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#2610: Corbett replies to Grey's further denouncing of basic charity groups
Of course it is true that both kinds of help are wanted, both structural
change and "charity" a la missionaire. However, the missionaries, for the
most part, are working AGAINST structural change, not merely ignoring it.
Kathy, once against I feel the need to protest your claim. This is so
ironic to me. I am a atheist who has no use for religion. Yet, I first
got involved in scholarship on Haiti Voodoo in the early 1980s to
defend it against what seemed to me completely outrageous attacks from
SOME fundamentalist Christian religious folks.
Now, here I am, coming to the defense of missionary groups of the
Christian sort, and doing so against an attack from a Voodoo mambo.
Ah, irony is sweet. Helps keep us aware of the complexities of the world.
Kathy, I have two complaints with your post:
First the broad generalization that: "However, the missionaries, for the
most part, are working AGAINST structural change, not merely ignoring it."
I would think that such a broad and serious charge should at least be
accompanied by some serious argumentation and evidence, not just a bald
It certainly doesn't fit my experience. I would not argue that NONE of
the fundamentalist missionaries don't do this, but that it is most who
do, I just have not seem any evidence of it and lots to the contrary. It
seems to me that most missions are rather quiet simple places going about
quite humble work of basic relief. Yet the overwhelming bulk of those
I've visited, not small number, also tend to have literacy programs and
consciousness-training activities as well.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, there is some sense in which any relief
program does have a negative impact on the struggle for long-term
development. It seems a fact of human psychology that when really pushed
into extreme need, people will tend to be more assertive, even revolutionary
in trying to get those basic needs met.
But there is a level of suffering and need that seem to me not to be a good
thing even if they motivate people to the structual change process. The
price of the suffering is just too high. I felt that from the very beginning
of the call for an embargo of Haiti after Aristide's overthrow. It wasn't
very hard to see who it was who would bear the brunt of the suffering.
Certainly not those in the U.S. who could comfortably call for the Haitian
poor to suffer for the cause, while vitually nothing would be sacrificed by
the foreigners or Haitians living abroad who called for the embargo.
My first argument, then, is simply to challenge the broadness of your
generaliztion and to claim that it is contray to what I have observed.
It just seems a flatly wrong claim.
Second, and perhaps more frustrating to me is the tarring with a single
brush tactic that you do on the church in -- Arizona, wasn't it? What
reason would you have for thinking that THIS particular church and its
particular fund-raising and relief were of a negative manner? The attack
seems to be founded on nothing but a broad generalization which itself
seems to me to have nothing founding it.
Haiti is a land of such desperate need. It needs lots of different kinds of
help, and it needs lots of PEOPLE willing to go beyond their own lives
and to aid Haiti and Haitians. It needs people IN Haiti. It needs people
outside of Haiti, both Haitians living abroad and good willed foreigners.
And it needs some trust and cooperation among all those folks. To just
willy-nilly attack groups without some strong justification seems to me
very harmful to the effort to aid Haiti.
I often play a sort of mind-dream game: suppose some simply ideal government
were to come to power -- good and self-less people with power and energy
and good ideas, all that wonderful stuff. Then what? Assuming they had
the sticking power and began to work on their rebuilding scheme. Then what?
Even in such an ideal world we're likely not to see ideality come to be in
Haiti (or in the U.S. or any other place for that matter) it would still
take the resources and cooperation of many people and governments and
organizations, religions and secular, to bring the mass of Haiti's people
up even to the level of dignified poverty.
I remember back in 1990 being so very deeply moved by Aristide's humility
in one of his compaign plans: He said: I want to move the Haitian
people from misery to poverty. Wow, can you imagine a presidential campaign
in many countries were a candidate would even consider saying such a thing?
And yet it is true. Haiti's motto that there is force in unity seems so
very true to me that I find the sorts of attacks as that you leveled to
be most devisive and well as unfounded in fact.