Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lawrence Harrison Again

Having previously lauded Lawrence Henderson for his powerful explanation of Haiti's endemic misery, we laud him again for his recent WSJ opinion piece on the same.

The essence of Henderson's view is found in the following quotations from the article:
Haiti has received billions of dollars in foreign aid over the last 50 years, and yet it remains the least developed country in the Western Hemisphere. Its indicators of progress are closer to Africa's than to those of Latin America. It has defied all development prescriptions. Why? Because Haiti's culture is powerfully influenced by its religion, voodoo. . . .

Wallace Hodges, an American missionary who lived in Haiti for 20 years, observed: "A Haitian child is made to understand that everything that happens is due to the spirits. He is raised to externalize evil and to understand he is in continuous danger. Haitians are afraid of each other. You will find a high degree of paranoia in Haiti."

But voodoo is not the only progress-resistant force at work in Haiti. The treatment of the slaves in French St. Domingue—the colony that would become independent Haiti in 1804— was particularly brutal. The Haitian slaves won their freedom through an uprising that left them in charge of their destiny, but they were left with a value system largely shaped by African culture and by the experience of slavery. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Sir Arthur Lewis, himself a descendent of African slaves, wrote that those who had experienced it "have inherited the idea that work is only fit for slaves." . . .

Haiti has received far more development assistance than Benin, the country in the Dahomey region of West Africa whence came the slaves the French imported into St. Domingue. And yet today Haiti's and Benin's level of development are strikingly similar. The British imported slaves into Barbados from the same Dahomey region, but Barbados remained a British colony until 1966, by which time the descendents of the slaves had become black Englishmen. Today, Barbados is a stable democracy on the verge of First World status.

Culture matters. Race doesn't.

We think that last line would make an excellent t-shirt slogan.

2 comments:

ColoredOpinions said...

Harrison should consider that there isn't just choice between culture and race, there are soo many more aspects of reality that play a part in our existence. Abraham Kuyper explained in his Stone lectures that the most important characteristic of Calvinism is that all men are very different: in background, in culture, in race, in talents, et etc, but at the same time these differences disappear when all bow before God.

Luxury Traveler said...

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