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The Problematic Pop-Culture Movement to 'Save' Africa

By G. Pascal Zachary, AlterNet.
Posted October 24, 2006.

Madonna's adoption debacle is about more than one Malawian baby. Celebrity stunts and corporate campaigns reveal that well-meaning Americans often have no idea how to help Africans.

Madonna, famous for going to extremes to gain attention, is reminding the world in a fresh way that Americans abroad are dangerous. A widening controversy surrounds her adoption of a one-year-old African baby from the impoverished country of Malawi. And the debacle illustrates how ham-handed, clumsy and ineffective American aid efforts can be. Stunts like Madonna's perversely tend to reinforce Americans' sense of moral superiority -- without doing much for the aid recipients themselves.

The former Material Girl's misadventures in adopting the boy, David Banda, have made her the newest Ugly American -- big-footing her way through a foreign country, violating local laws and sensibilities in the name of a private agenda she calls "doing good." Now even the father of the boy says Madonna's adoption is a mistake, joining a growing number of human-rights critics is saying the entertainer should return the child....

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