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January 28, 2010


But that means it's not their fault. We apparently can't have that be the case.

"There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile."

Seriously, what? Even for Brooks this is jaw-droppingly stupid. Haiti is overwhelmingly Catholic. "The voodoo religion," which is to say, Voodoo or Voudou, is not a nihilistic religion opposed to all things progress, either.

It's kind of like the state of Washington, turned around, perhaps. Washington is moist and green in the west, where the moist air dumps rain, but is separated from the dry eastern part of the state by the Cascades.

This is good stuff, Eric. I'm a huge fan of Guns, Germs and Steel. Certainly Haiti hasn't done itself any favors, government-wise, but not all of its difficulties are cultural; certainly the earthquake wasn't.

Unless you're Pat Robertson, or insane. But I repeat myself.

"...misses the true story by a wide mark, while perpetuating ill-informed race-tinged theories."

What?? From today's "conservative" punditocracy?? Surely you jest.....?

Some people actually pay to read the Times and the Post, yet Obsidian Wings is free. There's a value disparity there greater than the economic disparity between Haiti and the DR.

Columbus landed on Hispaniola in 1492. From that point the Spanish enslaved the indigenous Taino population and forced them to mine gold.

The Tainos were, for all intents and purposes, exterminated through being killed outright and worked to death. From an original population of up to 3 million, they were reduced to about 25,000 in about 20 years. Some years after than, they virtually disappeared. Gone.

In the early 1500's the Spanish began importing African slaves to Hispaniola. Under both Spanish and, later, French colonial rule, Africans were subject to more or less non-stop insane cruelty and abuse.

Data point: the average life span of a black slave in Haiti under French colonial rule was 21 years. Not, you'll live for 21 years after you arrive, but you'll be dead by the time you're 21.

At the beginning of the 19th C the black slaves managed, somehow, to overthrow the French and win their independence.

They were rewarded by being isolated by basically every other nation on earth. Most of their neighbors were still under colonial rule, and black slavery still existed in the US. Nobody wanted to encourage further revolts, so nobody wanted to recognize Haiti, engage in trade with it, or otherwise do anything to help it succeed.

Even after recognition, Haiti, like every other Caribbean nation, has been regularly f**ked with by the US and other 1st world countries.

It's a miracle the country continues to exist, at all.

I've made this comment several times since Robertson's stupid, ignorant, callous, asinine statement, and I'm sure I'll make it again:

If the blacks made a deal with the devil to kick the French out, it's because he offered them better terms than the French did.

Haiti suffers because they've been kicked in the teeth since the day they won their own independence. The fact that they are even still there is a testimony to their own grit and endurance.

Robertson, Goldberg, and Brooks can kiss my ass.

If Diamond neglects to mention the history in the context of his discussion of the topography, likewise.

Russell hits it straight on!

Not to mention the money that Haiti paid to France for 100+ years as payment for 'recognition' as an independent country.

the weird thing about all this voodoo talk is that santeria is very prevalent on carribean islands. it's not like voodoo is just isolated to haiti. west african influence this entire hemisphere

Why is Yemen so poor? They share the same peninsula as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; what is it about Yemeni culture that keeps them from drilling for oil?

"I don't practice santeria..."

Jeez, don't you realize Diamond is a tree-hugging Commie cultural relativist who has nothing of value to say to Real Americans?

I ain't got no crystal ball.

That's two for two in the past two days slarti.

Now if you got the allusion in this post title, I would truly be impressed.

Kirkorian's allusion to "cultural" factors is more fully expounded on by both Jonah Goldberg

Every time Jonah Goldberg writes about the importance of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps, irony dies all over again.

I'm sure I don't get the allusion in this post title (I almost never get them, it must be a generational thing, or maybe a nerd/non-nerd thing (I'm the nerd side)), but it has made two things merge and float around in my tired brain all day: The Mighty Quinn (Bob Dylan), and Casey at the Bat.

Clearly I need a nap.


I like Jared Diamond too. I have been trying to think where I read what little I know about Haiti, and I had thought it was all from Mountains Beyond Mountains. I had forgotten that Diamond wrote about it too.

And the value of a protestant work ethic!

Mr. Could-Readers-Research-This-Topic-And-Email-Me-The-Results himself.

Janie: Most are probably generational, as my musical tastes trend toward the more recent, at least in post title bingo.

That being said, this one refers to a reggae band that's been around since the late 1960s - and whose best music was produced in the mid 1970s. Although admittedly obscure.

I think Diamond tends to overstate the power of environmental factors relative to cultural ones, but he certainly has a good point in regards to Haiti (as does russell here talking about the colonial history of the country). And the idea that we should listen to a bunch of upper-middle-class Americans talking about the factors that affect economic development in developing nations is ridiculous.

What does David Brooks know about the problems involved in creating an environment for businesses to develop in a country that is still mostly agricultural? There are two enormous impediments to that happening that are absolutely beyond the control of anyone in Haiti: one, the fact that anyone with an entrepreneurial bent looking at the potential rewards from their effort in Haiti versus those from the same effort if they moved to the US or another developed country is going to see that if they can get out, they should; and two, that anyone hoping to start a manufacturing business in Haiti for the local market has to compete with gigantic foreign companies that run automated factories in China and America and Germany that are each half the size of Port-au-Prince and churn out Haiti's entire annual demand for laundry baskets or scissors or coffee cups in about an hour, and thanks to free-trade rules pushed by the US, cannot be kept out of the local market.

Industrial development in the now-developed world was built on captive markets for goods that were not being served by foreigners. If a bunch of aliens had shown up in the US & Britain in 1850 and sold us all iPhones and Toyota Camrys, the indigenous capacity for producing those things would never have developed.

Of course, all Haiti has to do is find something it can produce more cheaply than a billion dollar company in the US with a thousand engineers devoted to designing automated factories. No problem!

What you actually see is competition in the extremely low-skilled, labor-intensive field, like clothing manufacturing. Better than nothing, but to say that Haiti is culturally inferior because of that is spectacularly bogus. I'd like to take David Brooks and get him to work a day in a clothing sweatshop and see how he feels about "responsibility".

Here, maybe?

Funny, I thought the title meant the post was going to be about how DR was better off than Haiti because of all the Dominican baseball players making millions in the major leagues.

That aside, good post.

I think it's important when reading these people, especially Goldberg, to understand what their job is. It is emphatically not to present logical, fact-based comments and analyses on events in Haiti or elsewhere. Instead, it is to use whatever comes to hand to parrot standard conservative themes, whether what they say makes sense or not.

Yeah Slarti. The eponymous album is their best IMHO.

I got a lump in my throat about the note you wrote.

Second the "jaw-droppingly stupid"-assessment about voodoo. Hint to Harrison/Brooks: They have it on the other side of the border as well!

Nawlins anyone?

Brooks: "Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences."

Um, what?

Hey, David Brooks, why is it okay when *we* do it?

Podcast from the "Plaid Avenger" on why Haiti sucks pts 1, 2, & 3, from a geographer's perspective, with a lot more facts than any of the pundits, and 10 times as entertaining.

Diamond's more recent book 'Collapse' has a chapter on Haiti vs. DR that is quite interesting.
The excerpt in the Globalist leaves out (or rather, just hints at) one of the major differences in Haiti vs. DR outcomes.

(the subject of 'Collapse' is how and why civilizations collapse; resource depletion is a big topic. Geography plays a big role, but so does cultural blindness to geographic and ecological limitations)

But while Haiti and DR differ in their initial resources, Diamond points out that Haiti has had a much more laissez-faire attitude toward their exploitation, while successive DR right wing authoritarian regimes imposed strict limits on clearing forests, etc.

It's enough to make a lefty go "hmm". Of course, laissez-faire vs. centralized land planning would make a righty go "hmm' as well.

Read the book.

Those DR dictators were tree-huggers, so they can't have been real RWers. From real RWer's POV that was probably their greatest flaw. From everyone else's it was about their only redeeming feature.
Btw, that there is still a wee bit of forest left in Central Europe is also likely due to the ruling despots that needed large hunting grounds and unspoilt views from their palaces. Especially true for Germany where those privileges were not annulled before 1918.

The capacity for self-justification is, unlike our physical environment, infinite. Brooks, Goldberg, et al, like other propagandists, have no shame.

Those DR dictators were tree-huggers, so they can't have been real RWers.

"We are blessed here in America with vast natural resources, and we must use them all." -- Bob McDonnell, a real RWer, in his response to the SOTU

They have it on the other side of the border as well!

The traditional African religions of Ifa (Yoruba) and Vodun (Fon) persist throughout the Caribbean, South America, and North America as vodun ("voodoo"), santeria, candomble, and palo mayombe, among others.

They came to this hemisphere with the Africans who were brought here as slaves, and persisted by renaming their respective pantheons of "gods" and "goddesses" after Catholic saints.

The number of people in the US who practice santeria, specifically, is estimated to be about a million. It's a hard statistic to pin down, however, because of how deeply African-derived religious beliefs and practices are with Catholicism among Caribbean people.

The Haitian people may indeed have learned that life is capricious and planning is futile, but I doubt traditional, African-derived religions was who they got it from.

Brooks is talking out of his @ss.

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