Monday, January 12, 2009

Missionaries and Farm Subsidies

I am a bit snippy today. I posted to one of my internet groups a "snippy" response to an honest request from an earnest person who was going to come down here to the DR, to one of the Haitian batayes and do some "missionary" work. He wanted to know if they, the group of 20, would be welcomed. Would the Dominicans resent their helping the Haitians? Did the government want them here?

So I said, well, sure. They would certainly be welcome to come down here and do the work that that back in the States they would pay the Dominicans and Haitians to do for them. This would allow the Dominicans more time to play dominoes. If they built some really nice places, the Dominicans could take them from the Haitians. I said that here is a very big industry here, "volunteers" are charged up to $1000 a week to "work" with the poor.
I said that the Dominican government would be welcoming since that would allow them not to have to deal with the problem. The US Embassy would be happy to have them since it would show how warm and generous we Americans are so that we can continue to subsidize our rice and flood the world with it, destablizing agriculture all over the world,,,,,,,,,, I closed with saying that I particularly liked the missionaries who came with the "gold crosses in their ears.'

I got slammed for the post, of course, and rightly so because nobody likes a cynic.

I reposted a quasi apology, pointing out that indeed it was a noble effort, that they could indeed be playing golf ---- but also they might bear in mind that the money that they spend on their air fare would send a Haitian to college for a year in Haiti.

Non- profits outside of the United States do not work the same way as they do inside the US. Here they are a HUGE business.... and quite a disgraceful one at that. I could refer you to one of the six books that are on my list on the subject -- which would depress you and make you perhaps you as much of a cynic as I have become

But here is my point-

If you come here on "mission", check out what that "mission" really is..

Now if you want to ome here on your knees to labor in the hot sun in repentance for the slavery of our past, That, I can certainly understand, because that is what brought me here. But I don't volunteer here anymore. Volunteering is not part of the culture here. They don't do it.

A representative from Friends Journal called to thank me for my contribution and we spoke for a bit (I called him back to absorb the cost of the call!). He had read my journal article from three years ago and some of my blog, and said, "Well, it sounds like you could use some help. What would you do if a group of us came down there. Say you had five Quakers for a week, what would you do with them?" I was silent for a while. Then I said: "I don't want five Quakers for a week, I want one Quaker for five years."

So if we "white folks" want to get down on our knees and repent, then I am down with that..... but somehow...... I just don't think that that is what is going on with these missionary trips.

Perhaps I am wrong.

Wouldn't that be grand?
If we wanted to actually stand in solidarity with them, figure out something that might help them long term, something that we can learn from them, or that we might do that would affect their lives, or how we could live with as little as they do, that would be an interesting trip. (The Lambi Fund of Haiti runs such trips -- and charges close to $400 a day to do so!)

I think that what will happen is that these missionary folks will come down here, feel sorry for the poor people, go back home, feel self righteous, and be really grateful to God for their "stuff" . And think nothing about the agricultural subsidies.

But they will have seen the batayes... and that -- at least-- will have changed them.

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