Hating on Haiti?

by Amanda Lanum 

Here in the WIBW newsroom we listen to CNN and FOX News to keep up with what is happening nationally and around the world. This morning my ear's perked up when I heard the name of a former Jeff West classmate, Paul Shirley. Paul is a few years older than me, but his family is well-known in Meriden. He and his younger brothers were stellar basketball players. Paul even spent some time playing for the NBA and now writes a blog for FlipCollective. It's his latest blog on Flip that got him a mention on the news program I overheard... and that also got him canned from ESPN.

The reason Paul was mentioned in national news was not to gain kudos, but to be called "insensitive" for his latest blog about Haiti. You can read it here:  http://www.flipcollective.com/2010/01/26/if-you-rebuild-it-they-will-come-by-paul-shirley/

Basically, Paul says he will not donate money to help Haiti because he doesn't feel they'll do anything constructive with the money. For instance, he writes, "If it were apparent that Haiti would likely rebuild in an earthquake-resistant way, and if a cure could be found for hurricane abuse of island nations, then maybe one could imagine putting a sustained effort into rebuilding the place. But that would only be feasible if the country had shown any ability to manage its affairs in the past, which it has not done."

Paul goes on to explain he's not completely without empathy, but doesn't agree that we should feel a responsibility to help people that he feels should first take steps to help themselves. He cites Haiti's poverty, lack of disaster preparation, and large population.

Paul is not an unintelligent person. I'm sure he knew the second he decided to write the blog that it would stir up controversy while painting himself as a compassionless and perhaps imbecilic person. On his twitter account, @paulthenshirley, he even prefaced the promotion of his blog by writing, "My take on Haiti. Remember - only trying to make ppl think." It is apparent more people disagree with his blog than agree. But, I've noticed similar postings on other blogs where folks agree with Paul, saying it's not their responsibility to help others who do not try to help themselves.

My question to you is, do you agree with those thoughts that we shouldn't unconditionally rush to the aid of those caught up in tragedy? That that kind of thinking makes the less fortunate too dependent on the compassion of others and doesn't empower them with the knowledge and skills necessary to help themselves? Or do you believe it is our responsibility as human beings to help one another in times of need? And while he's opened up the topic for discussion, Paul's blog is certainly thought-provoking; do you think he deserved to be let go from ESPN? Let me know; I can't wait to hear your thoughts on this one!

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