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NPR Voodoo
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Fresh from a drive to beg for more money, NPR apparently used some of those funds to send John Burnett to Togo to do a story on Voodoo...because lord knows it's a journalistic imperative to clear up any misconceptions Westerners might have about this venerated ideology.

Every year in the village of Glidji, 30 miles from Togo's capital city of Lome, members of the Guen tribe gather together for the Eke Ekpe festival -- part family reunion, part New Year's Eve, part religious worship.

The highlight of the festival is the sacred stone, sought by a priest within a sacred walled-in forest. The stone's color portends the fortunes of the coming year. This year, the stone he presents to the gathered crowd of 5,000 is white -- signifying wealth, happiness, an accident-free world.

"In this perennially destitute and ill-governed country, it would be something of a miracle if the promises of the white stone came true," Burnett says. "Life is a struggle for most Togolese, and the insurgency in nearby Ivory Coast is a constant concern. Still, the Guen can now begin their new year with hope."

Great...a fucking stone gives them hope. How about a little social reform? How about a bit of forward-looking instead of looking back? How about forgoing superstitious drivel for a bit of rationality and substantive societal change? Might that give them more to hope for? Nah...just pray to the rock.

There is a dark side to voodoo. Sorcerers called botono can be summoned to put a hex on an adversary, or bo, using the malevolent power of a voodoo spirit.

Um, no. The dark side to voodoo, as with most religions, is that it perpetuates a stunted, superstitious worldview.

Look, this isn't nearly as bad as the NYT putting horoscopes of the Dem candidates on its Op-Ed page, but the whole "Let us turn now to the quiet mysteries of the voodoo religion", treats the religion as if it's a pretty vase in a museum case and not an irrational collection of stupid ideas that actually impacts lives in negative way.

For example, it impacts AIDS in Haiti:

The fact is that many Haitians, especially the five million who live in the countryside, believe that many illnesses, including Aids, are caused by magic rather than microbes.

"Haitians never believe that the reason for an illness is simple," Jan Hoet, a Belgian missionary who has worked in a remote rural area of Haiti for more than 30 years.

Many Aids patients visit voodoo priest Max Beauvoir
"For them it's not due to a virus or their behaviour, but it's done by somebody else, and enemy who is trying to do them evil."

Because of this magical view of life and sickness, Haitian peasants suffering from HIV or Aids are more likely to go and seek help from their local voodoo priest than from a government clinic.

We'd make fun of somebody if they tried to tell us they caught AIDS from a toilet seat, but for some reason, we pussyfoot around idiotic, unscientific ideas perpetuated by religions.

So the NPR story is a 3-parter...maybe they'll deal with the impact that irrational belief systems have in perpetuating negative social and health problems.

I'm not holding my breath, though.

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