The following is from the Black Sun Gazette.
The Haiti Disaster and Superstition
The current disaster in Haiti is a tragedy of epic proportions. The cleanup, which will almost certainly never happen in any meaningful way, would take years if given the full weight of the world’s productive resources that it deserves. Haiti is entirely unequipped to deal with such a disaster, and the death toll is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands. All three of Port au Prince’s hospitals were destroyed in the earthquake, leaving the survivors to do little more than perform first aid on any survivors found. The effects of this tragedy will impact the national psychology of the small island nation for years to come. There is much confusion in the popular press about Haiti, both it’s history and its current situation. The disaster, however, makes possible a “teachable moment” (har har) about the inability of non-materialist world views to explain the world in which we live.
Why do bad things happen to Haiti? What is the reason behind it? Of course we have Pat Robertson being his usual douche bag self, muttering all manner of incoherent ramblings about how an invisible man in the sky wants to punish Haiti for an alleged pact made with an invisible red satyr over 200 years ago. This view of Haiti- divinely or cosmically punished by invisible forces- is not limited to Christian circles. A few years ago the nascent youth cult Ultraculture was torn apart when members of its inner circle left after some questionable statements about voodoo. Fot its own part, the mass media has towed a similar sort of line on Haiti, albeit from a secular perspective. The crushing poverty in Haiti is presented as if it were some kind of natural disaster of its own, with no historical context whatsoever, a fact of life as unavoidable as the earthquake itself. There seems to be little else to do but blame Haitians for their poverty, particularly when using the mythology of the market that dominates so much thinking in the world.
The racism implicit in Robertson and those like him both secular and New Age is obvious. If a nation of black slaves threw off the shackles of imperialism and slavery, they did so only by a pact with the devil. They are a nation of cursed, wretched people who are worthy of only a sort of detached, preaching pity.
Of course, there are real, verifiable reasons that Haiti is poor that have nothing to do with this. It starts with massive indemnity that Haiti was forced to pay to French slaveholders after their successful revolution. The revolution, which created the second democratic republic in the Western Hemisphere, did not go unnoticed by the world’s powers who feared similar rebellions anywhere that black slaves and natives outnumbered white settlers. Haiti’s tragic history continues through 200 years of imperialist domination and international meddling. There have been 32 coups in Haiti’s history. The United States occupied the island outright from 1915 to 1934, only leaving after a right-wing dictatorship friendly to American business interests was in place. From 1957 to 1986 Haiti was ruled by the Duvalier family who terrorized the island with alleged black magic and very real death squads. The country is used as a cheap labor platform by much of the industrialized world.
None of this explains why there was an earthquake in Haiti, which is a question for geologists, not political economists. But it does explain why a massive earthquake hits Haiti harder than it does most of the rest of the world. And it goes a long way toward explaining the rest of the more quotidien problems that effect Haiti. Marx’s writings on the way in which the world and its politics and economy operate are as valuable as Darwin’s writings on the way in which the biological world operates. Both reject a world view that blames things on invisible men or forces beyond man’s understanding. Events such as the earthquake disaster in Haiti cannot be understood without a good, hard look at the long history of the island nation, and its broader context in the world.
There are answers for why things are the way they are. Analysis of the world which relies upon statements such as “that’s just the way it is,” “people are that way,” “[insert country / culture / religion here] is just ___________” actually say nothing. They just reiterate superstitions grounded in personal prejudice and confusion. Scientific world analysis- i.e. that which relies upon verifiable data which can be checked, tested, etc.- is the only method equipped to provide real explanations for the world.PS: Credit card companies are making a killing off of donations to Haiti. I would also invite people to think about the crocodile tears shed by the current administration vs. their total lack of empathy for the people of Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc