I have to start this piece by admitting that I don’t like Madonna; I never have. She’s always struck me as being supremely arrogant and the acquisition of vast amounts of money has, in my opinion, effectively reinforced her narcissism. Nobody says no to someone who can buy Africa in its entirety if she wants to. And sure enough, nobody did say no to her – ultimately – over the adoption of Mercy James.
Jacques Peretti’s documentary last night added more weight to that theory for me, and despite his protestations at points in the film that he didn’t know “what to think” regarding the controversy, I would argue that he had very clear views on it. I suspect that he, like me, believes that Madonna’s involvement in the country is tantamount to colonialism stemming from egocentricity and her adoption of African children is analogous to a form of exotic pet collecting, which in turn is no different in motivation than a philatelist’s desire to acquire stamps.
We heard within minutes of the show opening that it was in fact Guy Ritchie, Madonna’s former husband, who ‘arranged’ her first adoption in the country; that of David Banda. Jacques met with a man who was “investigating Madonna and her activities” and he told Peretti that when Guy and Madonna were to visit Malawi, the authorities arranged for them to “choose” a child from a line-up of 12 kids. Instead, Guy was said to have bumped into David and he immediately decided that Madonna would like him.
It made me feel a tad nauseous to hear that 12 children were “lined up” for Guy and Madonna to choose from. They may as well have been a litter of puppies or toys on a shelf.
However, we also heard that David wasn’t “Madonna’s first choice” on that visit. She actually wanted Mercy then but Mercy’s family wouldn’t relinquish their rights to her. Both David and Mercy have families in Malawi but the reason these children were in orphanages was because their mothers had died and their families couldn’t feed the infants.
We heard from Lucy, Mercy’s grandmother how she had originally planned for Mercy to return to the family when she was six years old, however, in Solomonic fashion, she and other family members eventually concluded that it was in Mercy’s best interests to have a life such as that which Madonna and her money could provide, so she agreed to let her go. The family denied that they were offered, or took, any money in exchange for Mercy.
Apropos of money, we heard also how Madonna’s throwing dosh at the country has of course done a great deal of good. Some $12 million of her own money has funded orphanages and many other projects, but there are caveats to her ‘generosity’; evidently, there really is no such thing as a free lunch and in this case, lunch consists of following the laws of Kabbalah.
Jacques cornered Kabbalah founder Philippe van den Bossche at the May court hearing regarding Mercy’s proposed adoption – Bossche also co-founded Madonna’s charity in Africa, Raising Malawi – and Peretti’s impromptu interview with this “elusive” man soon drew a crowd of eager journalists.
Bossche proved himself to be every inch the politician and didn’t answer even one of the journalists questions with a straight answer. He was asked to respond to claims that Raising Malawi had commandeered land without permission or purchase and he replied with a lengthy waffle about the problems of Africa. The entire interview went on in the same manner.
I think Peretti summed up the more sinister and worrying aspects of Madonna’s involvement with Malawi, and Kabbalah’s involvement also, when he speculated that perhaps Madonna sees herself as a “Messiah, a saviour” and I think that’s exactly how she sees herself. Both before this documentary and after it, my opinion of Madonna remains the same. By being a successful singer, she’s accumulated a great deal of money. By engaging herself with a country where poverty is rife and money means life or death, she’s buying herself a band of worshippers who will do and say whatever she tells them to. I believe she’s very much aware of having the power to give life or death via her money.
Money speaks louder than words and her money is shouting “Kabbalah!” and “Love me, praise me, do as I tell you” while the poverty stricken, often hungry and ill-educated Africans are left with little choice but to obey her narcissistic commands.
Will Mercy and David have a better life with her than they would if they remained in Africa? Well, that depends on what your priorities are. Is the privilege of money more important than their heritage and culture and even their blood relatives? Again, it depends on what your priorities are.
Ultimately it seems to me that Madonna’s money has facilitated a lot of good, but it comes with conditions and those conditions are feeding her bizarre obsessions and God complex – perhaps she’s buying into her own name way too much – and simultaneously feeding Mr van den Bossche’s bank account.
Surely, if she’d really had Mercy and David’s best interests at heart, she could’ve set their families up with a decent home and perhaps a livelihood, all of which would’ve meant the children could stay with their families but instead, she wanted them. Just as Paris Hilton wants Prada bags and fluffy little dogs that she can dress up.
In summing up the actual documentary, I would say that Peretti hedged his bets; he clearly wanted to turn up damning evidence of Kabbalah as a “loony religion” but he didn’t seem to want to rock the boat too much either. Perhaps he’s hoping for an exclusive with Madonna herself?