No to Naked Carla: Cambodians Teach West a Lesson in Human Dignity

A nude photo of Carla Bruni, the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was sold at auction in New York last Thursday for 91,000 euros. The photographer had persuaded the seller, German collector Gert Elfering, to donate the money from the sale to charity. Elfering chose the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital Association in Cambodia. The head of the hospital, Swiss pediatrician and musician Beat Richner refused the money.

This article from Courier Mail summarizes his position (there is a discrepancy over whether the amount of 91,000 is in euros or dollars):

Swiss paediatrician Beat Richner, head of a children’s medical care group, said he had turned down an offer of $US91,000 raised at a New York auction last week of the 1993 picture of Italian ex-model Carla Bruni, now married to President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“My decision was taken out of respect for our patients and their mothers,” he said in an interview with Le Matin Dimanche.
“Accepting money obtained from exploitation of the female body would be perceived as an insult.”
In Cambodia “use of nudity is not understood in the way it is in the West”.
He did not wish his institution, the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital Association, “to be involved in the media exploitation of Madame Bruni”.
“The idea behind this gift was to get publicity for the auction and the photographer,” Dr Richner was also quoted as saying. “It was a way of using us.”

In addition to the above remarks, Le Salon Beige, whose readers praise the integrity of Dr. Richner, quotes him as saying:

“My refusal is not a criticism of this photo or of its model. [...] We are not in Hollywood. My decision was made out of respect for our patients and their mothers. They feel as secure in our hospitals as in a pagoda. Accepting money that comes from the exploitation of the female body would be perceived as an insult to their sensitivity and their poverty. At the same time, for Cambodians and their government, Madame Bruni is now seen as the First Lady of France. Our reputation would be stained by what they would perceive as disrespect should we accept money of this nature.”

French readers can read a long interview with the doctor at Le Matin.

Moral integrity?

Well, yes it could be said that the doctor makes a stand for the integrity of the female body. But to me, his statements also read as a sound and very, perhaps predominantly, pragmatic way to pay respect to the sensitivities of the community he wishes to serve as a doctor.


He explains:

"..My refusal is not a criticism of this photo or of its model. [...] We are not in Hollywood.."

So it could very well be that had he been working near Hollywood, he might have accepted the exploits of the photo, so as not to go against local sensitivities..


Cambodia lesson # 2

@ KA

1) Indeed, the doctor was making a normative statement, but whether it was "at the expense" of the charity is a more debatable proposition.  In a superficial sense, it certainly meant foregoing some money, but in a more 'holistic' sense much could be gained (in this context of medical care for HIV patients) by making a moral statement.   We have been over this before in the context of 'education'. Like other moral relativists, you seem to buy into this notion that more money means "better" (education, or health care, or whatever...).  Let me assure you, it does not, and there is ample empirical evidence of that (especially as regards to education).  I am in no position to judge the importance of this specific money to the good doctor  (or in economic parlance, I cannot judge its 'opportunity cost').  Her action speaks volumes though.

2) --"Patronage" is not "archaic", and remains as relevant today.

-- "Colonialism and segregation", like everything else, need to be judged honestly in a proper context of time and place.  They are (or were) certainly not unequivocally 'bad' or negative, and had also many positive aspects.  But, times and circumstances change, and attitudes towards such 'institutions' must also change.  The fact that you present them here as examples of pure evil, illustrates for the umpteenth time a victory of naive-left ideological thinking.

-- As to "ethnic cleansing", it is very doubtful that that was considered a "good thing" by a majority of westerners a 100 years ago.  And quoting a former British Army colonel is not much of supporting evidence.

3)  You are making a mockery of Frau Richner's position. She couldn't care less about "immoral funds" reaching Cambodians. Indeed, I bet that - unlike you - she knows that "funds" are neither moral nor immoral.  She wanted to make a moral statement, knowing full well that such statements are never 'free'.  Not in the world in which we live.

4) Yes, I see your point, and yes there is a moral argument for the free market (but it is a complicated one that runs via concepts of human freedom).  But, the "free market" has no "social side".  Morality is not limited to the free market, just like human behavior is not limited to 'economic' behavior. As I said, making a moral statement is not 'free', and may carry an economic cost in terms of foregone money.  But, I suspect that the motivation in this case was not primarily an economic one, although such a motivation (in a longer term sense) is not entirely to be precluded.

5) Yes self-respect is subjective, and it should certainly not be confused with the modern scourge of the use of that term in modern pedagogy and educational psychology.  I have tried to link it to the furtherance of necessary cultural "values" and "institutions".  It is those on which sustainable development depends (and that remain necessary to prevent 'developed' societies from falling back, as well).  "Money" is not what will provide food etc...and that will prevent disease etc...either.  Zimbabwe is awash in money today!  It is the institutions and values that ultimately matter.  Tell Armor again, it is all about 'culture', not looks nor money!


Moral Nullity

So you see, "some" Cambodians sell their kids for $100 therefore nobody in Cambodia can take a moral stand, especially a charitable organization.

I guess those American Universities that take millions in donations from the Saudi government are only doing what they have to. There's no fear of their curriculum being tainted with militant Islamic doctrine or anything.


Don't blame Islam for this one. This falls squarely on the shoulders of atheistic moral relativism.

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” – Thomas Paine

RE: Cambodian "Lesson"

1. The doctor is making a normative statement at the expense of the charity to which he has been entrusted, which is inexcusable, at least according to the applicable corporate governance sections of British Common Law.


2. Patronage of cultural production is an archaic Western value, and one far older than human rights. Indeed, were the artists of prior centuries to have applied such moral standards to their patrons, scarcely a portrait would exist today. Prior to 100 years ago, the majority of Westerners would have agreed with colonialism, segregation and that ethnic cleansing was "a good thing" (the words of a former British Army colonel).


3. Dr. Richner was not offered the portrait to sell; rather he was given the proceeds. Surely through creative accounting he could have applied it entirely to administrative or international costs and thereby prevented the immoral funds from actually reaching the Cambodian people ;) Morevoer, the funds did not come with strings attached.


4. Given that there is a moral case for capitalism, how can moralism triumph over it? Is capitalism then immoral? In any event, my point was that capitalism affords one the choice to participate or refuse to participate in the marketplace at one's own discretion. As charity represents the social side of the free market, Dr. Richler made a choice: thus, capitalism at work.


5. Self-respect has and will always be subjective. However, Cambodian children cannot eat, breathe or drink self-respect, let alone use it to combat injury and disease.


It is not every day that one sees Hauptmann Andre and Rob the Ugly American on the same side.  But apparently Frau Beat Richner has managed that feat.

The Kapitein has it backwards.  This is not an example of "capitalism at work".  This is an example of moralism trumping capitalism.  And Rob the ugly.....comes across here as pretty... well....ugly.  I bet that he had a different take when Giuliani refused that Saudi Prince's money at Ground Zero, a couple of years ago. 

So, I am with Atheling on this one (not on proper interpretation of the Second Amendment).  Self-respect is much more important than money.  Certainly from a group- or a societal perspective, although not always in extreme situations from an individual perspective.  From an economic perspective, there is massive evidence that widespread societal or group poverty reflects the absence of proper self-respect, i.e. insufficient adherence to necessary cultural values, which explains the absence of those politicial and economic institutions that allow 'groups' to escape widespread poverty.  And yes, genuinely 'free' markets are an important example of such "institutions".

re: Cambodians sell their little girls into sexual slavery

Then all the more reason to refuse the money.  This doctor is teaching "archaic" western values of human dignity and rights, especially those of women.  100 years ago the average westerner would have agreed with the doctor's decision.

From the comments below, it's apparent that much has changed.


"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” – Thomas Paine

Capitalism at Work

If charities want to avoid receiving monies from unsavory sources, then they should expect shrinking budgets. At least free markets offer the choice to be irrational.

I hope

I hope this man's primitive virtue keeps his patients warm at night and pays for the vaccinations and medicine of those wretched children "and their mothers."  The only party being exploited is the fool who payed $91,000 for a picture of Bruni.  What is the point of reporting this claptrap, that we should join Islamists in destroying all art work of the human figure? 

@Bosch Ferretti

I'm with you on this one.

Defend Christendom. Defend Jewry. Oppose socialism in Europe.