This is how David Bullard puts it, in his pithy, condescending Anglo-Supremo style...
Two days after the devastating earthquake in Haiti a story caught my eye in the newspaper. Apparently some Haitians were so angry that the world was taking its time rushing to their aid that they were going to build roadblocks with the corpses of earthquake victims as a sign of protest. How very intelligent I thought. Not only will the stench and sight of a pile of rotting bodies make the rescuers feel really welcome but it will delay the convoy’s progress. Clearly intelligence is not a commodity much in evidence in Haiti. So I took the trouble to check some statistics.
Most people know that Haiti is one of the poorest places on earth with a per capita income of around $500. It’s the home of voodoo and zombies and the country’s political history makes some of the nastiest African basket cases seem pleasant by comparison. Around 60% of the population have no formal education and the country has been so ecologically raped that there is virtually nothing left to farm and export. Unemployment is probably running at around 60% of the workforce and life expectancy for both sexes is in the very early fifties. All in all, a veritable hell on earth in normal times but made more so by the frightening aftermath of what the United Nations describes as the worst disaster it has ever had to face.
Reacting effectively to a disaster of this magnitude takes some planning, particularly when you are flying in equipment, provisions and people from the other side of the world. So it was inevitable that it would take a couple of days for developed nations to put together and co-ordinate an effective rescue operation. It’s also a costly exercise and no country has a rescue operation standing by just in case Haiti has an earthquake. Thousands of people, touched by what they have seen on their television screens, have donated large sums of money towards the rescue effort and governments have pledged further millions to help Haiti.
But what has Haiti done for itself? Not a great deal by the look of things. The country’s infrastructure was pretty dreadful even before the earthquake and a long line of corrupt politicians have made sure that the country is starved of money to maintain essential services. So the condition of the roads was already pretty dreadful and they are obviously worse now. The main airport was unable to cope soon after the quake and the port is unusable. Access by land from the neighbouring Dominican Republic is difficult so just getting into Haiti is a challenge in itself.
This is the price a country pays for failing to maintain basic infrastructure. More important though was the complete absence on our TV screens of any Haitian emergency services. I’ve been following the development of this story pretty closely and all I have seen is desperate civilians scrabbling through the rubble in a desperate attempt to find live bodies. There has been no evidence of local emergency services, whether they are police, army or ambulance personnel. I can’t believe that the world’s TV cameras have been deliberately ignoring them to show Haiti in a bad light. Far more likely is that they either don’t exist or have no plan for such an emergency.
So the image of Haiti as a terminal basket case with its hand outstretched for aid is just reinforced by this massive natural disaster. Already blame for the worsening situation has been laid at the feet of those who are trying to help. At least the “we demand” culture is alive and well in Haiti.
Which makes one wonder whether there is any point in rebuilding Haiti. It doesn’t have oil or any minerals that are cheaply accessible. It’s not an ideal holiday destination because it gets hit by hurricanes fairly regularly and it is an ecological disgrace. Worse though, it has a population that seems incapable of sustaining itself without having to beg for aid from other nations. It is just another African disaster story transposed to the Caribbean.
In the animal kingdom it would have been a weakling killed off long ago. But we compassionate humans are above the animal kingdom. Which is why we rush to help the weak and the poor in places like Haiti, even though we know that no amount of our money can bring a better life to people who are simply not equipped to survive in the 21st century.
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