Theory Teacher's Blog

What Should I Do for Haiti, Addendum

Last Friday, I tried to give some advice for how best to donate money to Haiti. One of my points then was that we should talk and think before acting. The purpose of my addendum here is to continue that line of thinking and talking. Since last Friday, several people have e-mailed me some feedback and more has happened. First, several people e-mailed me confirmation that the organization Partners in Health is one of the most highly ranked charities worldwide for its integrity and efficiency. In other words, if you donate to them, the money actually goes to the right places. The very same evening that I wrote my post, Rachel Maddow [here] covered some of the same stuff that I did and interviewed Tracy Kidder about Partners in Health.

And similarly, on the same day, Naomi Klein on the public TV/radio program Democracy Now [here] also warned about the tendency of corporate-driven disaster relief efforts to re-engineer societies in sinister ways. So, basically, at the very moment I was citing her book The Shock Doctrine to make an argument about disaster relief in Haiti, she was herself on television saying the same thing (as I should have expected her to do.) But later this week (yesterday, here in the Huffington Post), she reported some good news that, because of public pressure, the IMF might be backing away from its tendency to use disasters to force countries to adopt neoliberal, market-fundamentalist economic policies. One example of such public pressure is The Nation article Klein mentions, and another is the “No Shock Doctrine for Haiti” FaceBook group.

I haven’t yet seen anyone make the same point that I made about the philosopher Agamben, so perhaps I can at least claim some originality on that one.

On another note, on a list-serve for literature professors that I’m on, some are talking about donating money to Education International, a federation of teachers unions, which plans to support teachers and professors in Haiti. This seems to me to be a praiseworthy expression of global solidarity. I wonder if other international unions and professional associations have thought of such solidarity.

The support for Haiti has been astounding. Many corporations have donated quite a lot, as you can see here, and the cell-phone donating that I mentioned before has raised quite a lot of money, though it’s not always clear if the money is being used in the best way or if the effort is being coordinated as well as it should. It’s obviously a difficult situation, and I am quite ignorant about how it all works. On the one hand, I am impressed and pleased that people want to help. On the other hand, I am still worried that the American, corporate involvement in the relief effort has the potential to become a neo-colonial take-over of Haiti. But I say “potential” because I don’t think it has to be that way so long as the multinational corporations, U.S. government, the IMF, and American Red Cross don’t try to forcefully control the relief effort. (By the way, in my earlier post, I forgot to distinguish between the American Red Cross and the International Red Cross — the International is, in my opinion, the better organization.) I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater here, since these organizations do a lot of good work. But down the road, as the relief effort moves from the current state of emergency to the rebuilding stage, I think this is precisely why it might be good for university professors such as myself to support teachers in Haiti and likewise for international labor unions and professional associations to partner with their sibling Haitian civil society organizations. And the reason I think that is because such labor-orientated rebuilding will be necessary to counterbalance the corporate-orientated rebuilding we can expect to be the focus of the U.S. government, etc.

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January 22, 2010 - Posted by | international aid

1 Comment »

  1. It appears that Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine has made yet another appearance in mainstream media in relation to Haiti’s crisis:

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/231922

    Also, in light of the tragedy, some organizations (such as Oxfam and Jubilee USA) have renewed their efforts to urge the IMF to cancel Haiti’s onerous debt so that the country can rebuild itself. The $1 billion in debt has and will continue to curtail any chance that Haiti has to have a stake in its own development let alone its rebuilding efforts. Here’s more information about Haiti’s debt:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/External_debt_of_Haiti

    And here is a petition from Oxfam calling on the IMF to drop Haiti’s debt:

    http://act.oxfamamerica.org/site/PageNavigator/advo_haitidebt

    Comment by M--- | January 26, 2010 | Reply


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