Liberation Theology for First World people.
So, why haven't I written in a while? I had a hard semester, which went well. I took my MCAT which went terrible. I'm busy, but that isn't really it. Basically, I haven't written because I've been grossly unenthused by my usual topics lately. I've had a couple philosophy books on hand. I just shelved them the other day, because . . . well, because who the hell cares? That's been my general take for a while now. This stuff (i.e. theology, philosophy, etc.) formerly seemed of great importance to me. Now, my interest has officially waned.
This leaves me with two things to discuss: science and fiction. Neither of which I find to be great blogging material. And, neither of which, I really feel qualified or inclined to speak out as an expert, or even an aspiring expert.
So, I haven't written for a while: not because of writer's block, but mostly due to apathy.
But, yesterday I finished this book:
It's a biography about a doctor/anthropologist named Paul Farmer. I had previously read one of Farmer's works, but this biography put it in context. Farmer has spent most of his life working in Haiti, which continues to rank as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. It holds that honor because our government decided long ago that a nation of former slaves was only good for exploiting. Thus, we have instituted policies ever since that taken this exploitation to extremes never before seen or thought possible.
Ever since, Haiti has enjoyed the perks of extreme poverty: violence, ridiculous infant and child mortality rates, a median age range that barely escapes the teens, epidemics galore, starvation, lack of education, lack of infrastructure, and, to Farmer's dismay, lack of basic medical services. Not that these sorrows aren't found in other places, but it's simply a fact that to not find them in Haiti would require a combination of blindness, deafness, and lack of tactile perception. This is the gift of American and Latin American foreign policy because, after all, black people should know better than to revolt against French colonialism and torture.
Paul Farmer grew up in America in a poor family, but went to Duke for his Bachelor's, and received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard. He has predominantly worked in Haiti since his early 20's and indeed carried out most of his Harvard education by correspondence on the island. But, enough with the gist, here's why I think he's worth writing about:
Farmer is Liberation Theology incarnated. I hear people discuss liberation theology quite commonly, but it is always discussed among people in the First World. We always lend it our sympathies in theory, and in practice know that we are not actually going to do anything to join its cause. I hear the majority of churches in America talk about poverty the same way we talk about sin: it's something out there, and we should do something to stop it. We take up a collection, and then go home to watch Lost or whatever other 'cultural phenomenon' is demanding our attention. But, throwing money at Haiti only serves to shore up the power-brokers that are continuing to mutilate that country. Throwing money at charities generally serves to give jobs to naive white people, who would rather be a shoulder to cry on than an arm to work for the cause of the poor.
We can throw all the money we want at the poor, but the fact is that the "free" market is designed to steal money from those who are easiest to steal it from. American banks are fantastic at slight-of-hand. They've been using it on the Third World for centuries, and now that most of the Third World has been bled dry, they've turned (in the last 3 years especially) on Americans.
Farmer barely self-identifies as a Christian. Yet, he seems to me the embodiment of Ghandi's axiom, "Go to the poor, they will tell you who the Christians are." He simultaneously shows me three things: 1) That I am not a Christian, and that I don't know any. 2) That there is hope that we all could be if we repent. 3) That a life of service to the poor, in other words a life that follows Jesus' example is indeed beautiful, meaningful, and worth attempting.
In other words, this biography is the first meaningful theology/philosophy book I have read in years. Farmer stands out as a great example of what it is for a First World person to live out the gospel in the wake of liberation theology.