Posted by Bradley Moseley-Williams on January 18th, 2010 1 Comment
The developed world—particularly the wealthy nations of Canada, the USA, Mexico, and a rich island or two in the Caribbean—have opportunity staring them in the face in Haiti, should they care to look beyond today and see tomorrow.
The immediate need is to alleviate the current suffering that has captured the lenses of the world.
The community of nations, however, has a short memory and an even shorter attention span. One axiom of crisis communications is that another crisis is always looming. Bide your time and soon the eyes of the world will be diverted. The scale and magnitude of the devastation in Haiti (a scale so great that many grasp the wrong word—enormity—to describe it) is mesmerizing. The images still dominate the media and social media applications that matter. They should; we should be shocked, horrified and sickened to see people suffer such misery.
The secondary need, however, is slippery. What we have to do is prevent Haiti from slipping even further away from stability, democracy, dignity and opportunity.
Even in its best days, Port au Prince, was, by all accounts, a dismal place of violent crime, broken government and hopeless people. Numb from decades of dictatorship (a belated thanks-for-nothing to the Duvalier family and their henchmen), corruption (reportedly endemic) and environmental disaster (deforestation seems to have been a sport) have left Haitians with few expectations from the outside world. Nobody helped them when Papa Doc and his cronies crushed them; nobody cared when Baby Doc continued his father’s iron-fisted and corrupt rule. (There was a matriarch of sorts in the form of Madame Duvalier, too, who was sometimes known as Mama Doc, but not to her face. Her influence declined when her son married and booted her out of Haiti.)
We need to remain with Haiti until the nation can stand on its own two feet. This means we have to ignore kooks like Hugo Chavez who accuses the USA of occupying Haiti under the guise of giving aid. It means we have to tell religious crackpots to shut up when they lay the blame for the earthquake on a pact made with Satan. (Thereby giving all true believers a free pass on making a relief donation, or even giving a damn for that matter.) We also have to ignore our own desire to fix the problem quickly and go home.
The opportunity is that Haiti will be rebuilt. Physically—with safe buildings erected by competent contractors who follow real building codes—and governmentally with the foundations of a true democracy that works for the benefit of all the people and not just a selected few.
It takes a certain type of optimist to see a silver lining in such a tragedy. But optimism is not needed to recognize the reality of a society in complete collapse. In the absence of government there will be leadership and there will be rulers. In a place such as Haiti, however, rulers can be determined by who has more guns, ammunition and hired goons. Leadership can be exercised by whoever has the firmest fist, without any pretense of a velvet glove.
Haiti’s rich, developed neighbours (I include Canada as a neighbour) must respond with money, aid, support and patience.
The last item will be the hardest to source. It will also be the most valuable.