Haiti – What is really going on?

Just when I thought that this year may be different, we have a natural disaster the likes of which seem to be getting more common as I get older. Haiti, a small island in the West Indies, was hit by a devastating earthquake. Thousands are already dead and many more reported missing.

A few years ago I visited the Dominican Republic, on the west side of the same island and it was like an inverse mirror image of Haiti. Its residents were light skinned, against Haiti’s dark skinned population. The Dominican Rep was doing well in the tourist trade, Haiti very poorly for an island in paradise. And lastly, there seemed to be an air of superiority held by all over the Haitian’s, which was further evidenced in the lower positions they held as part of the hotel staff, as cleaners and general labourers, but never on the check-in desk or other areas of extended public gaze.

I was confused.

This was a country that was so important for the fight to abolish slavery but was also a country that was ridiculed by all around it.

Haiti was ‘discovered’ by that piratical doyen of the seven seas, Christopher Columbus, and from that bad start things could only get worse. In the years that followed, the local population was decimated by the Spanish and then the French. The indigenous Indian population were wiped out in some sickening ways, hanging, drowning, roasting alive, buried in anthills or termite mounds, decapitated, eaten alive by wild dogs, the sick list is endless. The first Africans arrived in the 1503 and in 1791 the slaves revolted and freed their land. Fighting between the rights of the Spanish, the French and the freed slaves for control of the Island would eventually lead to the split of the Island into 2 countries, Haiti in the East and the Dominican Republic in the West.

Why was it fought over so much? Well, this single colony, roughly the size of Maryland or Belgium, produced more sugar and coffee than all of Britain’s West Indian colonies combined. Haiti is the world’s oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States.

For such an important country, why were things not put in place should disaster strike? Do you think Los Angeles would suffer in the same way? Another question I have is why is it that when we hear of thousands upon thousands of people dying in a natural disaster, they are always black or some variation thereof? Why is it never white people? Am I to believe that people of colour are just unlucky in this world? Have all the ‘safe’ spots on the globe been taken up by ‘smarter folk’? None of these points are ‘believable’, but I would like some answers. Perhaps the truth may lie in the world of conspiracy, a world that I don’t really want to acknowledge exists.

But then racism doesn’t always show itself in the way that it once used to. It isn’t always hard violent acts instigated against black folk who can’t protect themselves. Sometimes it is evidenced in the lack of services available to handle a natural disaster, or the help that doesn’t quite arrive on time. It happens all too often these days. New Orleans was the real wake up call for a lot of us, but its absolute horror allowed for us to not be with it. Have you noticed that when something is really bad or hard for the palette, we tend to turn away en masse and focus on something else. If we see too many pictures of horror and devastation, we become numb to it, the pictures having no effect, enabling us to carry on with our lives as if nothing has happened. And then we get the images and the news reports of these people looting and killing each other, we think ‘you act like animals, do you deserve our sympathy? The end resultatrocities can carry on without the moral condemnation of the masses.

At a time when anything can be done, I sometimes allow myself to believe that perhaps some natural disasters may not be so ‘natural- after all. I sometimes get so down about it that I start to believe that man is capable of doing such a thing. If history is anything to go by, man is certainly capable of some despicable acts of cruelty and it has been clearly shown that he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. I look at the countries that have been affected by war, famine and natural disasters and ask myself if any of these countries have anything in common, have anything valuable. It would seem a simple plan, acquire land, remove population, and take riches. A tried and tested formula and one which Avatar is proud to show still has some success. I don’t want to believe these things but it is getting easier to do so whenever something like this happens.

No matter what the real truth behind this depressing event, people are still suffering and will continue to do so until the hands of the world reach out to support it, which they will. It’s already happened in Ethiopia, Darfur, Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone and countless other places.

On every cloud there is a silver lining and what is refreshing in this case is the amount of love that is going out to these people in their hour of need. It instils a sense of pride in my ageing heart and restores my faith in humanity, if only for a few weeks. But then, the question arises that if countries like America do send help now, why didn’t they send it before. Haiti has been an impoverished country for a very long time; in fact it can be argued that it has suffered ever since it proved it wouldn’t be dictated to all those years ago. Is it possible that countries in the West, true to other capitalist regimes, only offer help when there is a profit to be realised or a gain to be made?

I suppose time will tell and when it does, only then will we see the true cost to Haiti of this kind of Foreign aid.

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2 Responses to “Haiti – What is really going on?”

  1. Masi, Washington DC Says:

    Interesting post – I disagree on a few points though. I think the bigger issue is global warming and the fact that the areas most likely to suffer the impact are also those least responsible for the bulk of the carbon footprint.
    Secondly, Haiti is a country unto itself – the question of how much other nations can help is a touchy one. On the one hand the colonial history makes for an uneasy relationship and on the other there’s an implied expectation of being owed that help. It’s complicated. As an African (I won’t name and shame my country) I often wonder at which point we stop blaming others and start creating solutions? Perhaps it’s time to look inward and do the hardwork of building our own nations to a standard that we want instead of envying other nations. Infrastructure takes work and we have to do the work. One of my favourite quotes from Steve Bantu Biko says it well:’ …whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.’
    As with all things human, it’s complicated but not impossible and conspiracy theories are more disabling than they are useful.

    • prekosifa Says:

      Masi, Some good points but to put it on the shoulders of global warming is too simple. After all what is causing the global warming in the first place?
      Is it a coincidence that countries rich in raw materials are targetted by the West ‘by any means necessary’, and then what happens to these people.
      Yes we apportion blame and I think we will continue to do so until the balance is redressed and I am beginning to realise that the balance can only be redreesed by those that were in the wrong in the first place.
      Now, I get that this may not help us now, as it seems it will never come, but I question the possibility of anything changing until that happens, talking psychologically.
      Conspiracy theories are necessary but they highlight things that don not make sense. Given Haiti’s history and the technology available now like HAARP, I am not too eager to accept what the news tells me. In this way c theories keep us awake!
      it is complicated and not impossible and things are getting clearer

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