France, Russia, adoption, and humanitarian imperialism.

Many adoptees who have returned to their places of birth can identify I think with the reality of countries such as Lebanon, which boasts 7,000+ “non-governmental organizations”, which is one NGO for every 500 people who find themselves within this country’s current borders. We often joke here that the millions of dollars that these NGOs receive should just be divvied up equally among us, to spare us the political and (often) religious baggage that comes with such aid.

Jean Bricmont refers to this as one aspect of Humanitarian Imperialism [ link ], in which the former tools of imperialism, namely armies and colonies, are replaced by more insidious methods tied to economics and culture. In Noam Chomsky’s discussion of the subject, [ link ] we come across this interesting quote concerning Haiti, a country endlessly targeted and undone, perpetually deemed in need of “saving”:

In brief, Haiti falls into the familiar pattern, a particularly disgraceful illustration in light of the way that Haitians have been tortured, first by France and then by the United States, in part in punishment for having dared to be the first free country of free men in the hemisphere.

The reference made is to the slave rebellion of 1791, the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world. The focus on Haiti in terms of its so-called orphans during the recent earthquake brings me to a quote from the book entitled Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, by Dorothy Roberts [ link ], in which the foster care system is seen as unfairly targeting Black families for destruction, along lines that are not unfamiliar to us, in terms of the past history of adoption as used to target indigenous communities.

We come across this quote, in the section of the book entitled “A Theory of Group-Based Harm”:

Just as whites have made family disruption a tool of racial oppression, so Blacks have made family solidarity a tool of resistance. For slaves, the family was a site of solace from white oppression.

In this light, efforts to preserve family and to keep families intact is seen as a means of economic and political resistance against forces which understand very well the successful destruction that such familial breakup means for a society.

Cue the recent Russian ban on American adoption. I am intrigued by the mediation of this ban, for reasons that get back to what I’ve mentioned so far. First, the typical claim that we are “dumped” by an uncaring society is directly challenged when a country steps in and claims to act on behalf of such children. That this is not supported in foreign media is telling. Second, the rather unique case of Russian adoptees in terms of perceived race matching is interesting, if only because this is not much discussed in adoption mediation (I’ll tackle this in another post). Third, the strongest voices condemning the Russian action come from the European Union, especially France, which has seemingly equated adoption with a “universal human right”, as witnessed by Roelie Post’s documentation of the Romanian debacle [ link ], speaking of former Soviet republics targeted for their children.

Question: What hope for any kind of reform of adoption, when the supposedly progressive political voices see adoption as a given, and a human right at that? Given the bourgeois/cosmopolitan aspect of adopters (as well as the political left), and the often nether-class/rural origin of adoptees, how can there be no discussion of class difference in terms of the power differential inherent to adoption? Finally, how might it be possible, within our places of origin, to bring focus back to the local, the family, the community, as targeted by such “humanitarian imperialism”?

4 thoughts on “France, Russia, adoption, and humanitarian imperialism.

  1. In the movie falling Down, the character played by Michael Douglas asks, in all honesty, “Am I the bad guy? When did I become the bad guy?” In a similar way, the Anglo-Israeli axis has since gone past the tipping point of any justification for itself (not ignoring that they may never have been on the other side of the tipping point), and the United States has crossed over from being the friendly Giant it likes to fancy it is. David grew up to be Goliath, murdering Uriah simply to sleep with the man’s wife. And biblical authority touts David as a hero; YHVH barely condemned him.

    So, the answer is what Chavez is doing in Venezuela, or what Peru and Bolivia are doing. Tolstoy’s not-exactly-idealist argument in his book on nonviolence asked soldiers to recognize the truth of “thou shalt not kill” and simply refuse to fire a weapon. Voila, the end of war. Obviously globalizing capitalism will move away from Bhutan when the Bhutanese stop working in sweat-shops. One may say that the prospects of the Chinese workers “laying down their arms” (so to speak) is as pie-in-the-sky as Tolstoy’s argument, but that doesn’t make the argument wrong. Civil Rights in the United States, however problematic its ultimate consequences (like suffrage for women) began with the premise, “We can’t expect Power to mitigate itself.” the frothing rhetoric by four US politicians, and the strident assurance that Palestine will be denied a billion dollars in aid if they dare every approach the international criminal court to charge any member of the IDF, even when criminal acts have occurred, shows the risk involved. but that’s the bullet to be bit, it seems. Rape is a problem for women but of men, but events in India lately show that expecting men to moderate themselves is as pie-in-the-sky as soldiers laying down their arms. Was it the Bolivian government that declared some years ago, “We will no longer be the villains of history?” So the effort can rise to the “highest levels,” and the fruits of that are visible all over South America now (decidedly not in Colombia, of course). Is it a coincidence that the Vietnamese are the second-happiest people in the world (by one measure) and did not have the benefit of our largesse after we (failed to) “defeat” them?

    The kindness and generosity of some comes with too great a cost, as humanitarian imperialism (and imperialistic humanism) makes apparent.

  2. I think children are commodities in the US [link]. They actually call them “adoption incentive bonuses,” to promote the adoption of children.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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