Friday, January 22, 2010

"Haiti is a Nation of Heroes."

Sometimes I think Jay Smooth lives inside my head. Literally, every video he makes I nod my head in amazement.

Am I the only one having a kind of mixed reaction to the outpouring of fundraising for Haiti? On the one hand, of course it's wonderful that so many people are giving, of course I think that it should be on tv, it's news, of course I think it's great that celebrities are involved because they have the ability to reach more people, make an issue more visible, etc.

But, I have this kind of queasy feeling about it all, like, it's not like Haiti didn't need help before. It's like, hundreds of thousands of people have to die suddenly in order for people to pay attention. And I'm afraid that this situation leaves the door open for more of the IMF/World Bank, etc type loans to screw over the Haitian economy further, or for the spread of further US corporations to "create jobs" etc etc.

Every time I bring this up people look at me like I'm kicking an adorable puppy.

This is a similar feeling I had after Katrina, and after (well, after reading about, as I was too young to really notice at the time) Rwanda. (Although it hasn't done much for the people in Darfur, really.)

Why do we only care when Bono tells us to? Why do we only notice when it horrifies Anderson Cooper?


**added** And just to make clear, I don't leave myself out of the "We" mentioned above. I've been keeping this blog for almost a decade, and I don't think I ever wrote about Haiti once. Why not?

Oh, oh, and if you want to know the type of havoc IMF and World Bank loans can wreak on an economy, I can't recommend this movie enough. (Again.)


Kristin said...

I definitely share your feelings on this. Not only on the potential dangers of the development industry's involvement, but also about the cult of celebrity surrounding the public response. The kind of thing that gives me the most visceral reaction is hearing that John Edwards (!!!) got into Haiti on the same day that he released the press release about being the father of that baby. On a flight with Sean Penn. I'm like... Aid flights can't get in? The military is flying into the DRC and riding *busses* into Port-au-Prince, and John Edwards and Sean Penn got in 'cause why? No medical training, no expertise in relief work, nothing that's actually needed *on the ground there.* But somehow, resources were diverted to let that flight right in, and paparazzi showed up, and... Blech. Celebrities making it all about them and their Personal Journey. That kind of makes me want to vomit.

All that being said... I expected to feel completely cynical about the television special last night, but Mary J. Blige and Justin Timberlake both made me cry. So... I guess I'm not totally untouched by the outpouring either.

Kristin said...

Not, by the way, that I think the US military presence in times of humanitarian crisis is completely unproblematic either. Or, for that matter, the involvement of the non-profit industry. But damned if they shouldn't get in before *John Edwards and Sean Penn.*