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Thought of the Moment

November 11, 2010

And then there’s what happened in Sierra Leone after the amputations brought the peace, which brought the U.N., which brought the money, which brought the N.G.O.s. All of them, as Polman tells it, wanted a piece of the amputee action. It got to the point where the armless and legless had piles of extra prosthetics in their huts and still went around with their stubs exposed to satisfy the demands of press and N.G.O. photographers, who brought yet more money and more aid. In the obscene circus of self-regarding charity that Polman sketches, vacationing American doctors turned up, sponsored by their churches, and performed life-threatening (sometimes life-taking) operations without proper aftercare, while other Americans persuaded amputee parents to give up amputee children for adoption in a manner that seemed to combine aspects of bribery and kidnapping. Officers of the new Sierra Leone government had only to put out a hand to catch some of the cascading aid money.

Philip Gourevitch at the New Yorker, Alms Dealers


One Comment leave one →
  1. ninjanurse permalink
    November 22, 2010 8:45 pm

    Rough stuff. Charity is no substitute for economic justice. I’m not a Christian but I read the Bible. Jesus set the bar very high for this– that you have to basically give away your wealth and join the poor.
    I’m not that brave, but it’s wise to question the role of ego when you have the privilege of helping someone. You may need help from them someday too.

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