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How to Help Haiti 4: David Brooks

posted by Scot McKnight

Here is the fourth part of David Brooks’ piece in NYTimes

Fourth, it’s time to promote locally led paternalism. In this country, we first tried to tackle poverty by throwing money at it, just as we did abroad. Then we tried microcommunity efforts, just as we did abroad. But the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism.

These programs, like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the No Excuses schools, are led by people who figure they don’t understand all the factors that have contributed to poverty, but they don’t care. They are going to replace parts of the local culture with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement — involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance.

It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people — maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands.

The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington used to acknowledge that cultural change is hard, but cultures do change after major traumas. This earthquake is certainly a trauma. The only question is whether the outside world continues with the same old, same old.



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Richard

posted January 22, 2010 at 10:08 am


So if I’m understanding him correctly, by “paternalism”, Brooks means “accountability” and “raising the bar.” If that is the case, I would agree with his sentiment even if I don’t agree with his poor phrasing.
On the flip side, I’ve seen Haitians work very industriously with more resourcefulness than most of the middle class folks I know here in the United States. Maybe it’s less and issue of “paternalism” and more an issue of giving Haitians access to the resources they need to thrive- something which has only happened on limited scales in Haiti or elsewhere.
Think Lupton’s betterment vs. development distinction in “Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life”: “Betterment does for others; development enables others to do for themselves. Betterment improves conditions: development strengthens capacity. Betterment gives a man a fish: development teaches a man how to fish” (Lupton 39). Lupton also comments later that justice ensures giving the man access to the pond.



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