Zoe's Ark: Charity or Kidnapping?
November 1, 2007 10:15 AM   Subscribe

It's no coincidence that "Zoe's Ark" anagrams to "ask zero".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:20 AM on November 1, 2007

Today is "depressing stories involving children" day on Metafilter.

I'm going to go home and lock myself and my kids in the basement until the world gets straightened out.

pls send pizza
posted by GuyZero at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2007

I think this nicely illustrates the prevailing Western attitude towards Africa, which is that Africans are basically an interchangeable, homogeneous, depersonalized agglomeration of (fetishized) human suffering. Let no one say that racism and tender-hearted humanitarianism are incompatible.
posted by nasreddin at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

Many of the so-called "Lost Boys" of Sudan who came to the US were not really lost, their parents were alive and well. Does it matter? The purpose of these programs is to lift up a minority of kids, educate them and hopefully they will return with the skills and resources to help the country as a whole.
posted by stbalbach at 10:39 AM on November 1, 2007

The purpose of these programs is to lift up a minority kidnap and profit off of kids
posted by desjardins at 10:43 AM on November 1, 2007

Dammit! That's at least seventy-five future soldiers, lost. How am I supposed to build a feared totalitarian state without soulless thugs?

...you don't just find thugs, you know. We have to make them, and it takes a damn long time to do it right. Sigh. Well, maybe I can send a couple of speedboats down to The Gambia and pick up some spares.

Christ, all that money wasted. I have no idea how Foday Sankoh managed to keep at it all those years, the transport logistics alone are enough to drive a person to drink.
posted by aramaic at 10:51 AM on November 1, 2007

It's all fascinating. Zoe's Ark claims that they were in orphanages....

But let's not forget that Madonna's adopted orphan kid had a Dad, too...
posted by MythMaker at 11:01 AM on November 1, 2007

Some French were arrested a few years ago, trying to do the same thing with Vietnamese "orphans," many of whom turned out to have been sold to baby dealers. Tough to get over that colonial master attitude, I suppose.
posted by etaoin at 11:02 AM on November 1, 2007

This is further evidence that good intentions are not enough. People with expertise in the local culture and in providing aid and resettlement in humanitarian disasters, as well as people from the affected community should have been involved to prevent exactly this situation from happening.
The Lost Boys situation is terribly similar...the narrative that the world accepted, even if it wasn't 100% true, led those boys to a very different kind of life with very different opportunities. But the backlash after the truth was discovered, hampered other resettlement efforts for years...hundreds, if not thousands, of girls in Kakuma Camp can attest to that. The problem for children in true need is that the actions of one group of well meaning amateurs might hinder the efforts of a lot of others who are doing effective work.
Also, the assumption that these children would return to rebuild their country is seems like a lot of pressure to put on a child. If they were indeed intending to give the kids "a better life," I hope it would provide for free will.
posted by cal71 at 11:48 AM on November 1, 2007

What the hell were they thinking?!!!
posted by LarryC at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2007

The crypto-racism of thinking that the mighty white West ought to forcibly rescue these little African kids reminds me of the overtly racist policies of Australia, whereby Aboriginal children were taken from their families and raised in the "proper" way.

Also, sending one's sense of charity out to the Other smacks of something nasty. It's not out of isolationism that I wonder why France doesn't simply address the issues facing its own immigrant underclass, but simply because this sort of thing always seems like a way wealthy white people can vicariously do something nice for poor people, but without having to change their lifestyle or admit to class disparity, as one would have to do if one were to deal with the poverty of one's own society. Why is it trendy to Save Darfur or Free Tibet, but when it comes for us Americans to address the health and class issues of people in Appalachia, Bushwick, or reservations, people keep relatively mum. There's that weird white man's burden we send out instead - not that there's anything wrong with helping other people, but why are we resistant to addressing those people who our society directly places at a disadvantage?

Why why why why why?
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:52 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

One word: guilt.
posted by desjardins at 1:04 PM on November 1, 2007

why are we resistant to addressing those people who our society directly places at a disadvantage?

For the same reason my professors in Alberta could sneer at racial troubles in the US and wasn't racism terrible down south, and then, in the same conversation expound at length about how the Cree and Metis living in squalor really were just drunken idiots who deserved what they got (followed by "hilarious" anecdotes about native people getting themselves killed in strange ways -- like drinking benzene by accident. Ha ha. That's hi-larious).

...in other words: disparities in MY culture are due to genuine differences. Disparities in YOUR culture are due to institutional racism. You bastards. If only you could be like us.
posted by aramaic at 1:19 PM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]

Won't someone please think of th..... oh never mind.

*hands over Most Gratuitous Use of 'Fuck' In A Front Page Post award*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:17 PM on November 1, 2007

Today is "depressing stories involving children" day on Metafilter.

I'm going to go home and lock myself and my kids in the basement until the world gets straightened out.

pls send pizza
posted by GuyZero

Careful Guy. Check the pizza for e coli if it's from Jeno's or Totino's,
posted by notreally at 6:05 PM on November 1, 2007

Following a tangent: stbalbach and cal71, could you substantiate for me your hints regarding the "truth" about the "so called" Lost Boys?

The basic facts as I understand them so far are: When civil war re-erupted in the mid-80s over 2,000,000 people were killed, primarily adults. Approximately 20k-40k boys (numbers do vary...) escaped attacks because they were customarily in the cattle camps tending herds, and not in the villages. They fled first to Ethiopia then to Kenya, and some 3,700 eventually made it to the US in 2000-01. Most of the young girls that weren't killed or raped and left to die, were brought north as house slaves.

The media-coined term "Lost Boys" has its problems (leaving out the girls, among other things). But that all of their parents weren't killed is good news! If the media, or even some of the Lost Boys only come to find that out after years of living in a Kenyan refugee camp, or even being airlifted to the US, how can that be held against them? There are far more egregious errors in the world to be jaded about.

I agree that "rescuing" the kids from Chad with the plan of grooming them to return and positively impact and become leaders in their country is a twisted kind of pressure to apply, but on the other hand their are many Lost Boys who came to the US and found success and opportunity have been motivated to do exactly that! I happen to work closely with several here in Chicago (warning: self link) and have found very little to be skeptical or jaded about.

Still, my earlier question is sincere, and I look forward to your reply in or out of thread. Thanks in advance.
posted by metacurious at 8:14 PM on November 1, 2007

A few people are a bit too eager to call racism here, I think. From what I read what this sorry situation looks to me is the following:

A bunch of overzealous, undertalented humanitarians get genuinely concerned about Darfur and decide to strike a big coup by rescueing thousands of orphans. Being "on a mission" they decide not to pay much attention to legal or diplomatic niceties: after all, such considerations do not seem to be doing much good in Darfur, or are they? They launch an online campaign to find "foster" families (in fact, future adoptive families) who may as well provide funds to finance the operation (including the unavoidable bribes on the spot.

Where things begin to go really awry is when the team they send to Chad with plenty of money, but little experience in humanitarian operations, slowly realizes that genuine, living Darfur orphans may not be quite as easy to get at as they thought (on the account of them dying pretty fast, mainly). So what they do? They try to get whatever children they can get their hands on. "End justifies means" and all that, and if they had managed to fly the children all the way back to France it would have been a heck of a photo op, it would have attracted a lot of attention to Darfur's plight, etc. To what extent the team was aware that they were getting non-orphaned, non-Darfuri children will probably never be precisely determined: after all, they had to act through local interpreters and "facilitators" who probably saw them as wandering wallets.

Still, the surprising thing is that they almost made it! They were standing on the runway with 103 children with sham bandages (this had to be disguised as a "medical evacuation" in any case, to get the children both out of Chad and into France) when they were detained. In my cynical mind, this raises the question about to what extent they may have been set up to be caught red-handed.

Moreover, the Chadian president (a lovely guy, who, judging from precedent, will sooner rather than later have the children in military fatigues and armed with AK-47s) has seized on the opportunity to exploit African prejudices and accuse the Europeans (both the French wannabe humanitarians and the hapless Spanish charter flight crew who landed in the middle of this mess) of bringing the children to pedophile networks and organ traffickers. Classy. I suspect that he noticed the mileage that Khadafi got from the Bulgarian nurses (among other things, a promise of a French nuclear reactor) and he also wants a piece of the action. And then there's the little matter that his own son, a convicted drug dealer, died in an apparent mob hit in France a few months back, and he probably wants some retribution...
posted by Skeptic at 5:10 PM on November 2, 2007

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