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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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  1. collapse expand

    As a country dealing with this crisis, we are doing the best that can be done short of a humongous human crusade of planes, ships and supplies. The US military is the next best thing in dealing with the logistics.
    This could be idyllic world has been decimated. The world of walls that divide and provide have been trounced. And utilities that provide power in various forms are not there. And that added to an already shaky situation.
    Other comments showed understanding of the complexity of “economics” and just how tenuous our hold is on dealing with masses of people requiring services when so little is done by themselves in achieving these services (impossible in a modern society)…except if you get down to more individual power units (solar/wind). Is that applicable for Haiti in the future in order to make it more self-sustainable? It should be looked at. They have lots of sun and there must be sea breezes.
    I traveled pretty much most of this planet and in talking with Peace Corps people from anywhere you get the types who want to rise in the hierarchy and say little and you get the ones who say they just don’t see exactly what good they have done and say that sometimes the locals think they are so stupid. Yea, real aid that really works seems to something of a rarity.
    Here’s a further point gleaned from my travels in the Sahara throughout Algeria, Mali, Niger, Burkino Faso and Morocco. I camp most the time. Lots of places have no roads just sand, rocks….but you get people surviving with little of the modern umbilical cord. I think this is what we should strive for in Haiti…and in general…I saw an example: A Toureg camped about two hundred yards from my tent. It was near dark and I figured I’d talk to him in the morning. But I did study his campsite through binoculars…his camel was hobbled, he sat/slept cross legged sitting up in front of his fire (brought his own wood) wrapped in his burnoose…and he had a kid (baby goat) tethered next to him. it was there to warn of anything approaching…I gather. Because I always scouted around my tent in the morning and found lizard (some pretty big) and snake traces in the sand at times. He was gone before the crack of dawn as I was up and he was already gone. I inspected his site and just a few ashes were left to show he had been there. Wow, that is total immersion!
    It was a unique experience to cross paths like that in the middle of nowhere…really nowhere. And we passed on…
    Taking the remarks on the Dominican Republic and how its forests were saved I find…good for the DR. Too bad the only thing left for Haiti is reforestation…or, is this a mute point like for the cedars of Lebanon? One can hope…I really like the possibility of reforestation…has it been tried? Failed? What?
    I think the people of Haiti look (in general) strong, good and healthy. I mean the same group of Americans would have no few 250-450 pounders…which just ain’t healthy.
    Wow, imagine to have to pay France back for their own slavery! True? I lived in France and know a bit about former colonies that are now Departements D’outre Mer…but Haiti…never heard anything nor thought about it. I’ll have to do some research.

  2. collapse expand

    As a country dealing with this crisis, we are doing the best that can be done short of a humungus human crusade of planes, ships and supplies. The US military is the next best thing in dealing with the logistics.
    This could be idyllic world has been decimated. The world of walls that divide and provide have been trounced. And utilities that provide power in various forms are not there. And that added to an already shaky situation.
    Other comments showed understanding of the complexity of “economics” and just how tenuous our hold is on dealing with masses of people requiring services when so little is done by themselves in achieving these services (impossible in a modern society)…except if you get down to more individual power units (solar/wind). Is that applicable for Haiti in the furture in order to make it more self-sustainable? It should be looked at. They have lots of sun and there must be sea breezes.
    I traveled pretty much most of this planet and in talking with Peace Corps people from anywhere you get the types who want to rise in the heirarchy and say little and you get the ones who say they just don’t see exactly what good they have done and say that sometimes the locals think they are so stupid. Yea, real aid that really works seems to something of a rarity.
    Here’s a further point gleaned from my travels in the Sahara thoughout Algeria, Mali, Niger, Burkino Faso and Morocco. I camp most the time. Lots of places have no roads just sand, rocks….but you get people surviviing with little of the modern umbilical cord. I think this is what we should strive for in Haiti…and in general…I saw an example: A Toureg camped about two hundred yards from my tent. It was near dark and I figured I’d talk to him in the morning. But I did study his campsite thorugh binoculars…his camel was hobbled, he sat/slept cross legged sitting up in front of his fire (brought his own wood) wrapped in his burnoose…and he had a kid (baby goat) tethered next to him. it was there to warn of anything approaching…I gather. Because I always scouted around my tent in the morning and found lizard (some pretty big) and snake traces in the sand at times. He was gone before the crack of dawn as I was up and he was already gone. I inspected his site and just a few ashes were left to show he had been there. Wow, that is total immersion!
    It was a unique experience to cross paths like that in the middle of nowhere…really nowhere. And we passed on…
    Taking the remarks on the Dominican Republic and how its forests were saved I find…good for the DR. Too bad the only thing left for Haiti is reforestation…or, is this a mute point like for the cedars of Lebonon? One can hope…I really like the possibility of reforestation…has it been tried? Failed? What?
    I think the people of Haiti look (in general) strong, good and healthy. I mean the same group of Americans would have no few 250-450 pounders…which just ain’t healthy.
    Wow, imagine to have to pay France back for their own slavery! True? I lived in France and know a bit about former colonies that are now Departements D’outre Mer…but Haiti…never heard anything nor thought about it. I’ll have to do some research.

    _________________________________________________

  3. collapse expand

    Matt, I love your work man, and normally agree almost 100%…but in this case, I think you totally are missing the point. Loathe though I am to agree with Brooks, I think he’s making a valid point. First, this is EXACTLY the time to examine the efficacy of poverty programs in Haiti. A month ago and a month from now, the general public, sadly, won’t be as interested. Second, both here and abroad, good intentions don’t build either viable schools and communitys…or earthquake proof buildings. As an African American, Harlem/Bronx-raised progressive…strike that: PROUD LIBERAL… I think we need more emphasis on what WORKS, and less emphasis on what feels politically correct. Having dragged myself from the dregs of NYC’s ghettos, where some of my family still dwell, I can tell you first hand, what is needed is a bit of reality and tough love…because empathy and liberal guilt can only accomplish so much.

  4. collapse expand

    The trouble with this discussion, which only ivriniel alludes to, is it contains none of the history of US, and French OPPRESSION of Haiti. My god, Bush had their elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, kidnapped, just as Obama helped to happen to President Zelaya in Honduras. And Clinton did the same, insultingly under the guise of ‘helping’ democracy in Haiti. He allowed armed thugs to kill all the progressive leaders, who, with Aristide, were trying to stop the CIA-backed drug trade thru there, then painted Aristide as a drug-dealer and mentally unfit! Just google haiti, drugs, dennis bernstein for that history.
    Today those same thugs run free (or live safely in the US), and innocents are killed or jailed by the UN forces, legitimate leaders are framed, (google Father Gerard Jean-Juste). It is a miracle that Aristide wasn’t driven mad by American hypocrisy!

    And the racism and imperialism continues on the ground, as American military spend more on occupation forces that have turned away aid to make room for their weapon deliveries.

  5. collapse expand

    Black apologists seeking cover under thier hue means nothing to me especially when thier views lack substance..

    This issue has nothing to do with liberal guilt, pc, empathy and all the other bs offered up today to deflect the raw truth that Brooks commentary is racist .

    Brooks has offered nothing new with regard to the nature of foreign aid, what remains the issue he is Brooks racist and cultural venom he as a white privledged male had no problem dumping on the dead and undead in Haiti..

    Brooks is a piece of scum who lacks basic human decency for human beings in peril. What is tragic about inhumane people like Brooks is that because of his white privledged mindset he acts like it is his birthright to dehumanize others that are not his hue nor of his religious beliefs..

    of course that is part of the problem here had Brooks been the usual WASP red neck cracker he wou;d be an easy target for his racist attack on Haiti but he is not a Christian WASP of course…

  6. collapse expand

    PS. When it comes to corruption, America takes a back-seat to no one. The difference is that now, in our country, corruption takes place at a level where regular people no longer have access to it. Is that cleaner?

    We live in a country of wanna-be-anarchist wimps – little plastic John Galts – who imagine themselves to be rugged-individualist libertarians while they live isolated lives in an economy that runs on borrowed money. In African villages where people have no closets and nothing to put in them, they live together in ways that feed and shelter everyone with dignity. While we teach and preach, we have much to learn.

    If David Brooks was more of a mench and less of an expert on practically everything, he would have waited a decent about of time before posting his dispassionate analysis of human suffering. Of course, that would have missed the six-say news cycle.

    • collapse expand

      yes, and no one would have read it. what were you doing to help alleviate poverty b4 the earthquake in Haiti?

      Brooks seized this moment bc he can juxtapose it against a vivid display of the results of a backward, uneducated, religiously impaired people who fail to provide themselves with the basic necessities before and after disaster.

      The “insensitivity” you allude to happens everyday when just as many people suffer and die. Brooks could have written this article anytime – it’s just as applicable and will be in 1, 10 and 25 years from now, unless people stop looking to “government” to take care of everything for them.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  7. collapse expand

    As a Barbadian I am deeply offended by the attempt to compare the relative well-being of Barbados to the tragedy that is Haiti. The historical rape of Haiti by France in particular as well as by other European powers and U.S.support for dictatorships in order to preserve one-sided trade were never the lot of Barbados. Those of us who are Caribbean will not allow ourselves to be blinded by such pablum. We are very aware of the historical, financial and political decision making which has contributed in large part to the current condition of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Yes, like the rest of the world, we applaud the heroic efforts of those Americans who are working to save lives in Haiti and the financial contributions which have been pouring in. However, those who seek to minimize or erase the import of prior horrors on the plight of modern day Haiti need to revisit their theses for publication after a respectable period of mourning for the dead and dying.

  8. collapse expand

    I am truly thrilled that there has now appeared an intelligent analysis of an appalling piece by David Brooks, yet another arrogant an malevolent fool; in brief, a Neocon. I frankly could hardly believe I was reading the toxic words he wrote in an abysmal display of ignorance of Haitian history, of brutal indifference to profound human suffering, of essentially a kind of 17th-century philosophy wherein the victims of poverty deserve whatever might befall them. Thus with the obvious God-approved superiority of the righteous rich should we shun the deservedly punished Untermenschen of the earth. My God, this smug twit has offered a reaction far more dangerous, far less amusing, far more disgusting than that of the rampant buffoon, Pat Robertson. He uses some different words – not once does “Satan” appear in his musings in our Paper Of Record – but essentially the chief distinction between Neocon Brooks and Cotton Mather Robertson is that the thoughts penned by Brooks are blander and more subtle, and thus allow those elements of the right who wear neckties and shirts and use underarm deodorant not only to proceed with their various depredations, but to do so with consciences as clean as their shirts. One certainly needn’t visit a stable to see a horse’s ass. Thank you, Mr. Taibbi.

  9. collapse expand

    weindeb,

    Ditto but I would have preferred you calling him just a red neck cracker but I guess such verbaige is hard for some white jewish people to spit out..I am a Black jew I acknowledged how tough that is for some jewish folks..

    In part this has been going all day with some posters the reluctance to bury this fucking racist prick…Religion and Group Identity is powerful in our nation

  10. collapse expand

    I would additionally argue Brooks is mostly likely ignorant and intellectually lazy to present such a mind numbingly dumb argument that is both inappropriate in timing and analysis but Brooks opened up the door, so I guess it is ok to respond.

    I know Matt did not touch on this but Brooks makes the assumption that all of the money pegged for development that has poured into Haiti and other problem areas in the world, is predicated on theories of economic growth work if normal smart people were running the show and as Matt pointed out according to Brooks we need to send multiple copies of Alan Greenspan to think for them and Mr. T and Tony Little to whip their lazy asses into shape because they as essentially stupid and lazy. The fact is western economic theory relies on unsustainable resource utilization for continued growth.

    What little resources Haiti had are depleted as a result of a exploding population a long time ago. The Christian Mother Teresa approach has done just as much to create this disaster as any thing else by pushing the “be fruitful and multiply” commandment of their Judeo-Christian God and in turn resisting any type of family planning efforts in Haiti and other third world nations.

    The Western Economists & Judeo-Christian God worshipping NGO’s seemed to have partnered up to add a new line to the old Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. The new addition says “and if you don’t catch enough fish build more boats and make more people to use them. Because the supply of wood and fish are endless”.

    The emerald city from the wizard of oz can be constructed in place of Port au Prince but without the natural resources to keep the lights on and the water running, they will have to slant drill all the way to Cuba. This seems about as plausible as a successful reconstruction outcome that does not offend Judeo-Christian sensibilities.

  11. collapse expand

    To assume the Right wants Obama to fail Haiti is confusing. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein makes the case that the Right will use this as an opportunity to take advantage of Haiti by investing & redeveloping in the interest of the major corporations.

    We’ve yet to see where this goes but I can’t help but be cynical since there are always strings attached. eg Here’s a desperate population ripe for exploitation – cheap labor etc. etc.

    Stay tuned.

  12. collapse expand

    Help! This is the slowest web site I have ever been to on the web. Does anyone know what the matter is? The rest of you must not have this problem, or else you have nothing to do all day long but try to log into this web site and read comments and post. I have problems with only this site.

    Re: Haiti. Sounds like U agree with the guy but his timing is awful. Could be worse. I see a conversation has begun in the comments I was able to see about what works or doesn’t work in giving aid to other countries. Certainly food, water, medical supplies, and various emergency supplies and services after a disaster work in the immediate time after the disaster. But we sure do need a conversation about what, if anything, is likely to work longer term. If that guy has gotten people started on this conversation, I say good on him.

    You sound like a Democrat on this one, Matt. I don’t like Democrats and Republicans myself. As you yourself have pointed out, they waste decasdes of time arguing about nonsensical things. I like pragmatists. As someone here pointed out in a previous comment, we in the U.S. haven’t even figured out pragmatically how to make our own economy work. Maybe we ought to start there.

    As Brooks sort of pointed out, and as any psychologist can tell you, if the structures are in place to reward and encourage certain behaviors like honest hard work– rather than only structures that constantly reward and encourage corruption– that’s good. People do behaviors more if they are rewarded and encouraged to do them– by people they trust especially, but that may not include outsiders to the culture– for good reason. The outsiders may start some temporary program and then they disappear just when they are most needed.

  13. collapse expand

    A lot of people pay no attention to history. The Haitians had a thriving agricultural industry (exporting sugar cane, etc.) until a bunch of American Industrialists decided to experiment and use the country as a “Singapore of the West”, thus destroying the culture. Poor farmers were forced to the city, where they remained poor. When the experiment failed, Haiti was abandoned by the Corporatists. It kind of reminds me what Wal-mart does to communities when it decides to pull out after destroying all the Mom-and-Pops.

  14. collapse expand

    Brooks does seem willing to ignore the extent to which the U.S. has interfered with Haiti and its government, and its economy.

    There’s a long history to that meddling (and let’s not leave out France in that criticism).

    But, as I recall, at the time Aristide was deposed (and escorted away by U.S. Marine guard, IIRC), one of the suspected reasons was that he had been pushing the legislature to adopt a minimum wage of ~ $1.20 per day, wasn’t successful, and had to settle for seventy-one cents a day, up from about fifty-odd cents a day.

    The Western manipulations of Haitian government and finances, economic exploitation of that country, the external push toward monoculture and a long-term drought likely directly related to the destruction of Amazonian rain forest (in which ordinary Haitians have had no role, and is a partial cause for the very bad flooding and mudslides Haiti experienced after hurricanes a few years ago) have all helped to impoverish Haitians, and to blame them alone for that poverty strikes me as positively churlish.

    Does not Brooks remember just two years ago when Haitian children were eating mud because of food shortages, that people were rioting because food prices skyrocketed (helped along by that global free-market economy of which Brooks is so enamored) far beyond their meager wages?

    Does Brooks not remember the decades of terror fostered by the Tonton Macoute (who worked for the wealthy landowners with the explicit assistance of the Duvalier dictators, father and son)?

    To Brooks, none of that history exists, and because it doesn’t, it must be all the fault of the victims. Like Pat Robertson, Brooks thinks it’s an opportune time to take a dump on the rubble under which a lot of poor people are buried….

  15. collapse expand

    Here is a brief look at American meddling that has reduced Haiti to the shell it was before the earthquake. You won’t need a map, folks, it’s all here:

    http://counterpunch.org/smith01142010.html

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    deleted account

    I concur with Matt Taibbi’s general assessment of Brooks’s column. It is profoundly racist. It mirrors other offerings by Brooks that amount to simplistic critiques of the very complicated world around us. I tend to forgive and forget the work of NYT columnists because of the deadening pace at which they must put something out two/three times a week. Unless one has a profound mastery of a field, e.g. Krugman on economics, a NYT columnist’s adventure into a realm unknown, e.g. Krugman on most everything except economics, is unfailingly worthless. Of course, Collins and Dowd make me laugh but that is it; even Bob Herbert, when he is not reminding us of the danger of being black in America, often is off base. Need we say anything of the inventor of the FU and how his notion of an insight is pure vapor. Brooks and the inventor of the FU are the worst transgressors because life is revealed to them in simple black and white terms. Thanks to MT for taking the time to examine this piece of trash by Brooks.

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    Wonder what this effete prick would have said about the folks in Miami after hurricane Andrew. Probably that indolent lascivious lifestyle caused all that damage.

  18. collapse expand

    Thank you for this.
    I started to read the column but stopped out of disgust.
    You complete my thoughts perfectly.
    On “micro-aid being vital but insufficient,” I think of the NY Fire Dept firefighter who was interviewed on TV yesterday after helping to pull three people out of a collapsed supermarket 4 days after the quake. He said that “it’s rewarding to travel thousands of miles and save a person’s life.”
    Vital but insufficient.

  19. collapse expand

    Matt, You are TOTALLY off base. First it is EXTREMELY unprofessional to ‘wise crack’ about his imagined small penis and imply he is a racist and uses the ‘N’ word all the time.David NEVER said to anyone, not to help the quake victims (Unlike Rush Limbaugh) nor did he show a lack of Empathy. Matt, this isn’t about some ‘multi’ cultural Feel good BS, it’s about making structural changes to PERMANENTLY improve peoples lives.I know people like you hate on good guys like Bill Cosby for having the balls to say it like it really is, but there is only one world, and it doesn’t matter if it is ‘white’ controlled or not, but ANYONE who thinks they can be successful by telling the powers that be to go to hell, well my garbage can is filled with their Resumes and Applications, NOT because they are Black but because they don’t know how to speak,dress or act.

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    Matt please ignore mark’s fiction…. Would nation/world does he live in…I have not seen this degree of denial in quite a while..

    Brooks never wrote nor used the word PERMANENTLEY changing the lives of the people of Haiti..

    Brooks enaged in toxic red neck racism no dout a part of his cultural dna as white privledged male living in the USA

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      Thrasher, Did you ever hear of the word “Donor Fatigue’? Well it simply means Govt’s and people with Money and Resources, get tired after a while of throwing their money down a bottomless Rat-Hole and basically tell the recipients to ‘go to hell’. What ever the reason for the lack of progress Haiti runs the risk in the long term of being one of those places UNLESS it gets it’s act together.David examining why Haiti hasn’t been able to improve is doing it a favor. David WANTS to see Haiti Succeed and knows the world is generous when it sees that it’s $$$ are being used for good effect.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        mark,

        You ever heard of a word ” Bullshit” or what about ‘Denial” or “Deflection”..

        Our nation never has donor fatigue when we give billons to middle east nations or other nations where the local natives have my Black hue..

        Posters like you make me want to puke your intellectual cowardice deserves to be slammed..

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          Thrasher, Maybe you are right and the world just HATES black folk, if so all the more reason to get your stuff together quick before they cut ‘your people’ off. You want to be angry and rally around how unfair the world is to Black people, instead of accepting it and dealing with it. You would be the kind of guy who ‘mouths off’ to some rapist Sheriff in the deep south and get a broken jaw for your troubles, or worse.If I were you I’d keep my mouth shut, be polite and get the hell out of Dodge as quickly so possible. I guess I wouldn’t make a good ‘change agent’ or Martyr.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            Mark,

            Sorry but I am not an intellectual coward like you who accepts and tolerates and makes excuses for those who have contempt for basic humanity..

            No I will never shut up my big mouth knowing impotent “good germans” like you exist in the world making excuses for bigots and racists..

            No your simple backward logic and comments actually confirm for me why I need to contine to defeat shallow and impotent posters like you who lack depth and repeat the propaganda and disinformation ” good germans” like you need…

            Now run along and get lost..You are not my equal nor do you measure up in here…

            In response to another comment. See in context »
  21. collapse expand

    Let me start off by saying I love your writing – your Rolling Stone pieces leave me howling with laughter and admiration. I just bought “The Great Derangement” and I’m finding it incredibly informative and entertaining. That being said, I gotta say how off the mark I find your interpretations of David Brooks’ column on Haiti (as I did your earlier rant regarding another of his columns). To take one example, are you telling me that you really believe that when Brooks writes that we need to “rethink our approach to global poverty” that he is somehow implying that we shouldn’t be giving money to help alleviate the pain of this natural disaster? It seems so clear that Brooks is not disputing, or even referring to, the tactical effectiveness of providing short-term aid, but instead is questioning the long-term strategies for alleviating poverty and why too often, specifically in Haiti, they have not been successful. What better time to raise this issue then now, when the world is focused on this impoverished country? Just sayin’.

  22. collapse expand

    I love how Matt points out how Brooks has no personal experience with the 3rd world. As someone who always jokes when people ask me where have you traveled ” I have been everywhere you never wanted to go at least twice” My work has taken me there for the last 3 decades. In Fact I have been into Haiti twice since the earthquake. I’m glad it’s not my job to fix the mess there but I can tell you Brooks does not know what to do either. It is a very slippery slope to go down comparing one culture to another and why one succeeds as another fails. A couple of great books have been written on the subject by Jared Diamond but I think he would admit it’s not so simple. I’m with Matt on this now is not the time, in aviation we say when the shit hits the fan ” Aviate, navigate, communicate. In other words fly the plane first then worry about the other stuff. Right now we need to focus on flying the plane.

  23. collapse expand

    Here is what troubles me as well… How come the ADL and other jewish groups are not slamming David Brooks for this toxic racist shit??

    Whenver a Black leader fucks ups and engages in antisemtic rants all hell breaks out in white jewish circles ( I am a Black Jew like Jesus BTW) yet in my temple silence is the rule often when racist speech is uttered..I hear the phrase “swarza” ( new morphed yiddish term for NIGGER) muddered a lot in my jewish venues..Enough already

  24. collapse expand

    Matt. Good stuff. Right from the heart and, in this instance, heart is at the center of this 7.1 disaster. It’s from the heart that empathy arises. Many feel that our ability to empathize is, in fact, what has propelled us “forward”. It’s about the “other”.

    Treating others as you would want to be treated is promoted by most religions as a road to real happiness.

    Logistics, procedures, policies, resources, lessons learned, best practices and all the other analytical based considerations generally and very appropriately are produced after resolution to the immediate disaster. To be focusing on these types of human problems while the catastrophe still screams, still bleeds, reveals something about the psyche of the “analyzer”.

    Mr Brooks has shown us that in the face of bodies being back-hoed and tractored to ditches en masse his response is soley of the mind; it’s sans heart. We know what happens when things are run by just minds; just take a look at our financial archetecture. Hit by a quake of lesser richter’s, the structures fell crushing everyone who didn’t know much about finance; shoddly built, drafted by corruption and duplicity, hopes, desires, sacrifices, entire subjunctives were crushed to death by an inability to actively empathisize.

    Mind without heart looks great from the outside but cannot, for long, handle the stresses and strains of daily human life. But, hey, they’re not built to last anuhow; they’re built to quickly produce (and produce a lot) before the inspector comes round; before the wind blows too strongly. Those “in the know” get out before collapse; those that don’t, well…don’t.

    Mr Brooks was thinking about procedural “opportunities” at a time when femoral arteries spew like fountains. An impossible endevour for most; the heart gets in the way; water, food, air, disinfectant, empathy marshals the now. it says what would i need if i were they. We’ll deal with the rest after the bleeding stops; after now becomes then.

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    Let me start off by saying I love your writing – your Rolling Stone pieces leave me howling with laughter and admiration. I just bought “The Great Derangement” and I’m finding it incredibly informative and entertaining. That being said, I gotta say how ridiculous and off the mark I find your interpretations of David Brooks’ column on Haiti (as I did your earlier rant regarding another of his columns). To take one example, are you telling me that you really believe that when Brooks writes that we need to “rethink our approach to global poverty” that he is somehow implying that we shouldn’t be giving money to help alleviate the pain of this natural disaster? It is so clear that Brooks is not disputing, or even referring to, the tactical effectiveness of providing short-term aid, but instead is questioning the long-term strategies for alleviating poverty and why too often, specifically in Haiti, they have not been successful. What better time to raise this issue then now, when the world is focused on this impoverished country? You really, really seem to have a bug up your ass over David Brooks that I think has created your own great derangement that has left you unable to analyze his ideas with anything approaching an accurate or even ballpark reading. Just sayin’.

  26. collapse expand

    What did you expect from a pants-in-his-armpits Republican wearing pilot glasses?

  27. collapse expand

    Let’s face it…they think the earthquake aftermath is just payback for revolting against Napolean in the 1790’s. Had these people accepted their lot in life and continued on merrily as slaves to whitey…they would have had better housing and God wouldn’t have punished them for their uppityness.

    I look at pictures of these people grabbing food and water from stores and hear Mr. Achorman call it looting…LOOTING? If they were white, it would be called “survival”…

  28. collapse expand

    Let’s talk about rural China, and how many orders of magnitude more poverty and illiteracy exists there than in Haiti. There is no commensurate relationship to the crime rate, which is lower than that in the United States. The difference is cultural. Your argument holds no water.

  29. collapse expand

    I want to thank you Matt for writing this response. I have had Brooks’ article on my mind all day esp. the section regarding his critique of Voodoo.

    I’m so sick and tired of people believing in the superiority of the traditional Judeo-Christian narrative. I mean, haven’t they ever read the Old Testament, Romans, or Revelation?

    Ask Job if god was capricious! Or look at Romans Ch. 9 or any of the Apocolyptic sections. In fact, I wish Voodoo was on the ascendancy as at least in that tradition you have people taking destiny in their own hands rather than depending on the predetermined whim of some god.

    Its a good thing that most “believers” are so intellectually dishonest!

  30. collapse expand

    Brooks is to an extent repeating what has been said by others like Dambisa Moyo in Dead Aid.

    If the essential premise is wrong, then Dambisa Moyo is merely wrong. But Brooks is white, so he is racist (even if unconsciously).

    And as far as the timing goes…you write about issues as they come up.

    When Katrina and its aftermath hit, Brooks wrote about the institutionalized failures that made things worse.

    But this is not insensitive. It is simply addressing an issue while it is fresh in our minds.

  31. collapse expand

    come on. just imagine your family being in the rubble; bones exposed, infections, skulls crushed, other lost/missing; others dead. and you wouldn’t be alonet; hundreds of thousands of people are with you.

    you mean at this time, in the middle of a raging tragedy, reading mr brook’s essay would in anyway provide solice? after reading his reduction of human anguish to something resembling math while an entire country including your family is in pain, thirsty, hungry, and infected you would say, “yes. that’s right… good points. and it’s just the perfect time for “would’s, could’s and shoulda’s. thanks dave!”

    timing relates to empathy. his timing is disgusting; this timing has no heart.

    it’s hard to imagine anyone with someone in that growing geologic disaster who would find brook’s thoughts thoughtful; who would say, “hey thanks dave for thinking of me/us”.

    but, i guess all you folks who feel timing insiginificant can.

  32. collapse expand

    Dear Matt, certainly in light of the tragic loss of life, an article that seems to analyze the politics and roots of why it happened is not the most emphatic. So I agree with you, the timing of Brooks article is less than sensitive, and that seems like your main contention with his comments. It sorts of like giving the family of the just deceased lung cancer patient a sermon on why his life-long smoking habits were the issue.

    And I am not familiar with Brooks’ political inclination, but I assume that many of the assumptions you are making are from his past commentaries.

    That said, as an isolated op-ed, the points he raises are worth more than your straw-man counter-arguments. I do not see his angle of “nonwhite laziness” & “lazy niggers” as you somehow see in his article, especially considering he uses Barbados and Dominican Republic as references, both countries of African-mix majority. He doesn’t say do not bother giving any money; I see him arguing that there are deeper underlying issues that don’t help the money go anywhere towards fixing the problems. Also, you may take issue with his use of the “L” word, but that is also a cheap shot.

    A more solid rebuttal would address Brooks’ less convincing leaps, such as “locally led paternalism” idea. At least he sites examples on where that has been successful, so you could argue why it would not. After all, Brooks saying what would work. Instead of a knee-jerk response of “no, you are wrong because you are racist right-winged white Judeo-Christian with no regard with massive loss of life”, why not come back and tell him why his way of thinking wouldn’t work, and attack the other holes in his whole piece?

  33. collapse expand

    “Humanity, fairness and equality for me, but not for thee” seems to be David Brooks’s motto. Only the mandarin brainy few know what’s right for the rest of the world. Never mind that they committed the greatest robbery in the history of the world and thus potentially created the greatest underclass in the history of the republic. BTW, the WSJ’s Bret Stephens made the very same point about Haiti in his column yesterday – zero sympathy or understanding. Are these the lessons of history? I’m just curious.
    Stephens was editor of the Jerusalem Post and –as is Brooks- on board with Palestinian land grab as well as with construction of the “defense wall” along the Sinai to keep the undesirable element out – you know, the ones that are not “like us.” They may want to dress up their motivations as “conservative ideology,” but is it really? Ideologically motivated, I mean.

  34. collapse expand

    Matt, how are the people of Haiti any better off by calling Brooks out. It seems unfortunate you’ve chosen to use your audience and influence to bring someone’s ideas down rather than postulate your own alternatives. Brooks’ biggest mistake was thinking he had learned enough about Haiti to recommend solutions, instead he seems to have landed on some Gladwellian conventional wisdom. Your mistake was to think that calling Brooks out w/o proposing alternatives was of any value.

  35. collapse expand

    OMG this guy is insane! David Brooks clearly has not done his homework or he would know why countries like China that have not accepted aid are doing better. It is the IMF and their economic requests that throw the country they are trying to help into turmoil. It’s not the country’s fault at all, they ask for help and we give them harm. Even the guy that came up with the system is now against it. The argument Brooks is making is very similar to the Lexus and The Olive Tree but it’s bull. Countries that accept IMF and world Bank help are forced to accept a bunch of rules that do not take into account what is really needed. They need the assistance so they take it and try and then the things they are forced to do destabilize the place even worse. They sure did a bang up job in Sri Lanka and Ecuador.

  36. collapse expand

    Those who support Brooks it was based upon his policy analysis yet the bulk of Brooks commentary has nothing to do with policy but backward myopic racist cultural remarks.

    Those who are hiding behind this truth are as racist as Brooks.

  37. collapse expand
    deleted account

    I am in absolute awe to see anyone rising to Brooks’s defense, as if his position would ever be remotely tenable in some distant approximation of the universe. Your explanation for 50,000 people crushed to death is their lack of the right egalitarian values and Protestant work ethic and social responsibility needed to climb out of the smoking crater they call a country and into the bright, gleaming future of American pluralism? Hey, if these dirty brown people don’t want to die they should just drop their fucktard values and wonky religions and get on the right team!

    Brooks and his shrieking acolytes above seem to gripped by the type of post-9/11 knee-jerk aversion to cultural relativism this country so desperately depends on to ease the oh-so-heavy burden of white guilt. This is the same depraved fantasy the shrinking middle class clings to as they lose their homes, die of preventable diseases, and their kids come home from Iraq and Afghanistan in body bags, yet all they can do is cry to the sky “why can’t those dirty savages just accept our way of life?” as we deliver it to them with cluster bombs.

    I think the problem, Matt, is that to puncture the Great White Fairytale about what’s wrong with stinky third worlders scrambling in the rubble is too taboo for even so-called progressives. Our cultural arrogance and hypocrisy is so great that having any meaningful discussion over poverty, much less human suffering in general, is totally impossible as long as sniveling pricks like Brooks are encouraged to spew their filth in a forum as prominent as the NY Times.

    Is there ANYTHING inconvenient we well-groomed white folks can’t explain away? How do you people actually believe this tripe? “Achievement ethos” and “tough, measurable demands” and “middle class assumptions” (sweet fucking christ) don’t feed your children, much less pull them out from under 20 tons of concrete! 50,000 people dead in an earthquake is an event that should transcend all considerations of cultural identity, but oh no, it’s their “government, culture, and lack of success generally as a country” that really did them in. I can agree that lack of any discernible infrastructure and being embroiled in poverty doesn’t help the situation, but that’s not the point Brooks is actually making. Apparently if they would only stop boinking their fellow Haitians and place their faith in white progress, our Judeo-Christian god would finally smile down on them! Brooks and his defenders are just proof that the spirit of colonialism, and hey, let’s call it what it really is, white supremacism, is alive and kicking.

  38. collapse expand

    Matt, you’re wicked and I love your work! If I were a teacher of journalism, you work would be featured in my top five choices of the best examples of work from your generation! You’re a “boy after me own heart!” Thanks for revealing Mr. Brooke’s folksy pomposity. Keep it coming!

  39. collapse expand

    Here’s another “beautiful piece of occasional literature,” this one from Georgie Anne Geyer, another “conservative.” Except this one has years of experience in foreign affairs and on site visits to Haiti.

    http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/editorials/stories/2010/01/20/geye20.ART_ART_01-20-10_A9_2HGBQE1.html?sid=101

    She lays out the facts behind Brooks’ list of causes. AND I don’t think that penis size is of consequence here, do you? Perhaps, of course, it is just enough that she does not have one.

    For those of you who have commented that I am a right-winger: well, by whose standards? I am a progressive Democrat who just thinks we should be willing to face reality. Send money, yes, as I have, but keep constant the notion that we must do better to help the society help itself. That would start with an overhaul of the R.C. Church on birth control, though, and I doubt any of us will get very far with that.

  40. collapse expand

    I call bullshit. This column is just another game of guilty white guy oneupmanship.Think you’ve offered an opinion may offer some solutions minorities or the third world?

    Wrong, fucker. We’ve got a whole line of white guys anxious to reveal what a bigot the guy before him truly is.

    Think you’re being sensitive and timely when calling attention to an issue when our collective, ever-dwindling attention span still has it in focus?

    Wrong again, we’ll show just how exploitive and callous you are to interject any sort of political solutions, while not so subtly dropping a few of our own political views in the process.

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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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