Virality is a Cause

[For an insightful background into #SaveOke, see the images of Okeoghene Ighiwoto on Linda Ikeji’s blog,read Temitayo Olofinlua’s piece, and read Oke's story]

Jason Russell and his cohorts have shown us how ‘viral’ suggests infiniteness, a geometric progression, an x. He gives us certain terms of reference, which when considered (mostly) at face value, we find implications that outdo Kony 2012 in fundamentally useful respects. I am interested, in joining my voice to #SaveOke, in telling ways in which KONY 2012 implicate readings of virality. If a YouTube film has changed the way we consider transmissibility, what lessons can we learn when the dreams of one of us currently lies at his feet? Especially if we are really, really interested in the pursuit of happiness.

In the first place, we have been taught the convenience of categorization — Kony is very very bad, Jacob is the good boy who is overrun by Kony’s badness. In this respect, it seems it does not matter how much relativity we have accorded morality, or how much scepticism we have bashed it with. As long as the earth remains, we will probably classify one act as good, and another as bad. I discern it is easier to proclaim morality than amorality — one cannot say there are no absolute terms to define good and evil and in the same breath proclaim the holocaust as utterly reprehensible and the abolishment of slavery as triumphantly pleasant. Agreed, then, we understand that certain actions can be in the interest of good. Whether or not we accept the lure to donate $30, or despise the irresponsibility of Russell and co, it comes down to a fundamental need to overrun badness, unhappiness.

And it is therefore clear, that seeking to #SaveOke, we are accepting the ease of categorization. Understanding that it is either he’s on his feet again, or not. Grey is not our colour of choice.

Consider, also, the fact of oversimplification. KONY 2012 assaulted, in my thinking, our intelligence; more or less it was an infinite jest. The problem of Kony’s elusiveness is presented, balanced against the need to capture him. And then the means to get him is simplified so that a five-year old would understand. This is not to mention that that jest had no tactical credulity. Anyway, to speak in specific terms, I recognize that oversimplification works for #SaveOke — you see the images, and you go to the bank and pay a minimum of one thousand Naira. If a #SaveOke video is made, and it goes viral, the complex questions of white supremacy and black inactivity will not arise.  We might just ask, ‘is this real?’ or ‘why exhibit his ailment?’ Those questions are within the realm of simplicity. This is a simple, human, matter.

Recall that Russell and his cohorts became famous by advocating a cause. #SaveOke, too, is a cause. A cause with endearing practicality, and tangible consequences. In this case, we do not have to grope for ethical implications or stumble in the cocoon of debates.

There’s something we cannot afford to lose, and it’s bigger than Oke’s feet. I have struggled, especially after taking up residence in Lagos, with the complexities that surround begging/being in need. Who’s really the one in need — the child who leads a blind grandpa or the grandpa himself? The man whose wife is in need of an urgent operation or the man who runs after a moving molue, pleading in pidgin, Ibo, and English? And who knows if Oke is not one of those half-truth cases of the needy?

If we retain these questions in our head, and take no action, we lose the opportunity to enjoy the bliss of spontaneity. One of the tools being employed in this cause is social media, which suffices, as KONY 2012 did, for the republic of the webosphere. If this republic can cast aside all doubts, which legitimately exist, and act without thinking, I think we would have saved not just Oke, but ourselves.

Because in the final analysis we go beyond ourselves when we wish to understand ourselves, our essence, and the nature of our needing. If we Save Oke, and every other person whose story leaves no doubt of authenticity, whose stories shock us to tears, we find in that very act the pursuit of ultimate happiness, wholesome joy.

An account number has been provided, and it’s in Oke’s name, the one we can save.