Friday, February 5, 2010

The Day the Earth did not Stand Still

My last post is dated January 12th, 2010. It was posted that afternoon. The date will forever be remembered in the region's history as the Day the Earth did not Stand Still.

Since that earthquake in Haiti, the Bahamas, as well as the rest of the world, has focussed much of their attention on our neighbour, and the Bahamian blog scene has written much about the country. How can we help? As individuals? As a country? What are Haiti's options for the future? What can we learn from Haiti's past about preventing disasters from reaching quite such a scope?

Many had some smart remarks. Many wrote and spoke utter stupidity.

The most obvious stupidity is coming from what I shall call "Corner A." Corner A is home to racist haters such as Pat Robertson and Paul Shirley. My advice is to ignore Corner A, because it is questionable why a TV evangelist would be an expert on geological phenomena such as earthquakes (though I will concede one point, at least he argues along religious lines). As for Paul Shirley, well, what can I say? He's an NBA has-been. I mean, WTF?

However, there's also a Corner B. Corner B is full of presumably intelligent people, who seem to have an allergic reaction to anybody criticising the fact that Haiti since independence had one unstable and corrupt government after another. If the criticism - not blame, mind you - should come from somebody pale-skinned, the people in Corner B try to force the critic into Corner A. Thus Corner B becomes the apologist reverse racist corner.

Corner B now also seems to attack anyone who speaks about about post-disaster problems in Haiti such as looting or human trafficking involving Haitian nationals as perpetrators. According to Corner B, Haitians can only be victims. However, I have seen a Haitian mob attack a relief mission bringing in medical supplies with my own two eyes, and while I am willing to consider extenuating circumstances, and I myself don't know how I would react if I were in their shoes, it cannot be condoned if an airplane is being met by flying rocks.

I will not attempt to write "the" history of Haiti now, but I would like to remind my readers that there are historical roots for Haiti's pre-earthquake problems, which in turn magnify the impact of this recent catastrophe. Some of these problems are part of the colonial legacy. Others are caused by a hemispheric refusal to lend a helping hand, in the more recent and more distant pasts. And some are homemade.

Maybe you should go and look at sources yourself, rather than regurgitate the prepackaged opinions of Corners A and B. I recommend this document, Haiti's Constitution of 1801, as a random starting point.

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