Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/This American Life Roundup:”Island Time”

Stationed in New Orleans this week for debauchery training, I’ve appropriately plugged in to another Ira hour dedicated to a similarly fucked-without-consent disaster zone. Sister city Port-au-Prince and the rest of Haiti continue to go through it four months after … Read More

By / May 27, 2010

Stationed in New Orleans this week for debauchery training, I’ve appropriately plugged in to another Ira hour dedicated to a similarly fucked-without-consent disaster zone. Sister city Port-au-Prince and the rest of Haiti continue to go through it four months after the earthquake, just as New Orleans rubs its butt from rough handling by FEMA and a hairy, beastly Bush.

Just like any love affair, you would question every so often why you stick around. With Ira, the ground crumbles beneath your feet, an illusory platform in the first place built of ideal cement and bureaucratic bricks. He takes you away from that sweet oblivion and instead invites you in to the heathen orgy of cutthroat politicos and sizzling realism. And so you stay.

Act 1 Are you Mr. Mango?

Planet Money’s posse takes you to meet a vivacious Haitian mama with potential crops and tons of missing pieces that make profit a far-out dream. The team introduces you to the 10,000 half-assed NGOs pulling out early (a good idea in some situations, but not all), as well as the more promising individuals in the private sector. I have more faith that key players like "Mango Man" Jean Maurice of Port-au-Prince to get Haitians over the edge for the same reason you should reciprocate oral sex: incentive that you too will profit symbiotically at some point. Economic karma, however, is no match for sloppy bureaucracies that can’t get it up.

As Mango Man says, "I’m not a philanthropist. I’m doing this because I need the product." And what better way to get shit done than choosing mutual benefit over dependence on the unicorns, rainbows, and fleeting goodness in the hearts of your fellow scoundrel man?

In a country that has gotten poorer and poorer every year for the last half century despite NGOs, outside aid, and lovey dovey missionaries, the hidden variable is that darling rogue scumbag for whom no means maybe-manifest destiny. Potion No. 9’s main ingredient in this case that will seduce both Floridian mango munchers and Haitian farmers into sweet symbiosis is capacity building, the high-cost, rare opiate of public aid.

 

Act 2 In that benevolent dictatorship, I could be a cowboy

Continuing the theme of manifest destiny, Apricot Irving paints a picture of missionary compounds in Haiti oozing of "19th century benevolence." While I’m all for being a giving partner, all of the rules and conditions and threats of hell are a real buzzkill. I just can’t get lost in this fantasy world of aid.

Joanne Hodges , wife of the late Mr. Hodges who financed the compound and its accompanying hospital, relates, "Don’t try to change the Haitian people. They look at life differently than we do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve help." The 87 year old godsend tells of a story of being robbed and abused. In the missionary spirit, she tried the God angle with her captors only to be bound and gagged-sounds eerily similar to the catholic school stories I’ve glimpsed in friends’ stories and in porn.

 

Act 3 An apocalyptic frame of mind

The self-proclaimed Kafkaesque situation outlined in this act describes post-apocalyptic Haiti as "sheer sensory overload of detail and texture." It’s like a lobodomy seeing destruction on this scale. "Port-au-Prince was making me stupid."

The narrator describes a man that I am glad is so distant from my Big Easy post: a Haitian eye doctor described as such-

He may be the one true genius I’ve known in my life. He’s fluent in six languages and proficient in three more, knows long passages of world literature by heart, plays the piano beautifully, and placed third in the Haitian national chess championship when he was twelve. I met him almost 20 years ago when he was a handsome young doctor with jet black hair down to his shoulders, and the slightly mad eyes of a Rasputin or Houdini. He was brilliant and he knew it."

You are the Don to my Quixote.

In analyzing the goings on in Haiti, he takes a similar approach to Ira-shaving off the optimism to bring on delightful sober analysis outlining three possible outcomes: Revolution, Exploitation, or Extinction. "I did think I was losing my mind, because what I saw was not making sense." He was feeling like a character in a Kafka story-despite key players, bureaucracy again cock blocks aid.

How are you, Ira, through all this grime and dirty reality outside of suburban comfortable delusion? As Haitians respond when asked the same question, Nous lá-we are here. While we’re here, we got to open our eyes and our wallets and laissez les bons temps rouler for Haitians and New Orleanians once again.