Haiti, Disaster Capitalism, Politics and Stories: Some Links

The disaster in Haiti is beyond imagining.  When something goes beyond words, what can one say or do?  Well, donate, of course.  But how inadequate. 

It is going to be some time before I can collect my thoughts on this. 

Naomi Klein of Disaster Capitalism fame reminds us that the forces of profiteering / right-wing wackos are always looking for opportunities amidst the rubble of cities and the stench of the dead, as also reported here.  There has been little in the US press that I know of that has talked about more than how wonderful Americans are in aiding Haiti (not that I do not appreciate the generosity of ordinary Americans who are moved by the tragedy but surely this is a time to focus on the Haitians).  Some of the reporting in the American press is so Americentric that one wonders whether they see the rest of the world as mere appendages to America.  Much of what has been said about Haiti itself seems to have been about the looting whereas I have only recently seen a report about people helping each other, which surely can’t be that uncommon. 

I am still reeling from the results of the Massachusetts senatorial election, where the residents of the most liberal state in the country voted for a conservative Republican, Scott Brown.  I’ve often wondered why people vote against their interests.  Apparently others have wondered this as well, and the BBC has a thought-provoking article on the subject.  They quote an “exasperated Democrat,” Thomas Frank as saying 

“It’s like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy.”

and as another exasperated Democrat, Drew Westen, explains:

“… stories always trump statistics, which means the politician with the best stories is going to win: “One of the fallacies that politicians often have on the Left is that things are obvious, when they are not obvious.”

This makes me think about climate change (which is one of the issues liable to be affected by Brown’s election) and how the numbers don’t seem to convince people or at least to stimulate them to take action.  I am sure there are many complicated factors involved but perhaps one of them is that we need more and better and truer stories.  Tell all the truth, as Emily Dickinson said, but tell it slant.

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One Response to “Haiti, Disaster Capitalism, Politics and Stories: Some Links”

  1. Kurt Says:

    There’s a good article in the Smithsonian magazine from last May on how people believe based on stories they are told from a young age. The article focuses on Evolution vs. Creationism, with stats from around the world. In the US, according to a Newsweek poll, about 1/3 of Americans accept that Evolution, as they understand it, accounts for life as we know it. But far too many of them simply believe it–they were raised on Evolution w/out any understanding of the science behind the theory (which would help explain the nature of the changing theory, vs. static Creationism). The point isn’t to digress into why so many people blind themselves with their religious beliefs–it’s about how we base our beliefs on stories. Honestly, most Democratic candidates (and their staff and party) are lousy storytellers, and when they do tell a story, it often feels so patently false that people flee to the Republican side because the latter version (which most people also know is moldy and full of holes) is more comforting. Also, Republicans are better, on average, at creating attractive icons–recent Presidential election aside.

    We also tend toward simplicity. It takes hard work to be human, thoughtful, and progressive, and to tell engaging stories that encourage that work.

    I blame the Interwebs. (Okay, sorry, shouldn’t have closed with a joke.)

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