Brook’s piece essentially argues that it is Haiti’s own fault that it is a desperately poor and violent society (he begrudgingly acknowledges the countries horrific legacy of colonialism and slavery), but says it is more down it suffering from “a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences”. Brooks then argues that to solve Haiti’s problems, we must take a ‘paternal’ approach and implement programs that make them aspire to be middle class Americans:
It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No
Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people —
maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class
assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands
Where an upper middle class intellectual from one of the richest cities on the planet gets the balls to lecture a country subjected to unimaginable murder, terror and threat on ‘aspirations’ truly is an astonishing feat. Writes Taibbi:
A friend of mine sent a link to Sunday’s David Brooks column on Haiti, a genuinely beautiful piece of occasional literature. Not many writers
would have the courage to use a tragic event like a 50,000-fatality
earthquake to volubly address the problem of nonwhite laziness and why
it sometimes makes natural disasters seem timely, but then again, David
Brooks isn’t just any writer.
Brooks piece is so ridiculous, it doesn’t really warrant refutation. Brooks isn’t an idiot, but sometimes you really have to wonder. In the following paragraph, he shows some critical thinking, but his conclusion is so warped, it’s hard to see why he is so respected as a columnist:
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.
Brooks is forgetting one slightly inconvenient fact. China followed a strategy of massive protectionism and centrally planned development. Haiti, on the other hand, was forced to adopt free market capitalism by the US. Yes, Haiti received aid, and China didn’t, but the results are fairly clear. In fact, you can apply the same test everywhere else. Take Japan and Nicaragua for example. Nicaragua was subjected to years of colonialism and more recently, neo liberal reform via American style capitalism. Japan, on the other hand, developed its economy by itself, and used massive central planning and protectionism with its industries. One is a backward peasant society, the other is an economic power house.
Anyone see a pattern here?
Not Brooks apparently. Rather than accept the blindingly obvious fact that Western exploitation (colonialism and now neo liberalism) is bad for a country, he concludes that extreme poverty is more to do with its ‘progress-resistant cultural influences’. It’s an argument of convenience and absolves people like him from complicity in the United States horrific legacy of exploitation around the world.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.