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Jan. 18 2010 - 9:13 am | 185,704 views | 18 recommendations | 379 comments

Translating David Brooks

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.
Rather than go through the Brooks piece line by line, I figured I’d just excerpt a few bits here and there and provide the Cliff’s Notes translation at the end. It’s really sort of a masterpiece of cultural signaling — if you live anywhere between 59th st and about 105th, you can hear the between-the-lines messages with dog-whistle clarity.  Some examples:

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.
In the recent anthology “What Works in Development?,” a group of economists try to sort out what we’ve learned. The picture is grim. There are no policy levers that consistently correlate to increased growth. There is nearly zero correlation between how a developing economy does one decade and how it does the next. There is no consistently proven way to reduce corruption. Even improving governing institutions doesn’t seem to produce the expected results.
The chastened tone of these essays is captured by the economist Abhijit Banerjee: “It is not clear to us that the best way to get growth is to do growth policy of any form. Perhaps making growth happen is ultimately beyond our control.”

TRANSLATION: Don’t bother giving any money, it doesn’t do any good. And feeling guilty about not giving money doesn’t do anyone any good either. In fact, you’re probably helping by not doing anything.

The second hard truth is that micro-aid is vital but insufficient. Given the failures of macrodevelopment, aid organizations often focus on microprojects. More than 10,000 organizations perform missions of this sort in Haiti. By some estimates, Haiti has more nongovernmental organizations per capita than any other place on earth. They are doing the Lord’s work, especially these days, but even a blizzard of these efforts does not seem to add up to comprehensive change.

TRANSLATION: I, David Brooks, am doing my Christian best right here at home. Look, I even used a capital “L” in the word “Lord.” And I wrote that thing about Obama’s Christian Realism a few weeks ago. So I‘m doing my part. Of course I’d volunteer to help, but intellectually I just don’t think volunteering really helps. I mean, there are studies and everything.

Third, it is time to put the thorny issue of culture at the center of efforts to tackle global poverty. Why is Haiti so poor? Well, it has a history of oppression, slavery and colonialism. But so does Barbados, and Barbados is doing pretty well. Haiti has endured ruthless dictators, corruption and foreign invasions. But so has the Dominican Republic, and the D.R. is in much better shape. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island and the same basic environment, yet the border between the two societies offers one of the starkest contrasts on earth — with trees and progress on one side, and deforestation and poverty and early death on the other.
As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” 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.
We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.

TRANSLATION: Although it is true that Haiti was just like five minutes ago a victim of a random earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people, I’m going to skip right past the fake mourning period and point out that Haitians are a bunch of lazy niggers who can’t keep their dongs in their pants and probably wouldn’t be pancaked under fifty tons of rubble if they had spent a little more time over the years listening to the clarion call of white progress, and learning to use a freaking T-square, instead of singing and dancing and dabbling in not-entirely-Christian religions and making babies all the fucking time. I know I’m supposed to respect other cultures and keep my mouth shut about this stuff, but my penis is only four and a third inches long when fully engorged and so I’m kind of at the end of my patience just generally, especially when it comes to “progress-resistant” cultures.

Fourth, it’s time to promote locally led paternalism. In this country, we first tried to tackle poverty by throwing money at it, just as we did abroad. Then we tried microcommunity efforts, just as we did abroad. But the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism.
These programs, like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the No Excuses schools, are led by people who figure they don’t understand all the factors that have contributed to poverty, but they don’t care. They are going to replace parts of the local culture with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement — involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance.
It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. 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.
The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington used to acknowledge that cultural change is hard, but cultures do change after major traumas. This earthquake is certainly a trauma. The only question is whether the outside world continues with the same old, same old.

TRANSLATION: The best thing we can do for the Haitians is let them deal with the earthquake all by themselves and wallow in their own filth and shitty engineering so they can come face to face with how achievement-oriented and middle-class they aren’t. Then when it’s all over we can come in and institute a program making the survivors earn the right to keep their kids by opening their own Checkers’ franchises and completing Associate’s Degrees in marketing at the online University of Phoenix. Maybe then they’ll learn the No Excuses attitude real life demands, so the next time something like this happens they won’t be pulling this “woe is us” act and bawling their fucking eyes out on CNN while begging for fresh water and band-aids and other handouts. Maybe that will happen, or maybe we’ll just keep sending money, fools that we are, so that they can keep making more of those illiterate ambitionless babies we’ll have to pull out of the next disaster wreckage.

p.s. Did I miss anything? Because I think that’s pretty much it. One would have thought a column on the Haitian’s lack of an achievement culture could maybe wait until after the bodies were cold, but… hey, who am I to judge?

p.p.s. I’ve got to put this comment up on the main piece, since so many people seem to have missed my point.

Again, unlike Brooks, I actually lived in the Third World for ten years and I admit it — I’m not exactly in the habit of sending checks to Abkhazian refugees, mainly because I’m not interested in buying some local Russian gangster a new Suzuki Samurai to tool around Sochi in. And I’ve actually seen what happens to the money people think they’re giving to Russian orphanages goes, so no dice there, either.

But you know what? Next time there’s an earthquake in Russia or Georgia, I’m probably going to wait at least until they’re finished pulling the bodies of dead children out of the rubble before I start writing articles blasting a foreign people for being corrupt, lazy drunks with an unsatisfactorily pervasive achievement culture whose child-rearing responsibilities might have to be yanked from them by with-it Whitey for their own good.

An earthquake is nobody’s fault. There’s nothing to do after a deadly earthquake but express remorse and feel sorry. It’s certainly not the time to scoff at all the victim country’s bastard children and put it out there on the Times editorial page that if these goddamned peasants don’t get their act together after a disaster this big, it might just be necessary to start swinging the big stick of Paternalism at them.

I mean, shit, that’s what Brooks is doing here — that last part of the piece is basically a threat, he’s saying that Haiti might have to be FORCED to adopt “middle-class assumptions” and an “achievement ethos” because they’re clearly incapable of Americanizing themselves at a high enough rate of speed to please Brooks. That’s this guy’s immediate reaction to 50,000 people crushed to death in an earthquake. Metaphorically speaking, he’s standing over the rubble and telling the people trapped under there that they need more of a “No Excuses” culture, which is insane on many different levels.

Brooks’s implication that the Haitians wouldn’t have died in such great numbers had they been Americans is the kind of thing that is going to come back to bite us the next time we have a nuclear accident or a hurricane disaster or a 9/11 and we’re looking to the rest of the world for sympathy and understanding. The notion that these deaths aren’t an accident but someone’s fault, among other things someone’s fault because they practice an unhelpful sort of religion, is beyond offensive.

p.p.p.s And yes, Brooks is Jewish. So let’s say he’s doing his Judeo-Christian best. Again, this guy is saying that Haitians got killed in an earthquake because their religion makes them planning-averse. Are we really to believe that Haitians don’t live in earthquake-proof homes because of their religious beliefs? We have millions of Americans who literally believe the rapture is imminent — would Brooks expect them to blow off flood insurance?


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    Now, this begs the question: is this genetic? All this moral superiority, self-righteousness and plain meanness of these conservatives, is it just embedded in their DNA? Can’t they just help being like this? How could this guy and Pat Robertson come to the exact same conclusions, so completely out of line with any capacity for empathy. This is beyond religion or culture here, they have to come up wired this way to be this twisted. Shall we just understand they can’t help being who they are? They wouldn’t afford gays the same luxury, for example, but in fighting them, we just can’t win. I just can’t understand their humanity any other way.

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    This article was right-on, except that I would go further. The right-wing really are just saying that what can we expect from poor blacks…its really a racial prejudice completely ingrained into their subconscious. They can’t even see or admit to it. General Honore, who was assigned to organize the relief effort militarily in Katrina, said on CNN two days ago “why are people so scared of poor people?” He really wanted to say why were they so scared of poor BLACK people….

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    Matt’s reference to the size of Brooks’ penis is in direct correlation with Brooks’ desire for more paternalism.

    Brooks’ article is veiled (insert many bad isms here) covered with cotton candy fluff book quotes and many confidently stated vague generalizations. That’s why we read the New York Times.

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    Hey Matt…I know you think your all liberal and all down with the brothers and stuff. But you have no right to use the N word to make a point on how racist David Brooks is. I know, I know, YOU were speaking in HIS voice.

    True story…your gratuitous and gleeful use of the N word in your column to make a point about someone else, is rhetorical bullsh*t. You used it for the ’shock’ factor. And guess what? It worked. It was offensive and uncalled for, and in truth offended me, as a middle-aged African-American woman who grew up hearing that word used in anger against us. Words have power, but you already know that.

    What you typed was just as offensive as the stupid racial comments that David Brooks wrote in his column. You felt you had to type it in to make a point, so now, its yours, own it and the shame that goes with it. You should know better.

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    Late to the party and no time to read through all the comments, but did you mean to identify Brooks as a Christian or simply imply he was writing as if he is a Christian?
    “As an American Jew, I was taught to go all gooey-eyed at the thought of Israel, but I have to confess, I find the place by turns exhausting, admirable, annoying, impressive and foreign…”

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    Children are the poor’s riches.

    There is no medicare nor social security in Haiti (which is fine as average life expectancy is only about 52 anyway, pre-quake) so children support their family–but not on the family farm–as Haiti can’t even grow its own food.

    The IMF took away their tariffs for import in 2000, forbid the Haitian government to subsidize farming and the cheap imports piled in, and farms went to waste–and the subsistence farmers who kept trying to eke out some dinner were buried under four hurricanes and the gov’t can’t rescue them because they can’t subsidize farming. But then the imports doubled in price two years ago, and continued to climb. It’s the fourth largest market for US subsidized rice (where both tariffs and subsidies operate without question).

    The Dominican Republic only works better because of foreign resorts and because Haiti is DR’s bitch. Slavery is rampant and kidnapping is the most lucrative biz. Forget the BS of an “achievement ethos” it’s a virtue in Haiti to even survive.

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    Don’t be such a reductionist. Brooks is just pointing out how problematic the super-structures are. And how giving money is the quick way of feeling altruistic without taking time to “understand” the social-historical-political contexts. Which is sooo American: bathe the patient with medicine without caring much about the root of the symptom.

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    The fact that it’s a damn *earthquake* makes all his arguments, horrible as they are, moot. The earth itself shook! Buildings fell down! How did he want the Haitians to prepare for that exactly, by studying hard in school and respecting their elders?

    I seem to recall this happening in developed countries too and guess what, lots of people died and all the services and utilities, travel and transportation were disrupted. When it happened in San Francisco or Kobe, Japan, the rest of the country came to the aid of the affected part. Haiti’s a small island which had a big earthquake. There is no rest of the country.

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    Brooks should do some fact checking with the CIA

    “Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3%
    note: roughly half of the population practices voodoo”


    I guess that heathen culture can be directly correlated to the fact that 80% of the population was exposed to Catholic priests.

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    Unfortunately Brooks speaks for and to a segment of the society that believes poverty is punitive whether it be abroad or at home. The right has spent decades crafting the message for the middle class that social justice is antithetical to freedom. The deification of Ayn Rand is just one example. Brooks points to the failure of foreign aid without mentioning how much of this aid is given to corrupt governments and “christian” relief organization to “manage”. The goal has always been to further the narrative that governments are inept and that true development can only be achieved by the private sector. In Latin America this has taken the form of privatization of previously public telecommunications and power generation. Foreign ownership of agricultural production, to achieve efficiency, and foreign ownership of the means of production. Brooks is just one of many pundits who is a mouthpiece of the free traders. Watch in the weeks to come as we seek to improve Haitian infrastructure. It will be done by privatizing power, telecom, and transportation. The sick part is that the US media will herald this as progress for Haiti.

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    I can see Our Ms. Brooks red-faced in the mirror- knotting his new Rep tie, ‘It’s 5 1/4 inches, terrorist-frenching-commie!

    Conservatives give me whiplash. GOP administrations have deposed duly elected leaders for decades in favor of their puppet dictators that clean out the kitty and oppress the people. It’s only those that fail to give them some dictator-love that are evildoing enterprise-quashers that boil babies in the basement and must go.

    Are our white folks that followed the play-book yet had their jobs/homes/savings emptied by derivative addled bankers–also ingrate loafers as evidenced by standing on food and unemployment lines. Does aid really help there?

    David Brooks perfumes the Rush L script but it still reeks of mass graves in the heat.

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    I am not hearing the root cause of Haiti’s longstanding poverty; the blackmail from the French for their independence, and the culpables who financed those loans to pay this outrageous sum off. Like the good people they are, Haitians have suffered for all these years trying to pay this unjust evil at the expense of their quality of life, and been considered “worthless” for it. Just more blame the victim. Oh, and they have been so lucky with choice of leaders.

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    If they start opening Checkers in Haiti, I would definitely consider visiting. So long as they stop making pacts with the devil.

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    David Brooks is in the same league as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, and Pat Robertson: Asshole Douche Bags that are quick to blame victims while conveniently forgetting of the history that led to the demise in this case Haiti.
    A friend of mine posted an article about the truth of Haiti that NO MAJOR media outlet has ever said. This shocked me.


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    Yikes! I’m not sure that telling people to simply read your cliff notes version is the wisest thing. It comes off a bit harsh. I don’t like being put in the position of defending folks I don’t agree with, but that’s where I find myself now. It seems there are rational reasons to disagree with the guy without putting words in his mouth or making comments about the size of his junk. A lot of what he said seems very reasonable to me, even if I didn’t agree with all of it. What better time to bring up our shortcomings in offering international assistance, than at a time when we are offering international assistance? You think it would be better to have the discussion when no one is paying attention? Maybe it would be a good idea to spend less time daydreaming about Mr. Brooks’ member, and spend more time coming up with a better rationale for Haiti’s current situation, and better ways to help. Pardon me, if I missed the point of your article. I stumbled on it because I thought it had something to do with the crisis of a nation, not a juvenile attack on a columnist.

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    I’ve heard that BS comment about how the volume of dollars doesn’t help with places like Haiti while not even looking at where the dollars even went before proclaiming that money doesn’t solve problems. It’s not about the money but what you do with the money. If there’s an abundance of money for help in Haiti and Haiti isn’t getting better you don’t pull the money out, you change what you’re spending the money on.

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    When a person is “too white”, they lack any distinguishable facial features. David Brooks has that soft blob-like appearance necessary for “too white”. His writing also has that Cliffs Notes studying vibe.

    Brooks needs to do his homework.

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    Wow Matt, that was pretty hard-hitting. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor a few times.

    One question: Is it really as race related as you imply? He did compare Haiti to DR and Barbados. Of course the article did have a tone of “what shall us white men do about the primitives” but do you really think he was calling out blacks in general?

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    Haiti’s main problem is that it’s being pimped by the US-led IMF and World Bank, much like Jamaica and so many other poor nations. Matt, if you haven’t seen the documentary “Life and Debt”, I strongly recommend it. If America really wanted to help the Third World, it wouldn’t be sabotaging its agriculture, it wouldn’t let the IMF and World Bank offer highly leveraged loans, and it wouldn’t be forcing privatization and creating “Free trade zones” for slave labor.

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    David Brooks criticizes the native beliefs of the Haitians, saying, “There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile.” Frankly, it would seem Voodoo has provided an intelligible framework for Haitian life; I wonder how a Judeo-Christian explanation would further the point. Would Haitians better understand these calamities as acts of vengeance hurled down by a wrathful God of Judgment? If so, please pass the pins.

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    Unlike others here, I think your comments are completely off-base. First of all, nobody was unaware that Haiti had severe poverty problems before the earthquake. Lots of places do. Brooks is writing about Haiti for the same reason you are: because they’re in the news.

    Now, instead of “translating” Brooks’ words into the most strained version of racism you can manage, you could instead debate whether he was right or wrong. Either he’s right or he’s not… it cannot be the case that Brooks’ arguments were valid a month ago but not today, and nothing he actually wrote was particularly insensitive.

    Far from excerpting a “few bits here and there”, the only part of his column you left out was the first paragraph. Notably, this sets up the whole article: the Bay Area had a 7.0 earthquake in 1989 and 63 people died; Port-au-Prince had one 21 years later and 45-50k people died.

    It’s not Brooks’ fault if the Bay Area had a higher concentration of white people than Haiti has. In fact, Brooks said nothing about ethnicity at all, no matter how much you cry out about “signaling”. Everything he pointed out about the history of Haiti is demonstrably true, and he contrasted their predicament with those of similar countries, which are also not predominantly white.

    Where Brooks run into trouble, and where a more considered analysis of his piece would have focused, is when he starts speculating as to the cultural maladies that keep Haiti in poverty. Brooks is ultimately contradicting himself here, for, if the causes are too complex to worry about knowing (an assumption he attributes to the Harlem Children Zone), then why bother speculating on them, and on a topic that is so open to subjective interpretation? I also could have done without the reference to the “Lord’s work”, although this could also be read somewhat sarcastically.

    Despite this weakness, Brooks’ point is basically correct: charity is ever a short-term solution to help the desperate survive (and I would say it’s justified for that reason alone), but it rarely lifts a society out of poverty.

    Nowhere does Brooks suggest readers never do anything (much less do nothing now), but in fact he argues we should find more effective means of encouraging long-term growth, in light of the fact that our current strategies do little to provide this.

    I know that vitriolic, gut reactions are your bread and butter ever since Rolling Stone decided it was an economics magazine, but your criticism here is unwarranted and slanderous. You’ve talked your way right out of any meaningful discussion on the topic.

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    Here is something I have long not understood. Most of us are struggling day in and day out to make ends meet. Then, every so often a natural disaster like this one comes along and we’re expected to reach deep into our pockets and shell out all that we can, and donate it to some Charity that will then (hopefully) use the funds to purchase goods (like food, water, medicine, clothing) from some large corporation. Why is it that a few of these large corporations, like Wal-Mart for example, don’t just donate like $100M worth of stuff? And some pharmaceutical companies do the same, etc, right on down the line. Then, people like the entire Walton clan (whom own WalMart) would have a write-off on their billion dollar profits (each one of the Walton’s is worth tens of Billions of dollars, surely they can afford to give away a hundred million of stuff that they probably only paid $20M for to begin with).
    But instead we are expected to donate all that we can to some organization that has people at the top end making huge salaries and has huge overhead such that most likely only about ten cents of our dollar actually gets to the needy.

    Hey Matt, why don’t you write a column on that?

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    David Brooks is just a “PC” version of Rush Limbaugh anyway. Moreover, what about the Dominican Republic? The US gives aid to them too, but they are better off compared to Haiti (The biggest economy in the Caribbean) and they are on the same island as Haiti. While Brooks is correct about the corruption in Haiti, there’s little evidence that simply denying aid to Haiti would push their government into getting their act together.

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    I hate Brooks. But these are unjust accusations. Never once did he inject race. In fact by comparing Haiti to Barbados, he pretty much made your accusations of racism seem beyond ridiculous. And I see no mention of Christianity or anything like that. He simply pointed out how some Voodoo superstitions, among other things, have had a negative impact. I also didn’t see any pro-West “White Man’s Burden” cultural relativism you so earnestly accused him of. I didn’t realize shoddy, dangerous construction practices was a central cultural component that should be respected by outsiders. And finally, I don’t seem him saying that people shouldn’t give aid. All I saw was a look at the big picture and questioning if there’s a better way to do things.

    So that is four radical accusations against him that were unjust. On top of that, Brooks says in the article that colonialism is to blame for their problems.

    And as for timing. When should he discuss this? AFTER people stop caring about Haiti?

    But hey, you got 18k views right. Between this and the “Obama stabbed us in the back” article in Rolling Stone, you’re really racking up the points there with your yellow journalism. I hope you are proud of yourself.

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    Mike is simply saying we have a hardwired moral code to act when people are suffering. If appears David has tinkered with his.

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    @seanocali: You got it right, Matt got it wrong. David Brooks has often avowed that he is Jewish and doesn’t accept Christ in any way shape or form. Yet Matt accuses him of being some benighted Christian bible thumper. That level of perception informs Matt’s entire screed. What Matt is doing here is called “projection.”

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    Thanks, Matt. I have updated my blog post reference to Brooks. I can’t say if I’m more ashamed or relieved to have momentarily thought he was anything other than dreck.

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    So basically, Matt, your claim is that David Brooks’ timing is insensitive. That may be true, though I think that you respond to him in an unfair way. But he has a point nonetheless, which you didn’t do such a great job of addressing. And for better or for worse, in this age of South Park and late night jokes, political correctness and sensitivity are less and less meaningful.

    Since the tradgedy, many people have been lamenting “Why weren’t we there for Haiti BEFORE the quake?!” Well, according to the facts presented by Brooks, we were. Haiti has received loads of foreign aid over the years. But mainly due to corruption and mismanagement by governments elected by the Haitian people, much of the money has been squandered.

    I think David Brooks wrote a great column, and as an editor I would’ve published it as is, word for word… perhaps a week or two later.

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    I did not interpret his column like that at all…dog-whistle clarity, what?

    I did think he was denying post-earthquake help is needed or to convince people not to help (in fact your juicy, insult-rich column may have perhaps got some people thinking that way!)
    He is a thinker, columnist, has an opinion and is expressing it. The widespread coverage of Haiti on TV is much-needed and is opens our eyes to the inequalities, tragedies and inspires us to help. But also, the way CNN is headlining Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta as heroes and saviors is getting annoying. Just because a journalist isn’t out there in the field does mean I am not going to listen to his views.

    Brooks is just pointing out the developmental failure in Haiti, which is universally agreed on. The earthquake is a tragedy, severely compounded by the country’s poverty. When so many lives are lost and many could have been prevented if the country had better infrastructure, governance and essentially higher GDP per capita…why wouldn’t you ask economic questions?

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    His penis may be only four and a third inches long, but you can bet it’s circumcised, because Brooks is Jewish, if I am not mistaken, so you might want to stop calling him a Christian.

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    So Mr Taibbi — presumed penis length is what passes for discourse in your universe? Do you get the part where doing that undermines your argument?

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    Brooks: “…it’s time to promote locally led paternalism.”

    Great idea. Perhaps they could find a Doc called Duvalier to be their paternalistic Papa.

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    I actually enjoyed Matt’s translations over the original piece. It cut through the bull crap.

    I am as dismayed as anyone over the misery and suffering in Haiti…. but the simple truth is that I expect this event to end the Obama presidency…

    Americans were willing to overcome ‘race’ to prove to themselves how ‘enlightened’ they had become on the subject.

    Haitian refugees will scare the bejesus out of the moderates and they will flee to the RIGHT… because, we just don’t want anymore Haitians in America… or Hondurans, Indonesians … or any others for that matter.

    The airlifts into Florida have my relatives apoplectic. Fix Haiti and Haitians… do NOT bring them here.

    Remember the lesson of the Hmong in Minnesota and Michigan. What a disaster for the good people of the north. [see Gran Torino for a taste of the gang activity in Detroit]

    RULE OF THE 21st Century — if any culture has not learned to crap other than where they drink or eat – they are worthy of extinction.

    There is no better time to say it… now before we bring them here to do the same in our back yard.

    sorry…. this independent is tracking RIGHT as I type.

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      I just find it bizarre that a nation with 20% real-life unemployment, and where 1 in 9 families are forced to feed themselves with the assistance of the Food Stamp Program, wouldn’t address the uncontrollable influx of immigrants.

      Ohhh, yaaa.. nothing like a fresh crop of suckers to wave a plastic flag made in China around content to witness the demise of the already unsatisfactory status quo.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Along side the thought that Mr. Brooks’ insensitive timing may be the result of operating from within America’s Vaseline coated bubble .. I’m thinking I may have caught a whiff of something rancid coming from his remark – “.. the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism.”

    Perhaps it’s just my impatient pile of laundry in the next room, but it smells an awful lot like suits lined up with Martini stained contracts in one hand and a stiffy in the other as they gyrate to the sound of desperation and suck in the intoxicating fumes of disaster.

    After all, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as good ole raping and pillaging — corporate style.

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    David Brooks wants his readers to think he is a practical advocate for what “works.”
    So much for Brooks’s fine example of Dominican Republic compared to Haiti….
    It seems like Brooks is belting out the ole, “better dead than red” argument, one mo’ time!
    CIA factbook data on infant mortality, 5 country comparison.:

    Infant mortality rate:
    total: 3.33 deaths/1,000 live births
    total: 5.82 deaths/1,000 live births
    United States
    total: 6.26 deaths/1,000 live births
    Dominican Republic
    total: 25.96 deaths/1,000 live births
    total: 59.69 deaths/1,000 live births

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    “Did I miss anything?”

    Yes, the point of the column. David Brooks was only stating the obvious: Haiti has always been a basket case. I thought it should have become a ward of the United Nations a long time ago because it’s always been ruled by kleptocrats who have used the population to enrich themselves.

    A stable government (from the outside) is needed to educate the people and redevelop the country. Left to it’s own devises Haiti will never stabilize and develop because it’s never shown it has the capacity to do that.

    I see no shame in stating the obvious.

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    David Brooks showed how clueless he is in his recent take down of James Cameron’s Avatar, where he expropriated the left-wing critique of the film as a White Messiah fable. Echoing Haiti-born Ezili Dantò’s widely disseminated critiques of the film, Brooks castigates the film’s hypocrisy that, while it fulfills what he calls the “formula” of “loincloth-clad good guys sticking it to the military-industrial complex,” it is a “racial fantasy par excellence,” in the tradition of Dances with Wolves and The Last Samurai.
    Brooks and other rightists ignore what Ezili Dantò, a poet and human rights attorney, reveals about imperialism’s contribution to Haiti’s current apocalypse. Instead, they distort her critique to assert that the imperialist/indigenous conflict is part of a false narrative. They seize on the weaknesses in Cameron’s fantasy to accuse Americans in solidarity with the wretched of the earth of self-aggrandizing fantasies.
    To Ezili Dantò, what imperialism has done to the economy and culture of Haiti is no fantasy. She notes how the “Tree of Voices” and “Hometree” of Avatar’s indigenous Na’vi people resonates with the Haitian Vodun belief that trees were “living energies that provided strength to the people.” Cutting trees down was thus “relatively taboo.” However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, US lumber, sugar, and fruit companies (with an occupation by US marines 1915-1934) confiscated ancestral lands and cut down wide swaths of Haiti’s forests. Complementing the work of these business interests, according to Dantò, the Catholic Church waged “brutal anti-superstition campaigns” against the Africanist and pagan Vodun, making it “alright to destroy trees.” Now, what agribusiness has not cut down, impoverished Haitians have, in pursuit of cooking fuel.
    I clipped this from my recent article on the topic in OpEdNews.
    Brooks article on Avatar:
    Danto’s analysis:
    My OpEdNews response:

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    Omigosh, I not only AM an old white guy, I’ve BECOME an old white guy. I missed all the penises and white-man’s-burden in Brooks. The grandfather in me wants to swaddle Taibbi, and hold him, and just let him talk it out until he can finally get in touch with his true feelings and deal with his guilt and despair. Matt (let me call you that), you’ve proved Brooks’ point and in the worst possible way and at the worst possible time. The time for breath-holding fits is over; the time to figure out what to do is here. How will you triage the country, and yourself? Aren’t learning and explaining and predicting as important in dealing with events like these as the mourning and rending of garments and letting of your own blood? Child, you think your penis is for either? This comes from reading and touching yourself at too early an age.

    People died in Haiti. People are dying in Haiti. You likely cannot propitiate tectonic plates by “really cool deconstructions, man.” While it sounds awful to say this at this time, the lesson of every culture, and every counterculture, that presumes its continuity is, “the dead shall teach the living.” Weep at the river on your own time, son. It doesn’t help to rage at Brooks. It’s the time to figure out where to dig a sewer in Port Au Prince, and then get a shovel.

    In the end, Matt, my generation failed you and your buddies. We gave you great SAT scores, and Kaplan if you didn’t know how to read, but no understanding. I know your rants – we all do – and heard them 50 years ago in Washington Square. We write out own even now. But I’m afraid we taught you only how to be ineffectual.

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    Where were all these people now pretending to care the last few years as Haitians endured food riots and were forced to feed their families by mixing dirt into their pancakes?

    I don’t appreciate the false piouty and I don’t appreciate the blackout on current events unrelated to this unfortunate tragedy.

  40. collapse expand

    Matt, I think you’re getting David Brooks wrong. Haiti’s present day culture stems out of slavery, a successful rebellion, and then being shunned by the rich white world. Thh slave Toussaint L’Ouverture was taught to read as boy. He read about Spartacus and led a rebellion, defeating all the armies Napoleon sent. Then he was tricked and imprisoned in France to die of cold and hunger. The ex-slaves set up an independent state but were resented by the white world. Read about it in “Black Spartacus” and in Edmund White’s “Fanny”. It IS a bad culture, coming out of a bad past. To say that is not to blame the people or to say anything racist. The difference between you and David Brooks might be just one of knowing some history. To me, YOUR response even raises some suspicions of latent racism. Emily

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    I agree that the timing of Brook’s article is horrendous. When your neighbor’s house burns down you don’t get on his case that he smokes too much. You sympathize and you help. But Brooks does have a point. There seems to be an avoidance of honestly looking at cultural differences because it implies racial differences. I don’t think he was implying that at all, although his religious bigotry is very clear. He gave Barbados and the Dominican Republic as examples of success. With a history of tremendous amounts of effort and money going to help Haiti you have to look at everything to get at the core of why it is not working. The simple truth is that cultures are different and they most obviously impact everything about a society.
    But aside from that it is right that we help Haiti right now, not because they are poor but because they are suffering.

  42. collapse expand

    It important to make a very strong distinction between making donations for disaster relief and making donations to “feed the children.” I have no use for any person that would express or even imply that donations should be withheld from this disaster relief effort. However, the process by which we help people climb out of poverty is worth serious examination.

    It’s not good enough to simply feed the children. We must build the systems (education, sanitation, justice, transportation, sustainable energy, etc.) that will eventually allow the parents to feed their own well planned family.

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    I did not interpret his column like that at all…dog-whistle clarity, what?

    I did NOT think he was denying post-earthquake help is needed or to convince people not to help (in fact your juicy, insult-rich column may have perhaps got some people thinking that way!)
    He is a thinker, columnist, has an opinion and is expressing it. The widespread coverage of Haiti on TV is much-needed and is opens our eyes to the inequalities, tragedies and inspires us to help. But also, the way CNN is headlining Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta as heroes and saviors is getting annoying. Just because a journalist isn’t out there in the field does mean I am not going to listen to his views.

    Brooks is just pointing out the developmental failure in Haiti, which is universally agreed on. The earthquake is a tragedy, severely compounded by the country’s poverty. When so many lives are lost and many could have been prevented if the country had better infrastructure, governance and essentially higher GDP per capita…why wouldn’t you ask economic questions?

  44. collapse expand

    I like how all these comments are wondering about foreign aid. “Hmm, maybe it is time to consider the effectiveness of aid to places like Haiti.”

    Forget timing. How about the fact that the bulk of Haiti’s money (70% of tax revenue in 2008) goes to servicing debt to the US, UK, Germany, China, France? Those lazy Haitians! Get off your butts!

  45. collapse expand

    Sad to say….Brooks is right…Aid should be predicated on fact if man gets vasectomy or woman gets tubes tied.

  46. collapse expand

    Wow. Some of the Brooks’ apologists’ reasoning is really wild.

    “To me, Brooks didn’t say don’t help because it’s pointless. It sounded to me like he was saying that after the region is stabilized, we need to make aid more effective in actually helping people instead of lining the pockets of corrupt governments.”

    Uhhh…lining the pockets of corrupt government actually serves as a pretty good working definition of U.S. foreign policy. Too bad Haiti doesn’t have anything we can steal in the name of helping the oppressed and “nation building.”

    And I think I dreamt this, I had to have, but did Brooks suggest that charter schools and boot camps for “at-risk” youth are a model for the solutions to Haiti-level poverty?

    I’d translate the whole fucking honkaloid diatribe with the following:

    “Never give money to the lazy black people unless there’s a no-bid contract in it for someone you went to Choate with or the nice kid from Raytheon that lives in your building.”

    Thank sweet fancy Moses for Frank Rich.

  47. collapse expand

    And Mr. Brooks will be On NPR and PBS this week and the next.

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    About Me

    I'm a political reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, a sports columnist for Men's Journal, and I also write books for a Random House imprint called Spiegel and Grau.

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