage of the counterpunch blogs I have researched lack substantive content, providing a form of insight that is misleading. Ironic, in a way, because that is the very thing IC is accused of doing. Perhaps more importantly to me, many of the people utilizing these links are justifying their stance on one or two pieces of documentation found by an Internet search — eerily similar to the very phenomenon they are critiquing as an emotionally based response that relies on a single manipulative source.

Wave 3: Counter response. This has taken the form of reminding people from either extreme that many people will pursue information and assess their activity, seeking out the legitimacy of critique, or mere frustration. I can understand the third, but can only support the first two.  For me, it is important to see what Invisible Children has done in response to the critique. They have provided an explanation for many of the topics of critique issued against them. This is commendable and verifiable. This satisfies me regarding many of the issues.  It may not satisfy you.

I see the challenge that some are issuing regarding the methodology of Invisible Children. Perhaps the three strongest arguments are the suggestion that this is a form of “white savior complex,” the need to challenge the use of violent tactics to remove Joseph Kony, and the complexity of bringing transformation to a region where opposing combatants are literally family members (How do you sort through the issues of stopping an army composed of your own sons?). These are deeper issues that form the true complexity of how to bring peace to this region as well as establish a more egalitarian global community.

That being said, IC is about as close to the situation as anyone else (even though academics have studied it with a niche expertise). I think that its proximity and its ability to bring up the issue can force others to weigh in and bring nuanced complexity and wisdom to the issue — others, such as academics who would have had very little voice otherwise. Working on a college campus, I have a hard time criticizing a movement that effectually started this many conversations, real conversations about what to do next. Some peripheral mudslinging is going on, yes. And there are some real idiots voicing up. But sincere effort is being made to advance the conversation. In the previous 24 hours, I have had deep conversations with people from nine different campuses in the northwest. Half of them I met for the first time today. That would not have happened at this rate without IC. So challenge the cause and its methodology, but don’t dismiss it or justify a lack of activity.

What do you think?

How you can help to capture Kony, the world’s worst criminal

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Disclaimer: I’m not sure if I have enough clout with you to ask for this type of investment. I’m asking you for the time it takes to read this post and an additional 30 minutes within the next 24 hours. What you do with the return is up to you. 

Daryl Geffken

I’ve been linked with World Vision and Invisible Children for more than eight years now. I believe in holistic community development, the reduction of global disparity and the increase of opportunity for all people in the world. I am working at distilling principles that can help influence a form of egalitarianism the world has as of yet not seen.

Recently the organization known as Invisible Children released a 30-minute video —Kony 2012 — with the sole intent of mobilizing Internet savvy people around the globe to make Joseph Kony  famous. Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa. He is currently listed as the No. 1 perpetrator of crimes against humanity. The reason for this campaign is to elevate Kony’s profile to a point that policy makers in the United States will act to capture Kony and end his influence.

Joseph Kony/Wikipedia

Being familiar with the marketing from Invisible Children, I expected this to be overproduced and to have manipulative music and pictures. In some ways, this expectation was realized. However, their action plan is simple, it’s realistic and it’s socio-savvy. And it is worth your energy

First, watch Kony2012 (above). It’s 30 minutes long.

Now, as good Americans, we all can justify about anything. And my fear is that many people, after participating with this video, will lay down roadblocks to prevent or justify their inaction. So, I’ve tried to imagine what these roadblocks may be and offer a rebuttal: I hope to remove them, so that holistic growth will occur around this issue.

Pessimism: it won’t work, people will forget, just like Haiti, just like Japan, just like… yep. People forget. Yet people have found great ways to remember as well. Tying a string around your wrist helps you remember what you have prioritized (shockingly, Invisible Children has a bracelet that will fulfill this very role, but you don’t need to buy a trendy thing). Putting a daily reminder on your phone, or wunderlist, or Outlook, or mirror, will help you remember. Don’t sell yourself short on this. It’s not that hard.  Yes, others will forget; you will remember.

Apathy: it doesn’t have the far-reaching effects these people suggest. Is this the pivotal moment upon which a generation or two will hang their hat? I’m not sure. This cause is the not the ultimate goal of my vocation: I seek to help eradicate global disparity. But this is a step in that direction. The reality of this cause is: children being abducted fuel the power-lust of a man or group of men. Atrocities have been committed for 26 years that would not be tolerated for even a month in other parts of the world — places you and I live. Anchorwoman Susan Moeller is quoted as saying, “In the news business, one dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth fifty Arabs, who are worth five hundred Africans.” In the last 50 years, 400 million people worldwide have died from hunger and poor sanitation. This is three times the number of people killed in all wars fought during the 20th century, yet the coverage is minimal at best compared to conflict. You feel disconnected from this? I have said before and will continue to argue that we must connect ourselves with the lives of others; others we would typically not choose.  I believe our compassion grows in relation to its direct contact with suffering. We must find ways of engaging and deeply listening to the stories of others and then finding creative ways to allow those stories to find a larger voice.

Distraction: yes, I think this is a good cause, so I will… wait, did I just get a text? My last post indicated the bond I have with my boys. Like most people, I believe I would maintain a singular focus to help them if some crisis “interrupted” their normal life. Are the children highlighted by this cause yours? No. Does that make a difference? Yes. And yet, I can’t help but ask, who will stand in the gap for them at this moment? Why not you?  Why not me?

Disagree with the premise: if you cut off the head, the snake will die, or with supporting Invisible Children, or supporting a military option to solve the problem. These are all legitimate concerns. This does tend to oversimplify the solution. Invisible Children is not asking for Kony’s death, but his capture and trial. Let’s add voices to the viral spread of this cause to help this cause mature. I do think it has merit. The wisdom of this campaign is shown by its timeline. This is a short-lived push. It is designed to accomplish a singular goal that is largely beneficial to the world community. You don’t want to stay up all night and canvas a community with posters? No worries. Go to the website and  contact the culture makers or the policymakers on the page. It’s not hard and it has effect!

Alienated by the video: you understood the underlying tone that the younger generation is doing the right thing while your generation is stodgy and full of worry due to change.  I have to ask you: is your ego and justification of a nuanced and wise perspective more important than this cause? If you are honest with yourself: no. Suck it up. I’m older than I look and I am certainly not the target audience of three hipster California boys who accidently landed in the middle of a cause that has stretched them beyond belief. They are closer to the situation than most. They could use voices of wisdom to help them navigate their journey. Ultimately, it’s not about you or me. It’s about others. Not engaging this movement is not the way to help younger generations.

Invisible Children may not be the best way to solve this dilemma. They are not a traditional NGO in their disbursement of funds. They support a military action. Their communication of information has been labeled as manipulative. Many of the younger people who support Invisible Children are not fully aware of the complexity of issues colliding. This movement is growing and I support a concerted and holistic collaboration to solve it. Don’t dismiss it. Interact with it. Place yourself into the conversation online. Bring up issues and listen to the viewpoints of others. Look for examples of people or methodology who have succeeded in similar causes that could help refine this cause.

Finding God on the open road

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

When I need God I take a drive. Well, let me back up. I need God all the time. When I am feeling very lost and in need of God to show himself in my life, when I seek truth, I head south. Not figuratively, literally. I go to the Palouse. Up High Drive, down Hatch Hill, all the way across Hangman Valley, and I end up on Valley Chapel Road. It’s beautiful at any time of day or year. It winds around through different little hills and dales and it leads me to a cemetery. Where, I slow down, I drive in, I park my Rodeo. Weird? Freaky? I could see where you might think so, but it gives me perspective multiple times in multiple ways. Today was no different, and very different.

Photo of the Palouse by Marj Johnston

I’ve discovered that I’ve become a bit more emotional. How so, you might ask? Easily explained. I’ve never understood the far-reaching affect of becoming a father. Having a child makes the death of a child far worse. I go to the Mt. Hope Cemetery from time to time. I go looking for God to meet me and teach me and refresh me. Today there is a new memorial site. It is adorned with fresh cut lilies and a little metal butterfly. It also has a small plaque with 1 Corinthians 13 engraved. What is really impactful to me is the big remote control monster truck and the two matchbox cars placed in its pickup bed. This was a kid — probably not much older than Tyler or Justin — the two boys that have totally won over my heart, and who were so hard to leave this morning — whose almost 5-year- or 2-year-old smiles make me want to stop the world just so I can spend more time with them. I can’t tell you exactly how messed up I would be if something were to happen to either of them. I can’t explain the horror of a memorial site with a beloved tiger or Captain Rex standing vigilant watch. I’d be a wreck and empty. A hollow shell. Part of me, the father part, would be dead.

This brings to light a story of a man who desperately needed Jesus. In Luke 8:4 a ruler of the local synagogue pleads with Jesus to come and heal his only daughter who was dying. He fell at Jesus’ feet. He was experiencing a helpless pain and must have thought he’d try anything. Jesus, who usually is fairly harsh with the religious elite, goes with the man and raises his daughter from death. Jesus seems to help this man because he is aware of his own need, his own inability and also recognized the ability of a God-man. This must mean there’s hope for me; a religious leader that is fairly prideful and not often convinced that he needs a savior. I can become appreciative of my own need and Jesus may not turn me away. Hope is found. Jesus can meet my need.

That’s my story for the day. I’m working my way through the gospels and through my life and you (like it or not) are the recipient of some of my thoughts. I hope and pray you find hope in the need of your life.

What a Husky can teach a Cougar about compassion

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Editor’s Note: This week SpokaneFAVS contributors are exploring the definition of compassion. Read Monday’s panel on this topic here.

Daryl Geffken

I am a Husky. For some, that may have been the last line they read. For you brave enough to continue, I’d like to share a story from a day I recently had.

As you might imagine, I am fairly reticent to share my allegiance to my Alma Mater in a town like Spokane. I have had my UW sticker scraped off my car more than a few times.  I’m proud of the school that provided me opportunity, but I struggle with the snap judgment that comes from some folks with the label, “Husky.” So I have decided I will slowly share my purple pride with people.  I work on relationships first, so that when others become aware of the depth of my Montlake Madness, there is a foundation of friendship. In fact, I am drawn to folks equally passionate about their schools, even if they are rivals.

Photo courtesy of the University of Washington

My office is a great spot. I work at a place where Cougars, Zags and Huskies all seem to get along. We share a friendly rivalry in sports.  More than that, we share our lives together and a growing friendship. So the other day, I blurted from my office door to my Cougar friend that Cal lost over the weekend, thereby putting the Husky men’s basketball team in first place of the Pac-12 for the moment. My timing sucked. Royally. I walked into the common area and into a conversation between my friend and a few others I did not recognize.  They looked at me quizzically and it was explained that I was a Husky. And then it happened — the look; a scornful look on the face of a person I have never met, but who had somehow sized up me or my affiliation to a brand name and decided that she knew me, all of me, and it was found lacking. “Cheaters,” she spit. And that was it.

My last post talked about compassion as sharing life with others, collecting their stories to the point that we walk with them rather than talk about them. We must connect ourselves with the lives of others — others we would typically not choose.  I believe our compassion grows in relation to its direct contact with suffering. We must find ways of engaging and deeply listening to the stories of others and then finding creative ways to allow those stories to find a larger voice. I also suggested that Jesus refocused people on what was important to God, not what had become acceptable to them.  Jesus and his followers frequently challenge an attitude of privilege. One of Jesus’ main emphases was to treat people with value, so much so, that Jesus personally identified himself with the marginalized. The very manner of Jesus’ life reveals a literal identification with the poor and marginalized.

Jesus was born to migrant parents out of wedlock. The stigma this carried with it in Jewish culture at the time was severe. Tradition holds that he was born in a cave meant for feeding livestock and was celebrated by shepherds, some of the country’s lowest-class citizens, and foreigners that practiced astronomy — a taboo in Jewish society. At his circumcision, his parents offered a sacrifice of two pigeons — a Levitical concession offered to only the poorest class of citizen (Leviticus 12:1-8). Jesus and his family fled their nation as political refugees (Matthew 2:13-18), seeking asylum in a foreign country.

Jesus was homeless (Luke 9:58), and relied solely on the contribution of others to maintain his itinerant call (Luke 8:1-3). He was declared a state criminal and arrested. His trial displayed a flagrant abuse of the justice system of the day, having been tried in secrecy and without defense, physically beaten during the proceedings, disregarded by a politician that caved to popular sentiment despite finding no sufficient grounds for condemnation and tortured before his execution. He died without a single possession and was laid to rest in a donated grave. In “Generous Justice” Tim Keller said, “In all these ways, Jesus identifies with the millions of nameless people who have been wrongfully imprisoned, robbed of their possessions, tortured, and slaughtered.” The Bible records even after his death and resurrection Jesus continued to identify with the marginal. According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus chose to first reveal his resurrected self to women; those so discounted that in legal matters their testimony had no merit.

Judith Butler suggested that judging people is a form of emotional violence. By assuming you know another person denies them the ability to change, develop or grow beyond your expectations. Here’s my point:  Jesus could have come into the world in any way imaginable. He chose this lowly status, and lived it out. He chose not to disdain others but looked at them with hope of a redeemed future.

Is it too far a stretch to attempt a connection between an interaction based on a sports rivalry and the manner by which Jesus entered into creation? Probably.  But at the risk of reversing my initial title, you want to know what this Husky learned from his Cougar friend when she stepped into my righteous indignation towards the woman I felt had belittled my existence by judging me? am wrong to dismiss another person on the basis of one action.

Jesus lived a compassionate life

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Editor’s Note: This week SpokaneFAVS contributors are exploring the definition of compassion. Read Monday’s panel on this topic here.

Daryl Geffken

Compassion is sharing life with others, collecting their stories to the point that we walk with them rather than talk about them.  We must connect ourselves with the lives of others — others we would typically not choose.  I believe our compassion grows in relation to its direct contact with suffering.  We must find ways of engaging and deeply listening to the stories of others and then finding creative ways to allow those stories to find a larger voice.

I believe Jesus refocused people on what was important to God, not what had become acceptable to them.  Jesus and his followers frequently challenge an attitude of privilege.  Compassion and empathy drive Jesus’ view.  He upholds the principle that caring for people is more valuable than attaining material wealth and comfort, asking, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Luke 9:25).  Jesus finally closed the gap between the haves and have-nots: In opposition to the concept of ownership, humanity is expected to be responsible for stewardship of the earth (Lev. 25:23-24).  It is given responsibility to do what is best for the planet and all who inhabit it.

One of Jesus’ main emphases was to treat people with value. Theologians have worked to establish Jesus’ authority and divinity.  He is a necessary and unique part of the triune God of Christianity.  Jesus clearly asserted his own authority and status as son of God.  Yet he also defined his identity as a servant, giving his life for others as the “son of man.”  Jesus demonstrated the rule of God always opposes the other gods and powers that seek to enslave humans.

Ultimately, Jesus’ authority is based upon his death on a cross, suffering as the servant Messiah prophesied by Isaiah.  Jesus’ kingdom was one based on authenticity and compassion, rather than oppression, which was demonstrated through welcoming love and liberating service to others.  Reading through the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ teaching through word and example confirms Jesus held a high regard for the value of people. This foundational value affected not only his actions, but his expectations of those who follow him as well.  He was clear in challenging his audience to live in holistic responsibility to others.  From this, it can be shown that Jesus desired a more egalitarian society than he encountered.  It can be argued that this is applicable today.

The Lego Syndrome

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

This is the second in a three-part series. Read the first entry here.

Daryl Geffken

Today I’m continuing a “three-piece” (pun intended) series on how playing with Legos has helped me deconstruct materialism (pun also intended).

I love playing with Legos. I could construct sets for hours—and have.  It is a unique joy for me to construct things, to see how they can be sturdy and aesthetic at the same time.  Now here’s the deal, I get all jazzed when I get a new set, and I love sitting down and putting them together and getting all the pieces together and whatnot.  And then, as soon as I’m done, it seems like I just look at the model for about two minutes, and almost instantaneously want a new set. I’m not satisfied with what has been created. Once the anticipation of having something accomplished is complete I’m anxious to move on to something else.  It doesn’t fully satisfy.

The analogy is fairly clear, many of the things in life we want are incredibly appealing and we anticipate that they will fulfill our desires and help make us more complete.  It is often only after achieving or acquiring these things that we realize it was just smoke and mirrors and the desire still remains, it has simply switched focus to something new we don’t possess. If our value rests in this endless pursuit, well, we’re doomed.

I have said before I believe each person in the history of the world longs for three things — to be known, to be loved, and to be significant.  We have this desire in us. And we seek to have it fulfilled in all sorts of ways.  Over the years I’ve collected lots of stuff; more education, more toys (Apple products and technological sundries seem to be the option du jour), more popularity (have you read my blog, lately?) and, well, you get the point.  To continually fulfill our desire for significance, we acquire.

And then we trash.  A lot.  Only 1 percent of all materials used in the production, distribution and consumption of our market economy is still in use after six months; 99 percent is trashed. If the world’s population were to live as the average American does, it would require three planets to sustain such a lifestyle (facts taken from Leonard, 2005).

In her poignant documentary film, “The Story of Stuff,” Annie Leonard (2005) claimed, “We have become a nation of consumers. Our primary identity has become that of consumer, not mothers, teachers, farmers, but consumers. The primary way that our value is measured and demonstrated is by how much we contribute to this arrow, how much we consume.”

Through concepts such as planned obsolescence (making things that break down quickly so we must buy more) and perceived obsolescence (convincing us that the model we have is outdated and depreciates our value, so we must buy more), we have been trained to want more, convinced to think we need more.

You are complicit in this; as am I.  The responsibility is ours.  This is a highly complex issue, but I would like to encourage you to do a few things.  Limit your consumption. Start incrementally, start a consumption log, and after a month determine what you can cut out of your life.  Second, watch “Story of Stuff” (it’s only 20 minutes long and you can watch it right here), so you can be more fully informed. Look for what critics say about it.  Third, spend some time in reflection determining what brings real value to your life.  Fourth, spread the word (maybe even write in the comments below ideas for limiting this system). This may feel like a lot, but I believe it is well worth it.

If you’re going to spend anything in the next week, spend the time to delve deeper into this.

Deconstructing materialism by playing with Legos

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

This is the first in a three-part series

Daryl Geffken

This weekend, our family had a pizza and Lego night.  We made homemade pizza and ate around our coffee table.  And then came that great and glorious plastic-on-plastic sound of tons of Legos being dumped out on the ground.  That sound takes me back to childhood days of Christmas and birthdays, shaking a box to see if it was clothing; or…

My first memories of Legos include building the ultimate vehicles for our neighborhood demolition derby.  Each kid was to piece together a battering ram on wheels that would be hurtled toward others on the smooth concrete of our paved garage. True tournament formatting (take note, NCAA football) would determine the grand champion. Whichever vehicle inflicted the most damage on its competition would move on.  I was the youngest in our rat pack, and as such, had much to learn about constructing a solid vehicle that could weather the pending onslaught of force.

Typically, I would begin my masterpiece by collecting all the cool-looking, one-of-a-kind blocks — the ones that would enhance the intricate and menacing demeanor of victorious vehicles creatively christened such things as “The Basher.”  Rather than focusing on building a solid, foundational mass, I spent time linking these awesome, yet awkward bricks together.  Not surprisingly, with these works of art, I did not advance.  Instead, I spent much more time cleaning up the mess that used to be my creation, and accompanied by much mocking and ridicule, going inside to piece together my broken pride.

Over time I learned a valuable lesson: if you want a Lego ship to last, you’d better make sure it was solidly built.  This took care and occurred well before any accessorizing.

You see where I am going.  So much of how we are valued in our present context is based on our plumage: whether or not we have Legos or bits of plastic.  In an old Saturday Night Live skit, Billy Crystal used to say, “To look good, is to feel good… and darling, I look marvelous!”  I have seen students and adults throughout my career work to accumulate the right things, in hope of fulfilling their desire for significance.  Often this occurs at the detriment of deeper character development.  Crisis in life hits harder than a two-pound Lego truck.  The trappings of our homes, clothes and trinkets do an amazing job isolating us from our fragile reality.

Jesus talked about a person’s ability to survive such moments intact.  In Matthew 7:24 Jesus declared, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

Preceding this statement are small sections highlighting three recurring themes of Jesus’ teaching: communication with God, care for others and a life of integrity.  Develop these values, he said, and they will help you weather the massive blows we all experience in life.  Relying on the material we collect to adorn our lifestyles may help us look great in the eyes of our consumer-driven climate, but if they are the sum total of our substance — crash.

What values form the structure upon which your life is built?  What are you doing to build your core foundation?  What “needs” in your life can you give up?