Haiti On Our Minds
The recent natural disaster in Haiti, has once again, thrown Haiti into the eyes of the world, and once again, brought out both the best and worst
The sheer scale of human suffering has evoked massive compassion, as governments far and wide mobilize
to assist those who are unable to
Haiti, once the colonial-era “Pearl of the Antilles” (Caribbean), then the “Mother of Revolutions,” has suffered for nearly two centuries for daring to fight for, and win, its freedom from European colonialism, slavery and plunder.
Haiti, we are informed by the corporate media, is the poorest nation in the West. We are never told however, how it got that way. How many of us know that the U.S. brutally occupied Haiti, and stayed there for over 20 years? Or that Haiti, which had the temerity to defeat not one, not two, but three colonial armies (the French, the British, and the Spanish), was forced to pay France billions of dollars in reparations for 200 years—the first and only time in history that a victor in war had to pay back the nation it defeated!
Haiti isn’t just poor; it’s been impoverished by a global system of exploitation and a plantation capitalist economy that was designed as a sanction for Black Liberation.
The U.S., its nearest, richest neighbor, didn’t recognize or trade with the country for nearly 60 years—or until a Civil War brought a formal end to slavery on these shores.
C.L.R. James, the revolutionary scholar/activist, has argued that the Haitian Revolution was a singular event in human history, of more significance than either the French or American revolutions.
That an American preacher (and former presidential candidate) could today liken the event to the devil gives us some sense of its continuing power.
Interestingly, neither of these other revolutions spelled an end to that truly demonic institution—slavery. Indeed, the reverse is true, for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners, and Napoleon Bonaparte sent his armies to Haiti to defend slavery.
Decade after decade of U.S. supported dictators; a legacy of plantation capitalism and exploitation; U.S. supported coups (like the Bush-era removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide); and corporate strangulation of poor Haitian workers; has left Haiti severely under-developed, and thus, less able to cope with natural disasters when they strike.
Several years ago, when a hurricane hit a city in the world’s wealthiest nation, the wealthy and middle classes had the resources to flee just before the worst struck town. The poor were left to fend for themselves.
In Haiti, those resources were even more rare.
But an earthquake isn’t a hurricane. It strikes suddenly, often without significant warning.
But many nations, like Japan, have constructed buildings, which resist the bumps and whirls of earthquakes. Such techniques, if applied to Haitian schools, homes and offices, could’ve greatly alleviated loss of life and suffering.
If it hadn’t been bled and exploited for centuries, Haiti would’ve had the wherewithal to protect its people as much as possible.
Let us hope that Haiti’s future will be brighter than its post colonial past.
—prisonradio.org, January 16, 2010