Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Did he really say that?

In David Brooks' article on Haiti, which is objectionable on so many levels that I would have to abandon my dissertation to construct a thorough refutation, there is one I will talk about here.

Brooks writes:
"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."

Voodoo religion. Summarized in one line. With no sense whatsoever of either its complex construction, its practice, the meaning it imparts to people who practise it or its striking similarity to every framework of religious philosophy known to the living world! God, rituals, lesser-than-God holy figures, a hunger to know what will happen in the future, communicative possibilities from the other world to this one, and finally, palliative mechanisms that assure you that this world is meagre, and that it and everything that it subjects you to will pass; as will you.

I am strangely upset more by this than anything else that Brooks' paternalistic tone advocates. I do not actively practise any religion, I bear no allegiance to any one over the other and I am more confused than certain about the value it brings to the world we live in. However, I do not dismiss it and I certainly do not pit religion/ tradition against atheism/ modernity. Further, I do not claim to redeem people from their God-fulness to my Godlessness.

Lastly, it is bad analysis to make an uncomplicated connection between the bulwarks of religious philosophy, and day-to-day practice. All religions underline transience. Yet, people everywhere seek to preserve life, earn money, plan for a better future and keep themselves and their families healthy and happy. Across the world, we hold onto our bodies for dear life, some more than others. Religious philosophy offers suggestions, ways of thought, and perspective in times of uncertainty and tragedy. For now, it might certainly serve the people of Haiti to be able to hold onto the voodoo religion than intellectual and imperiaist analyses of economic development.