Exhibit B is David Brooks' January 14th op-ed in the New York Times, titled, "The Underlying Tragedy."
Brooks rightly identifies Haiti's poverty as the main factor compounding the death toll from the earthquake. Ok, check. The piece then attempts to explain why Haiti is so poor and what should be done about it. Ok, check and check. We're all on board. He explains that Haiti is poor because of 1) a lack of personal responsibility, 2) neglectful "child-rearing practices," and 3) "the influence of the voodoo religion." Whaaa?
It's the same old "blame the victim" mentality dressed up in new clothes. First, is it not wrong to lecture Haitian parents while they're literally still pulling their children from the rubble? It's almost like Brooks is in a hurry to prevent other reactions to the crisis, like huge outpourings of sympathy and money. I'll admit that I don't know anything about Haitian child-rearing, but I doubt David Brooks does either. Even if Brooks is right about these cultural attributes, and even ignoring the crude timing of his comments, it's disingenuous of him to act like these cultural traits are entirely causes and not effects of poverty. He just brushes aside Haiti's history of oppression, slavery, and colonialism with a few sentences. Brooks' piece is full of the same themes you hear when conservatives pundits talk about Black urban poverty in America. It's like throwing someone to the ground, kicking them in the head, and then stepping back to scold them for clearly lacking a go-getter attitude. David Brooks' column says, "Hey look, they're just lying on around on the ground!" I can almost hear the voices in response, saying, "Yes, comfortable White man writing in your big newspaper, tell me why my struggles are all my fault."
So what should American do about Haiti's poverty? First, here's what Brooks says we shouldn't do: send aid or help with development projects. How convenient! Nothing much required from us! Brooks calls for a policy of "intrusive paternalism" to promote "a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement." Just to be sure I got the nuance here, I looked it up. My dictionary defines paternalism as,
"the policy or practice on the part of people in position of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibility of those subordinate to them in the subordinates' supposed best interest."
I'd like to just close here by saying that David Brooks is literally making the old argument of colonialism. The problem is that the savages are intrinsically backwards. The solution is that we rule them, for their own good. It's strange how that works. You'd think that helping Haiti would require a sacrifice on our part. But according to the logic of David Brooks, a self-described moderate-conservative, we can only help Haiti by making ourselves more powerful and subordinating them to us. You can see now why blaming the victim is so important for thinkers like Brooks and why we see that tactic in a hundred different variations. It's meant to remove our own sense of responsibility and replace it with a sense of pride and entitlement.