Saturday, May 12

What do you do when you face a problem like Haiti?

Haiti, along with so many other countries which are in distress, is a problem which was made worse due to the help of the United Nations and the white saviour complex. Or the white man’s burden. Read this brilliant book by William Easterly on this. I quote:

The world's poor need more focused, trial-and-error programs like the Malawian net distribution and fewer ambitious plans to cure poverty, Easterly argues. There are two tragedies of the world's poor. The first is the one we hear about: that so many people suffer so much for lack of inexpensive remedies.

The second, he says, "is the tragedy in which the West spent $2.3 trillion on foreign aid over the last five decades and still had not managed to get 12-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $4 bed nets to poor families. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $3 to each new mother to prevent five million child deaths." The West is not stingy. It is ineffective.

This is the primary reason why I never donate to any of the international appeals. Ever. I am simply not sure that my contributions (the voluntary sort) and the contributions that the government does on my behalf (the involuntary part) is being used effectively. I cannot do much about the government’s donations but I can stop spending my hard earned money being frittered away at incompetence. I wouldn't do that to my money with a bad fund manager, why not for charity? After all, both are investments designed to provide good outputs, no? Basically, in many ways, this entire western world aid industry to the other world is a colonial and frankly racist exercise. It is just dressed up in some “do good” clothing and we are done with it. The disasters committee shows some heart wrenching images and video on tv and we, the poor saps, think, awwwww, SOMETHING must be done, money is thrown at the vast aid machine and nothing (usually) gets done and if something does get done, its usually the wrong thing. Think back on the Kony madness. 2 months after that ridiculous bout of videos and facebook updates, what has actually happened? nothing. See what I mean? This is feel good hypocrisy at its best. Dont worry, this is not just for charity, same with foreign policy as well. See the current Arabian revolutions, when the revolutions were happening, then everybody was jumping up and down to help and object and moan and groan. Now that the problem in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain is worse (they are still ruled by despots, they are still no jobs), nobody cares. Heck, the USA is back to selling arms to Bahrain. Brilliant.

Haiti is a classic example of how the western world has managed to screw it over. It is one of the classic cases of how good intentions lead one to hell. Here, read about what one aid worker says. For example, the USA used to do good sometimes, but these days? Every time it intervenes in any country, it usually manages to screw up things and leave things behind which are more broken that others. You don't have to look at Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. etc. just look at Haiti. I quote

1. Good intentions aren't enough.

2. Rose-colored glasses are bullshit.

3. The white savior industrial complex is real, demonstrated daily by feel good aid programs that probably don't work, or feel good causes like Kony 2012 that generate plenty of buzz but don't add up to much when people are actually supposed to do something.

4. You can't help people who don't want to help themselves.

5. True altruism is an incredibly rare thing. (See #3)

6. Little victories must be celebrated if you want to protect yourself from the crippling effects of the larger failure.

So what do you do? the author says this

If I were to do it all again, I wouldn't design a solution. It isn't my place to do that. What I'd do is try and be a useful resource for a group of people or a community that have a much better understanding of their problems than I do, and want to work together toward finding solutions. I wouldn't come in as the guy with the answer. I'd come in as the guy willing to try and help them in any way possible as they find their own answer, and act as the bridge between that answer, and the money and resources needed to make it happen.

Or, perhaps if I really wanted to help, I wouldn't ever come to Haiti to begin with. I'd keep my fight at home in the United States, rallying people to try and build awareness that places like Haiti suffer because of policies benefitting our government, our corporations, and ultimately, ourselves. Policies created by our politicians, sometimes with our consent (the Iraq War) and sometimes as a result of special interests (the Supreme Court's campaign finance reform ruling), result in massive problems for other people in the world. Sometimes I wonder if that truly ever can be remedied. 


No comments: