How ironic that after I posted on the deep generosity of a man like Kurt Warner, I had the misfortune to read at Salon.com about former basketball player Paul Shirley’s callous, ill-informed, idiotic rant at FlipCollective against donating to help Haitians after an earthquake destroyed much of their country. In it, Shirley likens giving the Haitians money would be akin to giving
money to homeless men on the street. Based on past experiences, I don’t think the guy with the sign that reads “Need You’re Help” is going to do anything constructive with the dollar I might give him.
Right, because helping people left dead and injured by the hundreds of thousands, as well as starving, without potable water, and homeless, is akin to giving a buck to someone who is homeless–which is often as a result of economic hardship and/or serious physical, mental, and/or psychological problems.
To Shirley, the proper question to ask in this time of Haiti’s deep tragedy is: “Shouldn’t much of the responsibility for the disaster lie with the victims of that disaster?” The answer, for him, comes in the form of a weird, insulting comparison between Haitians and prehistoric humans:
Imagine that I’m a caveman. Imagine that I’ve chosen to build my house out of balsa wood, and that I’m building it next to a roaring river because I’ve decided it will make harvesting fish that much easier. Then, imagine that my hut is destroyed by a flood.
Imagining what would happen next is easier than imagining me carrying a caveman’s club. If I were lucky enough to survive the roaring waters that took my hut, my tribesmen would say, “Building next to the river was pretty dumb, wasn’t it?.” Or, if I weren’t so lucky, they’d say, “At least we don’t have to worry about that moron anymore.”
Yes, swiping at Haitians, who happen to be as Shirley knows the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere, for being “morons,” for “choosing” to build homes out of whatever materials they could afford, is so intelligent, as well as edifying. This of course says nothing of the majestic, sturdy Presidential palace, parliamentary building, and hotels among thousands of others of all shapes, sizes, and materials that were laid waste by the earthquake. See for yourself:
[photo from Yahoo News]
Shirley’s approach can be summarized by his mock letter to the people of Haiti asking the following:
Dear Haitians –
First of all, kudos on developing the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Your commitment to human rights, infrastructure, and birth control should be applauded.
As we prepare to assist you in this difficult time, a polite request: If it’s possible, could you not re-build your island home in the image of its predecessor? Could you not resort to the creation of flimsy shanty- and shack-towns? And could some of you maybe use a condom once in a while?
The Rest of the World
It takes a detestable degree of ignorance to write such screed while ignoring, or simply not knowing even a smidgen of, Haiti’s history–generations of poverty abetted in recent years by brutally restrictive IMF policies mandating the privatization of services, including the police, with private security forces nowhere to be seen in the aftermath of the quake; tariff reductions resulting in the dumping of goods, especially produce, from far wealthier agricultural powers into Haiti that drove out Haitian-grown goods and kept poor Haitian farmers poor; frequent military interventions from the US primarily to forestall democracy, support murderously repressive dictatorships such as those of “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier, and overtly and covertly support murderous paramilitary groups such as FRAPH. Haiti didn’t simply become and stay poor. It had plenty of help in the last two centuries. Yeah, Mr. Shirley, ignore those crucial details of history and political economy to blame the victims of this colossal tragedy.
Thankfully ESPN fired him from his job as occasional correspondent before more such tripe, as well as his grossly ignorant commentary on race in the US that one can read at Salon.com in the above post, could litter its website. Methinks something more is at work with Shirley’s superficial analysis, perhaps the skin color of most Haitians.
It would be hard to find a more narrow-minded, selfish, and thoroughly ignorant bookend to Warner among athletes than Paul Shirley. What a disgrace.
[Edit: Mr. Shirley has apparently issued "A Reaction" at FlipCollective. Read it for yourselves. I especially enjoyed how Shirley maintains that the "Haitians bear the majority of the responsibility for their post-earthquake fate even though he belatedly expresses his "understand[ing] that outside influences have played a large part in determining those circumstances”–with no assessment of said “outside influences.”
I also note how he tortuously connects alleged assumptions that the Haitians’ “fate was not at least in part their own responsibility” (after an earthquake, i.e. “act of God”) with a baseless assertion that such this straw-man assumption–to which he attributes to no one–“rationalizes much of the United States’ past meddling in the affairs of Haiti. But most of all, it shows even less respect to the Haitian people.” Really? How does it do those things–rationalizing US “meddling” (a generous and innocuous characterization, to be mild) and showing “even less respect to the Haitian people?” Less than what, “meddling in the affairs of Haiti” which included supporting murderous dictators and paramilitary organization? Really, Mr. Shirley? How can you possibly equate or assess that to then determine the respective harm that the “meddling” and the alleged disrespect of not blaming the Haitians for their poverty had? This, of course, says nothing of economic policies, not disconnected to “meddling,” which Shirley didn’t assess either.
Well, at least Shirley learned this during his salad days as a journeyman basketball player in the NBA and abroad–when attacked for your statements, claim that they were taken out of context. That Shirley did. Well done, Shirley–snivel about the “psychology of donating” to Haitians that allegedly ignores Haitians’ responsibility for their own fate, get called out for it, then retreat to the weak-kneed defense that your turgid ignorant rant was “taken out of context.” Thanks, Mr. Responsibility. We’ll eagerly await your detailed assessment of the “outside influences” playing ‘a large part in determining those circumstances” before the quake. Maybe he can do that from Port-au-Prince and explain this in detail face-to-face to Haitians, while reading his original letter ridiculing them, equating them to prehistoric people, and withholding his financial support for people in a life-and-death struggle.]