- Category: International
- Created on Sunday, 24 January 2010 22:33
- Written by AK
This was dictated by phone. The call was tape recorded and then we transcribed and translated it. These were, in fact, 'precious few minutes.'"
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There is so much misinformation, rumors and fears swirling around the discussion about Haiti.
On the one hand, I want to spend the precious few minutes I have with you to debunk these rumors. I want to point out how the fear of Haitians as the violent black savage is rooted in long-standing racism.
I want to point out how the rumors of violence are spread not only by the foreign media, where surely you have heard them, but also by those in power within our own country who benefit from portraying the masses of ordinary Haitians as violent, dangerous criminals.
I want to point out to you how the misinformation is costing lives! How the international aid agencies have drawn lines on a map, segregating our city in red zones, green zones and the like; and how this segregation is preventing food and water from reaching those who need it most.
I would like to explain all these things to you and many more but, unfortunately, I do not have the opportunity at this moment to do so.
Instead, I would like to talk about why this terrible event happened and why the cost has reached such great proportions. In fact, no one could have predicted the earthquake. It is true that scientists have devised a technique to warn of approaching earthquakes, but still, this only gives a few moments warning if at all. So, I know that we could not have learned of this impending disaster with enough time to adequately prepare.
Here in Haiti some say that the earthquake is a sign of God, that it is the end times.
Of course any thinking person knows that this is rubbish. But it is believed by many so when I encounter a person who purports this idea I must respond to him. I say,
“Brother, I know you believe in the word of the bible, but the events of last week, they don’t even fit with what the bible says. I know we don’t agree on matters of religion, but surely, if you look and see that this event was not described in the Bible then you can stop grasping at that as the explanation for what occurred. Let’s look at this scientifically. For scientists surely tell us that the earth is made of plated sections that move and that they move all the time. When we feel it, we say: ‘hey, it’s an earthquake!’ This is no act of God; it’s a natural thing that happens to the earth under our feet.”
The next question is, why did this happen to Haiti? Why now?
Some here think that it was the oil drilling that caused our country to collapse. Perhaps that is so.
There is evidence from other places in the United States and Europe that drilling and mining can be a trigger for earthquakes. And the desire of foreign corporations to drill for oil, well we know that was a factor in the events of 2004. But really, a more important question is this: why was the earthquake so much more devastating for Haiti than for our neighbors? Was it really just that the epicenter was so close to Port-au-Prince, a highly populated area with many people to become potential casualties?
I argue that no, the earthquake was as bad as it was because of the extreme economic poverty of the Haitian people, which was caused in no small part by the foreign powers that occupied us in the past and yearn to dig their fingers into the Haitian pie yet again!
Many years ago, our ancestors threw off the shackles of slavery. We had a revolution. It was the first time that a Black nation had overthrown those in power and abolished slavery. But our ancestors, they wanted recognition from those who previously “owned” us. They wanted acceptance, to be part of a nascent international diplomatic community. So they agreed to pay France to for the cost of the property the French businessman “lost” when we overthrew them. What was this property? Why are you surprised when I say that this property was the cost of us, the slaves?! It was the money that they paid for us and lost when we became free.
Can you think of any greater insult?
Our ancestors agreed to this and we paid France 90 million gold francs. Of course, we didn’t have the money, so we took out loans from banks in the United States. And we cut down our forests and sold the wood to Europe, where it was used to built a beautiful city named Paris.
The debt was not paid off until 1947. So when people ask today, why is Haiti so poor? Why do they build these dangerous structures of unreinforced masonry? The answer is because of the events of history! It is history that led us to where we are today! It is history that explains why the ordinary Haitian is so impoverished that he builds a home which can be swept down the mountain in the hurricane or topples with the shake of the earth.
And, on that note, we can also say, why do we have such problems of flooding, mud slides and the like whenever there is a great storm?
It is because all our old growth trees were cut down and sent to France!
Surely, you can understand that the explanation for Haiti’s troubles does not rest with God or nature alone, but also with the devastation wrought by an economic system that sold people as property and that cares more about profits than human beings.