Monday, April 06, 2009

The Audacity of John Maxwell

The Audacity of Hopelessness


Sunday, April 05, 2009

IT is as idle to define the problems of Haiti as problems of economic development as it is to contemplate the problems of Elisabeth Fritzl as a problem of delinquent parenting.

It will never be possible to disentangle Elisabeth Fritzl from the treachery and cruelty of an evil and incestuous father, a man willing to steal the lives and souls of his own child and his children by her, to suck the very breath of freedom, to steal the light and air to which they have title as human beings; to unleash even in those outsiders who have merely heard of these horrors the potential for an infinitely complex self-generating concatenation of Mandelbrot images of sheer terror which, if we had the capacity to pursue, would lead us down endless nights and days into a chaos of unimaginable horror.

It may be possible - with sophisticated help - for the mind of Elisabeth Fritzl to begin to repair itself and perhaps even for her children to obtain some limited version of what we call sanity. It may be possible, but not, I think, in one lifetime.

Hold on tight to your screams!

Ban Ki Moon, secretary general of the United Nations, an otherwise excellent human being I am sure, is among those, like the burbling boobies of the World Bank and other international financial agencies (IFA), who believe that what ails Haiti is simply a case of distorted economic development and that there is a simple formula to fix things. Free zone development and regular voting will be sure-fire cures.

The poorest country in the Western hemisphere got that way, according to an eminent gaggle of politicians and private sector experts, by native mismanagement and the incompetence of the black Haitian population and its leaders.

Among these are Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and their advisers including the toxic spawn of Jesse Helms - Roger Noriega and Otto Reich and the International Republican Institute, and before them were Thomas Jefferson who defined blacks as three-fifths human and William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic party candidate for the presidency of The USA and who, as Secretary of State, was astonished at the pretensions of the Haitians whom he saw as a bunch of "Niggers speaking French".

There are also some people who believe that women who are raped are at least partially responsible for their own misfortunes and there are, I am sure, people who will tell you with absolute certainty that Elisabeth Fritzl must have in some way contributed to her father's delinquency. Haiti too, conspired in its own catastrophe. It takes two to tango, they will tell you.

Hold on tight to your screams!
In the New York Times last week Ban Ki Moon noted: "Yes, Haiti remains desperately poor. It has yet to fully recover from last year's devastating hurricanes, not to mention decades of malign dictatorship. Yet we can report what President René Préval told us: 'Haiti is at a turning point.' It can slide backwards into darkness and deeper misery, sacrificing all the country's progress and hard work with the United Nations and international community. Or it can break out, into the light toward a brighter and more hopeful future."

Last August the secretary general was full of hope: "The time has come to rebuild the institutions that have been destroyed by years of neglect, corruption and violence, to strengthen them so that the State is able to deliver the services that the people need."

In his latest visit Ban said: "It is easy to visit Haiti and see only poverty. But when I visited recently with former President Bill Clinton, we saw opportunity. "My special adviser on Haiti, the Oxford University development economist Paul Collier, has worked with the government to devise a strategy. It identifies specific steps and policies to create those jobs with particular emphasis on the country's traditional strengths - the garment industry and agriculture. creating the sort of industrial 'clusters' that have come to dominate global trade.

". dramatically expanding the country's export zones, so that a new generation of textile firms can invest and do business in one place. By creating a market sufficiently large to generate economies of scale, they can drive down production costs and, once a certain threshold is crossed, spark potentially explosive growth constrained only by the size of the labour pool.

"That may seem ambitious in a country of nine million people, where 80 per cent of the population lives on less than $2 a day and half of the food is imported." Can anyone really be so ill-informed? Can anyone believe that a country of nine million poverty-stricken people living on less than $2 a day and importing half their food can generate thriving markets for anything but subsistence production? Ban Ki Moon is our new Dr Pangloss: All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Hold on tight to your screams!

"It is easy to visit Haiti and to see only poverty." It probably isn't much harder if you live there and, like a parish priest named Jean Bertrand Aristide, become inflamed with the idea that you and your people are going to change things, to "build utopia on a dung heap".

The only problem is that there are people who want Haitians to remain in the misery they have been made to embrace. The facile American journalistic explanations for Haiti have always been lies, launched by no less than Thomas Jefferson and sedulously cultivated by generations of racists intent on keeping Haitians in their proper place.

The Haitians were always presumptuous: two hundred years ago they fought above their weight and won, abolishing slavery, destroying France's ambitions in the New World, doubling the size of the USA and above all, being the first nation anywhere to enshrine the rights of man, woman and child, the fundamental universal rights of human beings, in their constitution.

The almost contemporaneous American and French revolutions did not do what the Haitians did. Slavery persisted in France and in the US, and 30 years ago the US gave up trying for an Equal Rights Amendment a few years after narrowly forcing through a voting rights act to give all Americans title to their democracy. The Haitians were a serious threat to American slave-based capitalism, promising freedom to any person who set foot in Haiti, naming a main street after John Brown and arming Simon Bolivar to go liberate Latin America. Like the Cubans a century and a half later, the Haitians needed to be contained.

The Americans and the French went about solving the Haitian problem in a very businesslike way. The Haitians had sugar to sell, but their only real market was the US. The US agreed with the French that they would buy nothing from the Haitians unless the French recognised Haitian independence. This extortionate double play worked. The Haitians would starve unless they could sell their sugar.

Hold on tight to your screams!

The solution guaranteed the Haitians would starve anyway, committing themselves to pay a ransom equivalent to US$120 billion to the French, buying their freedom in cash having bought it in blood, pauperising themselves for another century. When they defaulted - as they had to - the Americans and their accomplices intervened, seizing the Haitian Treasury and Customs services, abolishing the Haitian constitution, dive-bombing the Haitian peasants when they rose to assert their rights, stealing Haitian land, cutting down Haitian forests to plant sisal, installing a fascist army to maintain the rule of a minority - light-skinned elite who despised the black Haitians upon whom they battened and fed.

They had great plans, the elite and their foreign friends. They were going to revolutionise pig-rearing in Haiti, but first they needed to get rid of the native Haitian pigs. The experts replaced the Haitian pigs with large white hogs, pigs that needed better housing than the Haitian peasants who supposedly owed them. The experts, in the interest of cheap food, then completed the ruin of the Haitian peasantry by importing subsidised American rice, destroying the Haitian market in hill rice.

Then, when the Haitians were once again pauperised, the experts and their elite allies introduced the nearest thing to slavery known to this century - free zones, where Haitians laboured for the price of less than one Jamaican patty a day. The women were injected with drugs which stopped their monthly periods so they wouldn't need time off to have babies. They were prohibited from joining unions.

Hold on tight to your screams!

This is the new dispensation of Mr Ban Ki Moon and of Mr Collier, of Mr Zoellick, of the World Bank and the IDB, of Mr Kofi Annan and Mr Colin Powell, of Mr Patterson and Mr Manning.

It will be led by a most unsavoury collection of those George Soros describes as gangster capitalists, who paid for the terror that has murdered thousands, driven thousands more into exile, used rape as an instrument of political enforcement and twice destroyed the Haitians' desperate attempts to recover their rights - the rights they were the first in the world to proclaim, a century before the UN, that every human being is entitled to the same rights and privileges as every other.

The security situation is fixed, according to Mr Ban Ki Moon. Gangs of convicted and unconvicted murderers and rapists in concert with so-called UN peacekeepers and child molesters will again control Haiti in the interests of the largely expatriate elite, the market makers whose older brothers have brought the world to the brink of moral and financial disaster, people with the divine right to be rich and to suck the blood of the poor.

Haiti's democracy was beheaded in a conspiracy between the US State Department, John McCain's International Republican Institute, and the governments of France and Canada. They shut down the development process, destroyed the nascent medical school, and blocked Haitian access to clean water. In an initiative reminiscent of King Leopold's intervention in the Congo a century ago - a kind of mission of the Red Cross as Leopold described it, they set back development in Haiti by half a century. They didn't kill quite as many people as Leopold.

Hold on tight to your screams!

And the poor, as Condoleezza Rice points out, can always vote. It won't do them much good but will provide Western journalists with a deep sense of smug self-satisfaction. Meanwhile, to Elisabeth Fritzl and the Haitians we can say: Hold on tight to your screams! One day, somebody may hear them. They may not know what they mean - but they may make a paragraph in the New York Times.

Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell

Photographs by John Carroll.

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