Friday, October 27, 2006

M3 is for Madonna's Malawian madness

Forgive the language. I am so pissed off by this whole Madonna adoption vs Media row. I have many points, and some of them will probably conflict with yours but for a change I shall not be politically correct, mild or calm.

1. There is the argument that Malawi is poor and in Madonna’s words “I witnessed conditions in Malawi that were the equivalent of a "state of emergency. I think if everybody went there, they'd want to bring one of those children home with them and give them a better life.” I applaud her for sponsoring eight orphanages’ even though it probably does not even cause a dent in her millions. I applaud her for thinking that these children in the poorest of the poor places need help. I applaud her for bringing the plight of the forgotten to the forefront. For using her fame to make people sit up and notice what is happening in the deprived nations. At least her heart is in the right place and however small a percentage that is in a devastated country like Malawi, if even one child is healthier or happier her contribution will have been worth it. However by adopting a child from there she has turned herself into an accessorizing superstar. Does she not know how much media she attracts or is this the prelude to another music release? More than good intention this smacks of “Oooh, look at me I am so talented AND so good.” Balderdash I say.

2. If she was so concerned about the ‘children of Malawi’ why not give the cost of adopting this one child in legal fees and bringing him up in England (where he shall no doubt go to private school and own a pony) toward making a whole host of children happy. Why not put her money where it’s most needed, sponsor 15 orphanages instead of 8? Surely nutritious food, basic education and efficient healthcare for as many children as possible are better, nobler deeds.

3. Her basic premise is incorrect. David Banda is not an orphan. His mother died in childbirth and his father put him in the ‘orphanage’ so that he could work. To earn a living, to eat a square meal each day. One report said that the child had not been visited in over a year. As if this magically makes it right for the child to be considered an orphan. Did it occur to whoever said this that the father might be working, trying to save up some money or trying to get to a better place where he can provide for his child. And that instead of leaving him alone in a dangerous situation the father chose to put him in a safer environment. And no matter how bad the situation or how infrequent the visits it remains that the young boy has a blood bond with his father and that is above all else. How often is David Banda going to see his birth father now?

4. The media skews everything to suits its own needs of attracting an audience. It’s all sound bites for viewership, readership. All without context and although this was how it was reported I doubt this is an accurate account. First David Banda’s father Yohane comes out saying that he did not understand that his son would be taken away forever, only that he would be clothed, fed and educated with Madonna’s money. Then he says that he could never ask for his son back and deprive him of the luxuries in life that she is able to afford. Then Madonna says she “looked him in the eye” and that he completely understood what was going on. I don’t believe anyone. And this side controversy could have been averted had she chosen a real orphan, a child whom no one would claim their own, ever.

5. The Malawian Government is no better bending rules which state that adoptive parents need to live in the country for 18 months. And Madonna claiming she has “kept to the law”. Was it her doppelganger angering the Vatican by recreating the crucifixion while on world tour just a few months ago while she and Guy slummed it in a tent in Malawi? I highly doubt it.

6. Are there no orphans in the UK or America? Every day I watch ads on TV here in London asking people to foster and adopt children within the many boroughs. As she lives here and apparently wanted to adopt a child why couldn’t she have done so here (country of her husband Guy) or in America (her own country). Are these children not needy enough or is it that the media frenzy is greater with an African child? Children are not accessories and I fear no matter how noble the intention, by doing this she has created an ill required storm.

Do not get me wrong. I am a big Madonna fan – her music was my music all my growing up years. I do not for a moment begrudge her well earned fame or wealth. I just worry that by looking abroad and doing something as foolish as bending the law, adopting not quite an orphan and going all the way to another country to adopt when the needy are at our own doorstep, she has made herself look foolish, inconsiderate and flaunting of her wealth in an unattractive and uncharitable way.

I wonder how much longer I can separate her music from her deeds.


  1. You haven't heard the latest about Brangelina adopting an Indian child from Pune to make a "rainbow family"?

  2. I have - and don't get me started on it....what is with all these witless women - that's what comes from too much fame and too little brain!

  3. I agree with all the points you've raised.

    Re Joline - what is she thinking of? she doesn't even have a stable lifestyle to provide these children!

  4. Anonymous6:44 AM

    Agree, agree, agree. She could have given the money to his own father to look after him. Have been reading articles and letters by children adopted from Africa by people in England, and most of them say he should have been left with his father.

  5. Anonymous3:04 PM

    You are being politically correct!

    She wants to adopt a child, well and you find something wrong? Just because she is a superstar?

    And buddy, its her money, if she wants to spend it on buying ponies for her adopted kid, what is your business to advise her? You already assumed it s a publicity stunt? How and Why?

    Come on, she is foing far more than me and you are doing.


    Yes, if the parents can take care of the child and are unwilling to give him up, that would be the only circumstance in which adoption should not happen.

    MG, I am maused by your letter. Are those kids saying that they want to go back to Africa too?

  6. I don't really have a problem with people (even celebrities) adopting from anywhere in the world, if they so desire. What gets my goat with the Madonna incident is that it seems to be more of a desire to get some easy publicity that is driving it rather than anything else.. Donating money to orphanages or sponsoring children in their own environemnt just would not made headlines like this...

  7. I totally agree with your points. But sometimes I feel, at least they are providing "something" for these kids.

  8. But on the whole, look at the positives - Madonna gets publicity, the kid gets a better life, at least in material terms. I am not sure if her motive for doing so is relevant here, as long as something good is coming out of it.

    First David Banda’s father Yohane comes out saying that he did not understand that his son would be taken away forever, only that he would be clothed, fed and educated with Madonna’s money. Then he says that he could never ask for his son back and deprive him of the luxuries in life that she is able to afford.

    Thats pretty poignant actually

  9. What I'd like to know is this: did she follow the rules laid down by the Malawi government for prospective parents wishing to adopt a child from Malawi? Like living in Malawi for a whole year before you're even considered eligible? If she was awarded a 'fast track' adoption just because of who she is, it seems rather unfair on other families whose paperwork has been collecting dust in government offices in Malawi for years, don't you think?

  10. Anonymous2:13 AM

    Confused, yes, more than one child (they're now adults) have written in to newspapers saying they wish they weren't adopted and had remained in Africa (despite the greater risks they would have faced there) because their parents were/are alive and loved them. They have nothing against their adoptive parents, they just feel that when the parents are alive they should be helped to keep their children.

  11. Apologies for not having responded before now. I have been away from my computer for a few days.

    Confused: You get my response first.

    What does being politically correct mean in this case? I am merely stating my own opinion – there is nothing political about it.

    If you re-read my post you will notice that I have not questioned her right to adopt, merely suggested that by adopting some child from Africa she is ignoring the problems in her own (& Guy Ritchies) country. And yes, being a superstar and in the eye of the public I do believe her actions should count for more. There is something to be said for being a responsible human being and while her heart may be in the right place (ie spending the wealth) her actions are obviously misguided.

    If you imagine that she is doing this merely out of the goodness of her heart with the hope that her actions are private and not of public interest, I suggest you start reading the papers, watching TV etc. Any action of someone as huge as she is (persona wise) is absolutely under constant media and public scrutiny – where she eats, shops, even what she eats, wears, reads. So yes I think there is something of a publicity stunt situation in this case.

    Yes, it is her money and she could buy ponies for all her adopted kids. Hell, could I have one too? I am not in any way advising her (especially as I highly doubt she is reading my blog). I still insist that her giving money to fund 8 orphanages in Malawi will not only improve their plight but has also brought instant publicity that no amount of UN press releases could do. But by adopting a Malawian child she has taken all that goodness and turned it into a publicity seeking limelight stunt. And seriously I thought better of her.

    Please so not make assumptions as you do NOT know what I am doing. And actually as a percentage of my salary I probably do give more to charity than Madonna. I also work in international development so I do know what I am talking about.

    Conflicting media reports continue from inside Malawi and the minds of the media. I also still believe that if his father were around and saw him even once in a while that that is a situation better than being adopted as an ‘orphan’.

    Rohini: While I strongly believe that adoption is a wonderful thing, I have my reservations about people adopting from anywhere in the world unless there were no option to do so where they lived. I truly believe that adoption can cause cultural dissonance. If someone wants a child that badly they would go though the process in their own country, no matter how rigorous. Sometimes people adopt from abroad as systems are easier and rules can be bent. And while the many children in Africa do deserve to be adopted from abroad if there are no takers within their country then the possible parents should stick to the rules (e.g. 18 months in Malawi). However for superstars like Madonna and Angelina, I think the intention may have been publicity seeking. And any altruistic intention would always be overshadowed by the publicity seeking – and they would know that.

    Keya: I agree – and that is my point in point 2 – especially in her case, why adopt one child when that cost could provide for so many others that she is so concerned about?

    Ravi: I do not agree that it is a win win situation. Madonna gets her publicity for her good deed, but that young boy will grow up not knowing his father, not understanding his culture. And while they are antidotes for all that (ie. Madonna could now bring the father here and pay for him as well and then set up a cultural association for the kid to understand his culture) there is only so much money can buy. There is good coming out of this but it is outweighed by all the messages that this sends.

    Lotus: No, she did not and yes, it is unfair on all the people who do follow rules. But that seems to be the way of the world. I guess this then perpetuates the message that you need to be either rich or famous or both to get your way anywhere – money can indeed buy anything!

    Mumbaigirl: Thank you for both your comments. I agree completely. If he were an orphan that would totally change things. Since he is not he shall now not have that chance. And what’s the bet that as soon as he’s a bit older he will get trained to say something like “I’m so thankful for this life and the love of ALL my parents”. Really, how this world spins is often a mystery to me!

  12. Anonymous11:43 PM


    Thanks for the detailed reply. And thanks for letting me know!

    First point-
    ''and some of them will probably conflict with yours but for a change I shall not be politically correct, mild or calm.''

    Ah, well, so you see when I commented about you being politically correct, this is what I meant.

    Thank you for your suggestions. I don't watch tv but I do scan the newspapers. Lets see. You said they are under constant media scrutiny hence her actions are ''obviously'' misguided. Do you see the disconnect there? Just because someone is under media scrutiny, he/she is not entitled to the same rights as you and me? By that logic, it would have perfectly okay for a non-celebrity to adopt a child but its not okay for Madonna because she is constantly under media scrutiny which by your lgic, means her actions are misguided. Ahem

    Now, the next question. Why wont she concentrate on the problems in her own country. Ah, but I did not see you making that argument with donation to the orphanage! Extending your logic, Bill Gates should be castigated for spending money in Africa/Asia, its not that all problems in America have been solved!

    Finally, private and public interest. If you notice, she is exercising her choices, only with her private money. She has the absolute right to advance her own private interests. Why do you think a kid should only be adopted for public interest? Hell, I might seek enjoyment in having a kid and hence attempt to adopt one. As long as the exercise in private enjoyment is with my own money, and I do not attempt to violate the law, you have no right to demand that some public interest should come out of it. Gotcha? Same for goodness of heart. How does one measure it?

    Finally, of course, the father has the right to say no, and I fully uphold that right as long as he is able to take care of the child. The child was not snatched from his father, was he?

    Speaking of newspapers, did you read NYT's article on child labor in Africa? Oh, I guess, its perfectly okay for parents to sell their kids for 20 bucks but its not okay for Madonna to adopt one because well, her actions are misguided.


    oops. Gotta reply to that mail. Sorry!

  13. It is a media publicity thing, true, but at least she is doing something. These days, it's always what can I get if I do something. It's not about just giving anymore.

  14. Mg/ Confused: I still don’t get what you meant by the statement “you are being politically correct”, when clearly I said “I will not be politically correct” and then proceeded to live up to that. The politically correct stance would have been to agree and shower praise on this ‘wonderful’ deed. Apologies if I am being dim about this...

    I never said she is not entitled to the same rights as you/ me, just merely that by being in the media attention she has a responsibility that is greater than for a normal person. Things would be different if there were no media and no clamouring from people for every bit of detail from celebrities lives. But this is not that world and in this one her status as a pop star is a role model for many many people. And while adopting a child is a noble deed, adopting a Malawian child merely perpetuates the idea that adopting from abroad is ‘cool’. She could have used her fame in multiple ways if she so wished – like by helping the Malawian orphanages (which as I said earlier has brought them more instant publicity that all the press releases in the world) and by adopting a British or American child and promoting that as the right thing to do (i.e. you can do both, give internationally and improve the situation in your own country). Why get into the whole Malawian child adopting situation where even if she did not expect it (which I find hugely implausible) a whole lot of media interest would most likely be churned up (such as the many talk shows)?

    Next question: Concentrating on her own country. Providing aid internationally as Bill Gates does or now Madonna has done with Malawian orphanages are completely different things to adopting a child. One is for the betterment of entire countries – to provide health, education, livelihoods for a struggling peoples. Adopting a child on the other hand is a personal and private affair. It is a wonderful and admirable thing to do and not once have I knocked her intention for doing so. I merely think that adopting is a private decision that in the case of celebrities comes under intense public scrutiny and that (in my eyes only it would seem) is a reason for them to do it responsibly. And again, I reiterate, my problem is not with her adopting at all. I just think she could have adopted an English or American orphan if she was so desperate to add to her family. Are they less deserving of being loved and given good homes, education and ponies? And if it had to be Malawian maybe I could have accepted that too – but he is NOT an orphan and that is something I cannot overlook. He may not have been snatched from his father but his father’s access to him is a bit limited now don’t you think?

    I did read the NYT article you mention. And no I do not think it is ok for parents to sell their kids for 20 bucks – I do think it is a very very sad world. Trust me when I say that Madonna adopting this little boy has not changed this situation. And yes I still think her actions are misguided.

    I am afraid we could back and forth on this for days on end with no one being any the happier for it. So I suggest that we live with our own opinions and agree to disagree. Thank you for all your points though. It has made me see the power of conviction in beliefs and notice the deep difference in the way people think.

    Swapna: Yes at some level something is better than nothing. In this case I think it is worse to ahve done something as it skews up a whole load of factors. As for what can I do to get soemthing, I'm afraid that is the way of the world now and I cannot imagine what will change it.

  15. much being said on this issue however, there are no 2 opinions in my mind abt it! I completely agree with you and I think its particularly dimwitted of these celebrities to even TRY to disguise this as a hugely and only altruistic act and not even a slight publicity stunt! I feel somewhat sorry for the adopted children really who have a lot of chance of not getting a real-life upbringing and never being able to understand where they come from! They might end up being more confused than their parents themselves! But whatever...

  16. Anonymous11:50 AM


    Madonna, or you, or me are free to adopt from whichever country she and we choose to adopt from. Her celebrity status means zilch in this regard. Except of course to the idiotic few who think that she should "set a good example" just because she's a good singer. Of course, she should stick by the rules and not bend them etc but as long as people do that they have no obligation to adopt someone from "their own country". Why such high standards from adoptive parents? Why do they hve to do good at the same time as they fulfil their deepest desire to have children? Do we do this guilt trip on birth parents by telling them they are selfish to have their biological children because tehre are so many orphans? Then why do a guilt trip on adoptive parents?

    One of the reasons, I think, that we expect such high standards from adoptive parents, I think is because we elevate adoption to some mystical do-good status. We think of it as being a "noble deed" instead of an alternative way to have a family. Of course, many adoptive parents adopt on principle but at some fundamental level its about wanting children and finding this the best way to have them, just as some other parents might find IVF or surrogate motherhood the best way to have their children. Its precisely this view of adoption (that's its something noble) that makes us look at adoptive parents with a mixture of awe and curiosity and do the "poor thing" on the children instead of just treating the family as a normal one.

    I do agree with two things in this Madonna case:

    1. Culture is important to the extent that having adoptive children from other cultures is to be thought through seriously and the adoptive parents have to take pains to undrestand their children. But isn't that somewhat similar to having your kids born as Americans or Britishers whereas you are born in India?

    2. If the father in this case stated that he did not want the child to be adopted, then his word hsould be considered and the child should not be adopted. In any case, I'm assuming there are rules to this.