So now that we have the domestic drama of “Kennedy’s seat” being lost and the Democratic Party proving that it’s brazenly incompetent and disastrously out of touch, the earthquake in Haiti can be moved below the fold. But before one of Bill Clinton’s friends gets a big wad of “aid” money to build new sweatshops in Haiti, there are a few things we should talk about.
Not only were we treated to the historically inaccurate (and frankly bat-shit insane) sweet nothings that Pat Robertson’s Warrior Jesus whispers in his ear. We’ve also had the good, Dr. Wesley Stafford – CEO and President of an organization called Compassion International – agree with Pat’s thesis. Theoretically, Dr. Stafford knows of what he speaks; his organization is very active in Haiti. It pairs tens of thousands of Haitian children with direct sponsors in the U.S. and is active throughout the nation.* On a recent Focus on the Family appearance, Dr. Stafford said, “Haiti … has been a disaster in almost every way long before this ever struck. And it is a nation, between you and me, I guess, that Satan has had absolutely free reign in that nation…”
Count me convinced, and we’ll get to David Brooks a little later on.
Indeed, Satan has had free reign in that nation. Some might go so far as to say that the Great Satan had free reign in Haiti. It has been a disaster since long before the earthquake struck. Of course, we weren’t getting live feeds of a nation that’s been kicked around since its citizens stood up for themselves and threw off the yoke of chattel slavery. Never mind that they were forced to pay for themselves, with interest until the mid-twentieth century. It was a relatively short U.S. occupation. The coups and support for military dictators who stole from the people and the coups, those were all acts of compassion. Maybe i missed the massive fund drives for the Haitian farmers dispossessed by Clinton’s simultaneous subsidizing of American rice growers and forcing Haiti to open its market. Those people ended up crowded into Port-au-Prince looking for sweatshop work, and they’re now buried under the rubble left from all these years of Satanic presence in their nation.
But if you’re David Brooks** you understand the big picture.
This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services. On Thursday, President Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.
The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not.
Of course he misses the point, that’s what he gets paid to do. The countries that have fared so poorly despite massive amounts of aid to “reduce poverty” are different from the development success stories in that the success stories have not subscribed to neo-liberal “development” schemes. Haiti said “yes” to “free trade”, got sweat shops and lost its agricultural production. China chose mercantilism and now holds knee-capping power over David Brooks’ American Dream.
Neo-liberal, Satan…what’s the difference? No seriously, what’s the difference? And that’s my point: there isn’t a difference. And when we’re not all crowing about our own generosity and feeling pity for those poor fucks ravaged by a natural disaster, we look the other way and let Satan do his thing. He already has a plan for rebuilding Haiti. It will start with deploying Marines trained in Afghan language and culture, move to more sweatshops and end with balloon interest payments that will force whatever puppet we like best to further cut miserly investments in social safety nets, infrastructure and all the other stuff David Brooks blames on Haitians being black and lazy. Pat will simply continue in his dangerously silly fantasies. And Satan will still be evil.
*Yeah, i’m hoping that this ends with a missionary – aid organization space race and the Haitians get to live somewhere cool in the end too, Marklar, but i think we’ll be disappointed.
**I didn’t link to Brooks’ piece, i linked to Taibbi tearing him apart and suggesting that his penis is no more than four and a third inches long.
Props to Neil Fallon for the title: “What comes around goes around three-fold or more. Now you can’t get off of that killing floor.”