Up to 200,000 people have died - that's as many as the Tsunami in south east Asia - which seemed extreme! This is one of the greatest natural disasters every to happen on the planet. BUT, why is and was Haiti so poor, and why was this such a great tragedy? Just natural disasters? NO, it was caused and there is blame. So many people died, because buildings collapsed - why did they collapse? Because they were build poorly, with poor materials - with what was available, because the country is so poor. So that brings us to why the country is so poor. . . Is it Haitian's inate laziness or because they are stupid? No, it is because they have been systematically discriminated against and pillaged since the origins of the country in slavery and extermination of the original indigenous inhabitants.
The blame for Haiti's historic woes and for it's current poverty lies not with Haitians but with us Europeans and North Americans. Others have covered the story in detail. See Bruce Wark's great article in the Coast, which says, in part:
Since the 2004 coup, Haiti has suffered devastating hurricanes and floods, but instead of rebuilding the country, foreign aid donors like Canada have focussed on so-called "security." A United Nations military force continues to occupy Haiti, killing pro-Aristide demonstrators and conducting routine beatings. "People are sick and tired of the millions being spent, having guys riding around in giant tanks pointing guns at them," says Haitian journalist Kim Ives.
Sebastian Walker, a journalist with Al Jazeera, told viewers that a week after the earthquake, heavily armed UN troops were racing around the streets of the Haitian capital in armoured personnel carriers. "UN soldiers aren't here to help pull people out of the rubble; they're here, they say, to enforce the law," Walker reported. "Most Haitians here have seen little humanitarian aid so far. What they have seen is guns, and lots of them."
Great story in the Globe and mail in plain language - no political lingo - about a meeting in Canada of donor countries, which says in part:
But mostly this meeting is promoted by those who like to call themselves, and whom the media will call, the donor countries. What is important to note about most donor countries, including Canada, is that they have always extracted far more from the poor recipient countries than they've contributed. Poor countries, in reality, have been net donors to us rich folks.
On top of the fact that we owe Haiti for what has been extracted without payment or illegally, is the current media coverage. . . "and what's wrong with that?" you might ask - since Haiti has been getting a lot of "sympathetic" coverage. Well see this article at CNN about coverage and particularly the use of the word looting.
Haitians put a strong premium on dignity. To take something for which you have not paid does not only offend your sense of legality but also your sense of personhood. It is undignified. But not only are you starving, so is your only surviving child. You would prefer to pay, but whom? What would you pay with? You'd prefer to wait, but for whom? How long can you afford to wait? . . .
So you take. You take just enough for a couple of days and a couple of family members. You take and you run to feed those for whom the only measure of fortune is survival in Haiti, post-earthquake. You take and you run.
Are you a looter? Try as we might to prevent it, the answer to that question is inevitably racialized. We cannot separate the word looting from its racial implications or the supposed crime of looting from its racial origins. In the throes of the civil rights movement in the United States, many states made looting a crime. Almost all of these states were southern states that had a history of criminalizing behavior that they associated more with African-Americans than with whites.
Another "explanation" of what is and has been going on in Haiti is to be found in a blog called "Right Testicle of Hell - History of a Haitian Holocaust" by Greg Palast via Democracy Now. Another history of Haiti and the U.S.A. this time. . .
What Papa and Baby didn't run off with, the IMF finished off through its "austerity" plans. An austerity plan is a form of voodoo orchestrated by economists zomby-fied by an irrational belief that cutting government services will somehow help a nation prosper.What can you do? Join the international campaign to convince world leaders to cancel Haiti’s $1 billion international debt and give the country a chance for significant and lasting recovery. How? Go to this site and sign the petition:
Dear Finance Ministers, IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and bilateral creditors, As Haiti rebuilds from this disaster, please work to secure the immediate cancellation of Haiti’s $1 billion debt and ensure that any emergency earthquake assistance is provided in the form of grants, not debt-incurring loans.
More links with facts about Haiti that let us analyze and make decisions about how to "help" Haiti with more than a donation. Raj Patel, one of my favourite writers of the moment, suggests who you should donate to Partners In Health or to others that work directly with Haitians helping themselves rather than to Aid agencies who are doing their best, but who are from outside and not improving the capacity of Haitians.
A few more great links about Haiti:
Richard Kim in The Nation IMF to Haiti: Freeze Public Wages (and why this is NOT a good idea!)
And one last item - now that the worst has happened, 200,000 are dead and we are waiting for the aid to be distributed, it is obvious to everyone that women and girls are the most at risk in the situation. Imagine if you were very pregnant, in labour or about to have a baby.
And then there is one last about women, from the Sunday Times, and the possible increase in Human Trafficking of Women and Children - esp girls.