The horror of Haiti

The current events in Haiti just go to show what a country with no real natural resources must go through to be noticed by the political community.

Haiti is, has been and hopefully will not always be a horror. However, its similarities to Sierra Leone cannot be ignored. Both were formed when repressed Black slaves were allowed to settle or achieve freedom from the hand of those who held the political and economic reins during the 17th and 18th century. Sierra Leone was settled by immigrants from Nova Scotia, the populace of Haiti by the actions and heroics of those who strived for emancipation from their colonial overlords, who had denied them their basic rights in keeping with the slave trade of the day. There the similarities end. Sierra Leone is on the West coast of Africa and Haiti is off the coast of Latin America.

However, one thing is true of both countries; they are both sad, failed states, established with the most noble of purposes but ultimately falling into ruin. The citizens of both countries are left calling to the heavens for aid when their rulers have failed them. Their lands the victim of the AK47’s and gangs of bloodthirsty thugs. At the first challenge they fall into a state of anarchy, citizens nothing more than statistics.

How could this happen? I’m no expert on the intricacies of international politics but some of the blame must surely fall at the feet of the countries that enabled the establishment of these states in the first place.

I’m also not a sociologist, but surely common sense dictates that you cannot simply ship people off to a far off land, tip them off the boat and say ‘welcome to the land of milk and honey and by the way if you find any minerals worth exporting give us a call in a couple of hundred years’.

No words, just tears

This is off course, simplistic. Both countries have seen colonists come and go, they have experienced periods of civil upheaval, but to leave them to their own devices, aside from periodic forays to change a regime into whatever form would best suite your own economic or political interests seems at best cold hearted and at worse criminal. Under these conditions, with little or no infrastructure, almost any nation will descend into barbarity.(anarchy)

Anyone who knows me will describe my political beliefs as capitalist, but there is such a thing as compassionate capitalism. You can assist the natives of a land in building up their economy so that you can start meaningful trade with them. Both parties win.

I know the argument that a country must at some time come to terms with its past and move into the future, I’m a South African. But this beggers belief. Suddenly the international community leaps from the couches of unconcern and rallies to the aid of a country hat has been a basket case for as long as the common man can remember.

Rescue teams flood the country, Americans drop water and meals ready to eat from the sky, Japanese and South Koreans set up medical tents, the Israeli’s, pariahs of the world have the only operating medical facility on the Island capable of surgery. George Clooney is on TV in the US asking for donations, Barbara Streisand is in tears at the Golden Globe awards. The UN, an organisation that couldn’t organise its way out of a paper bag at the best of times is suddenly at the forefront of the news with sad faces and declarations that patience is needed. It makes me sick to my stomach.

I’ll give a hat tip to the smaller countries which don’t even have a table stake in the recovery of Haiti, the South Korean’s, the Israeli’s, the South African’s.

As for the Americans (and I’m usually extremely pro American), what happened? This is on your doorstep. If you’d made the slightest attempt (on a governmental level, there were several brave American’s in Haiti trying to make a difference at the time of the quake, some of whom lost their lives and my condolences to their families) this situation might have been a little bit better. If the infrastructure had been improved over the past few years then maybe more people would have been alive today.

I’ll save most of my ire for the leader of the most powerful country on the planet. America, you have a president who is putting all his energy behind an increasingly unpopular health plan that will probably bankrupt your country in the year’s to come, the money could be best employed elsewhere, not only in Haiti. It seems that this crisis has supplied him with a political birthday present, deflecting a growing unhappiness with his performance. He has responded with aplomb and he has put the entire economic capacity of the US behind rescue efforts. He has my admiration, as do the hard working American military, I have nothing but respect for the job that they are doing around the world. However, with more attention to world affairs he could have had the entire populous of a small island behind him before this tragedy struck. Although the relief efforts from the United States can only be admired, this President needs to understand that the world responds not only to teleprompter speeches but to concrete actions.

To date my opinion is that the political stance of the current US administration has only served to embolden the enemies of democracy. However, this is an argument for another day, the United States has domestic problems enough that need urgent attention.

The problems in Haiti are enormously complex, my analysis is coloured by the tears that I have shed while looking at the photographs I have seen in the past few days. That my analysis is flawed is beyond doubt. I apologise for my inadequate research, please correct me where I have strayed from the historical facts.

My conclusion is just this; we have to try harder on a global political level to grow a belief in democracy and a respect of human rights. These rights can only grow when they are nurtured by a concern for the people in countries less fortunate than our own.

This post comes from the heart and many of the points I have raised would be better addressed in a face to face conversation, however my strength of feeling is real. Where we can we must do more to ensure that when a tragedy like this strikes we are able to deal with it with respect to the people affected. The only way we can do this is through an international commitment to rebuilding the lives of communities that are not able to do it for themselves. This is not a call for a new colonialism but rather a call for a new brotherhood of nations.

As an aside, don’t wait for the UN to do the job for us. That organisation is only taking up space in Turtle Bay NY. It has been both financially and morally bankrupt for decades. Take a look at the record of its Human Rights Council and the entire organisations’ record in solving conflicts around the world.


3 thoughts on “The horror of Haiti

  1. I’m not sure the Americans or any other nation for that matter, can be blamed for Haiti’s socio-economic status. It is a basket case because it chooses to be one. It has voted in dictator after dictator and and about half its national budget comes from foreign aid, most of it US dollars.

    • As I said what I wrote was off the cuff and in the heat of the moment.

      However the old argument of aid vs. development comes into play.

      You can pour money into state for years and not see any return in terms of the quality of life.

      As to dictators, they are like a rash, once you’ve got them they tend to turn up again and again.

      That said maybe there are certain nations where violence and political bad governance are so ingrained that there is simply no hope for them.


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