Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Reconsidering "charity"

Thank you your thoughts, Contra. If I may be the Frederica to your Caleb: I too have been pondering the highly extended life expectancies that we have come to expect in this country, while in other parts of the globe life remains nasty brutish and short -- but REAL. So often, Americans under misguided notions of "charity" seek to extend our health expectations to those of other societies/communities that have developed themselves organically. For instance, Oprah (who, like Martha Stewart, "functions to shield people from ever even approaching anything real" see Stegall, March 27, perhaps paraphrasing Pfeffernusse or Liverwurst) just featured yet another imperialist do-gooder who operates surgically on the damaged brides of Ethiopians -- it seems many of these girls gave birth "too young" and in the process their insides were destroyed to the point where they are constantly leaking waste (again, mainstream American notions of "sanitation" come to the fore). So this do-gooder surgeon repairs the girls on an assembly line basis, presumably without garnering permission from the native community. Worse yet, one of these young women stated after her surgery that she wishes to go to medical school "when she is [healed and] dry" so she can help out other child brides. Just what we need, another young woman foregoing the joys of marriage, motherhood, and community for a "career" in "medicine".

Think also of the Smile Train, a "charity" which repairs the cleft palates of children in poor countries. Aren't we depriving these communities of living with cleft palate individuals as they were created in their mothers wombs? Do we really need to export mass-manufactured sterilizers, surgical equipment, doctors (medical school is an assembly line if there ever was one) etc. to impose American notions of what a "smile" should be? Because after all, every American needs a Coke and a smile -- and now the rest of the world does too!

Finally, the donation of prostheses to landmine victims in Cambodia and elsewhere should be reconsidered. Instead of merely shipping "custom fitted" plastic overseas to achieve the goal of ambulatory individuals, perhaps missionaries could go to these countries and help them establish a community-wide ceremony in which each member of a family whittles away at a tree until a appropriately sized prosthetic leg, or arm, is achieved. True, these natural tree-stump prostheses will be considerably more cumbersome and less "individualized" than American exports, but the process of communal tree whittling would reinforce the ties of kith and kin. More important, we teach these people not to be dependent on the abstract, non-localized, mass-produced, technologically-indulgent brave new world of western "medicine".

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12:21 AM  

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