Friday, December 31, 2010

Dear Paul Krugman: Voodoo is a religion, not another name for evil irrational bullshit.

Everyone of a certain age well remembers the arrival into the English language of the phrase "voodoo economics".

30 years later, though, isn't it time for critics of "trickle-down" theories to decouple their economic polemics from religious invectives? Voodoo, you see, is a religion. In fact, it has at least as many adherents as Judaism.

Voodoo is more properly spelled Vodou, as is done in Haiti, or Vodun, as is common in West Africa. In the Western Hemisphere, Vodou is not only widespread in Haiti, but is also found, among other places, in the US states of Louisiana, Florida and New York.

In the Americas, Vodou is closely related to the Candomble religion found in Brazil, and the Santeria religion of Puerto Rico and Cuba. Like Vodou, both Candomble and Santeria are found elsewhere, including in many parts of the US. Most major American cities now have Botanicas, shops that cater to practitioners of Afro-Carribean religions generally, as well as to all sufficiently curious spiritual seekers, or just people interested in buying prayer candles, books by Alan Kardec, incense, etc.

In Africa, Vodun is just one of many surviving strands of African Traditional Religion. Benin, Togo, Nigeria, and Ghana all have large populations of adherents of Vodun. Estimates of the total number of practitioners of African Traditional Religion go as high as 200 million (or even higher), making it one of the largest religious traditions in the world.

It is especially galling to see fuck-the-poor/let-them-eat-cake economics characterized as "Voodoo", when the fact is that Christianity, and this should hardly be news to anyone, is the religion most closely associated with the supply-side crowd.

So whatever value there might be in Paul Krugman's most recent editorial, titled "The New Voodoo", everything that he says is irrevocably tainted by Krugman's egregious callousness toward a religion he unthinkingly derides.

The most dangerous and pernicious forms of bigotry are those that pass as socially acceptable. And this acceptance is due to the fact that people are perfectly comfortable engaging in and perpetuating certain kinds of bigotry because, in their ignorance, they do not take the targets of their bigotry seriously.

Links related to Vodou and African Traditional Religion:

[the above image is from the Robson Khalaf's blog Povo do Santo.]