Saturday, January 16, 2010

David Brooks on Haiti's Flaws and Faults

Once again Mr. Brooks applies a veneer of well-readedness (in this instance, Lawrence Harrison's The Central Liberal Truth, along with a dollop of Samuel Huntington = Dr. Clash-of-civilizations)) to diagnose what he perceives to be the flaws that have brought the people of Haiti to their current state:
Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10.

. . . and prescribes a healthy dose of Americanism, involving an "intrusive paternalism" that will identify
 "self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures. . . , surrounding people . . . with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands."
Let's just turn 'em into Americans!  That'll fix everything.

To his credit, Brooks does note that Haiti has "endured ruthless dictators, corruption and foreign invasions."  But he hasn't the honesty to note (as ABC's 20/20 coverage did last night, much to its credit) that foreign invasion came at the hands of the USA, which controlled Haiti for a considerable time in the early 20th century, and that those "ruthless dictators" (such as the infamous Papa Doc Duvalier and his son and successor, Baby Doc) were thugs that we helped keep in power because they were willing to serve the interests of US corporations.  Meanwhile they enriched themselves and were content to let the people of Haiti languish in abject squalor.  No problem for the US though.

Brooks seems to have made his career by peddling a brand of kinder and gentler, or soft,  neo-conservatism (except when it's time to cheerlead for military action, as he has done for the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions): "We want to make you just like us, because we're oh-so-sure that it'll be good for you."  Would that the US had taken such a caring view of Haitians over the last century . . . and that Brooks and his ilk had the honesty to recognize that the US has been for Haiti - and so many others across the planet - a big part of the problem.

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