Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Out of Africa

In Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance,” you will recall that the bold buccaneers, all of them orphans, found their piratical activities seriously inhibited on finding that every ship they captured was crewed by orphans, and thus not fair game.

Something similar must be happening in Africa, since flights to that continent are loaded with so-called celebrities, all eager to scoop up an orphan or two, and return home to demonstrate their charitable side to their press agents and thence to their public.

Any self respecting kid in Africa would do well to get himself on the orphan register to enable him to participate in this bonanza before the supply of celebrities runs out, although, as the talent requirements for such a status are nowadays at a low ebb, this could be some time in the future.

Aside from the fact that most of these do-gooders are not the sort I would wish to park my dog with for a long weekend, there is the distasteful fact that their actions do nothing for the long term problem, merely providing a short term impetus to their public image. If any have snook off to Africa and adopted a child on the quiet without any fanfare, I’d be surprised.

Snatching a single child from poverty and injecting them into the super wealthy artificial environment that surrounds these people, is both unfair and unwise. If the money that will no doubt be lavished on the lucky (perhaps) child were to be spread over a hundred others, it would be a far more valuable contribution to charity – but of less publicity value.

If these celebrities were to put their weight and influence behind the unpublicised activities of the many organisations that are attempting to make a difference, not to one child, but to many, then they will have achieved something. And, if they contrive to keep their name off the register of donors, they will really have proved their charitable instinct.

Meanwhile, although Africa seems to be the destination of choice for the publicity minded at the moment, it is worth recalling that there is more than enough poverty in this world to go around.

What a pity that the funds lavished by Britain and America on valueless conflicts cannot be channelled into something worthwhile.


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