Lawyers, Haiti, Natives, etc…

No wonder lawyers are paid so much money (and will likely continue to make egregious amounts of money in the future); people who follow pop culture (e.g., all Americans) relate to us, and our usual legal process. See, our (typical) legal process is but a microcosm of the pop culture world: 1) find an urgent/cataclysmic situation, I’ll call it a “man without a fish,” 2) react in a way that “gives a man a fish,” but doesn’t change the underlying structure that allowed that man to be fishless in the first place, and 3) move on.

I see it in all pop culture AND legal capacities; we love vulnerable people. It makes good stories and for lawyers, well, it makes good money. Heck, for many Americans, there’s a win/win–we scour the and headlines for some poor suckers who just lost their house, we give some money/clothes/facebook headlines to the cause du jour, and voila (!), we have a conversation piece for our liberal friends for a few weeks, and our consciences are simultaneously absolved. Yet after those clothes are gone and the facebook statuses are long forgotten, little DuQuan Jenkins from the hood is, well, still in the hood and we haven’t really made his life any better.

For lawyers, the equation is slightly different–we scour hospitals/barber shops/old lady’s conversations for some poor sucker who is in a horrible position (perhaps a small mom and pop business who is being sued for a slip and fall), we give a bit of our time and pretend that we’re really friends with these folks, and then voila(!)–we hit them with a bill for “X” thousands of dollars, and their immediate emergency is over but they’re really not any better off for our involvement in their issues.

Is this a problem? Maybe. I mean, who knows–perhaps people really just like getting a fish instead of learning how to fish. I know that if I hire some people of particular ethnicities to do some yardwork for me, well, I don’t really want to pull any weeds. I want them to pull the weeds–that’s a skill that I really don’t want to have! So maybe always playing the populist role is a bit dramatic and there’s a time to temper the expectations of teaching a man to fish…

Still, when I see tribes contracting out for exactly the same thing over and over and over–paying the same white guy (or sometimes Native guy–sometimes!) thousands of dollars thousands of times I start thinking, “shouldn’t we just in-house that service–learn how to do it ourselves?”

Anyway, the reason that I bring this up at all is this whole Haiti thing. Two days ago (or maybe 3) NOBODY cared about Haiti. The dude from the Miami travel agency that books flight to Haiti didn’t care about Haiti. But now everyone does…and good…we should show some empathy in a time like this. Certainly. God bless and have mercy on the folks there…but here’s the 100% real talk thing about that–like a lawyer’s interest who has a retainer, Americans’ interest will be there approximately 5 days. Then we’re on to something else–Brangelina or Octomom or some chick giving birth to a kitty or some craziness.

Then what? Haiti’s no better off. They don’t know how to fish.

Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 7:56 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Funny thing, I know lots of lawyers who make no more money than the next guy. Hear tell the best financial returns among professionally educated folks are in dentistry. The rich lawyers are a minority in the profession.

  2. Gyasi, I begin to realize — mostly because of working with Tim Barrus to help boys who have AIDS around the world (he IS teaching them to fish) — that there ARE people out there quietly doing the work that needs to be done. The only way to find them is to join them, but that’s a BIG step.

    Prairie Mary

  3. I really like the point of solving the problem of why this person didn’t have a fish to begin with — but does it have to be only an ethnic thing? I know plenty of white people who are busted and struggling too (go to any AA meeting and you’re likely to find a bunch).

    As a Christian, I know that there are a lot of people who go to places like Haiti, Cuba, Peru, etc. I have a friend currently in Basque Country doing ministry… and these sorts of ministries — while definitely coupled with a discussion about Christ, are primarily about feeding, clothing, educating, etc.

    Having traveled abroad to industrialized nations AND the third world, I’ve seen a major American myopic problem is we interchange “me” and “people” without issue — often when putting things down. “People tend to only care about the next thing on TV”, “People only comfort those around them”, etc. Well — people in other countries often treat television the way we treat radio — and so on. People are pretty broad out there.

    My comment is too long, but in Africa (my primary third world vantage point), there is NO SHAME in poverty. There is suffering, there is difficulty, there is downright despair … but nobody is ashamed to say “I am poor.” It is like saying “I can’t jump as high as you.” Pride is involved in a lot of this, people in Haiti don’t WANT the help until they need the help — missionaries take their lives in their own hands in Haiti. Perhaps, sometimes, it’s the man not wanting to fish in the first place that is part of the problem.

  4. There are many people who would rather get a fish than learn how to fish. It is learned helplessness and I see this prevalent amongst many of my students. They want me to tell them the answer instead of coming to the answer on their own. “Ya mean I actually have to think and to work?” and I say, “Yes, I refuse to spoon feed you the information”. I will guide you but after a while you have to swim on your own. I think too many parents teach their children to be helpless, partly because it is easier and faster to everything for them rather than teach and they feel guilty for not spending as much time with them. We all watch t.v. but be smart about it and watch Supernanny. Learn how to parent and teach your children boundaries and independence. Teach them how to fish.

  5. all I know fer sure is …. more later, G-call me, I M Ricey Wild, the OG. Like you, I gots lots to say. In this case it’s g’night, C U later!

  6. […] gets right back to the “give a man a fish” discussion of a couple of weeks ago–how much better are we really making a […]

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