Dec 2nd, 2014 by Unamused
I’m a voodoo child, voodoo child;
Lord knows I’m a voodoo child.
Hello, friends! Welcome (back) to the Unamusement Park.
— which is, depending on whom you ask, either an online encyclopedia of race relations with added kittens OR the most hateful collection of hatred known to man. It’s really up to you, intrepid Park ranger, to decide that for yourself.
Today’s topic: the history of Haiti, formerly known as the French colony of Saint-Domingue (or Santo Domingo), on the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic, which is… well, a rather different sort of place from Haiti. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but let’s start with a little “compare and contrast.”
From ‘Haiti and the Dominican Republic: A Tale of Two Countries’ (Time, 2010):
The U.N. ranks the Dominican Republic 90th out of 182 countries on its human-development index, which combines a variety of welfare measurements; Haiti comes in at 149th. In the Dominican Republic, average life expectancy is nearly 74 years. In Haiti, it’s 61. You’re substantially more likely to be able to read and write if you live in the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, and less likely to live on less than $1.25 a day.
So how can we “explain why Haiti suffers, while the Dominican Republic — which shares the 30,000 sq. mi. of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola — is relatively well-off?” In the wake of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, Jared Diamond (who, by the way, thinks New Guineans are “more intelligent, more alert, more expressive, and more interested in things and people around them than the average European or American,” which is… interesting…) tiptoed up to the truth in the Guardian:
A second social and political factor is that the Dominican Republic — with its Spanish-speaking population of predominantly European ancestry — was both more receptive and more attractive to European immigrants and investors than was Haiti with its Creole-speaking population composed overwhelmingly of black former slaves. […] Hence European immigration and investment were negligible and restricted by the constitution in Haiti after 1804 but eventually became important in the Dominican Republic. Those Dominican immigrants included many middle-class businesspeople and skilled professionals who contributed to the country’s development.
Ridiculous, write Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson:
Many commentators end up arguing that Haiti is poor because of its people. A recent book by Laurent Dubois, Haiti: the Aftershocks of History, is a useful corrective to these arguments. Dubois starts by recapping many of these arguments which go back centuries. For example, Victor Cochinat, a 19th-century visitor from Martinique, stated
Haitians were lazy and ‘ashamed’ to work, …, which was why they were so poor. They spent too much money on rum.
Lest you think that these are the ramblings of an eccentric 19th-century explorer, Dubois shows how the same arguments are what gets traction today […]
You see, people have been noticing the same thing for centuries, which makes it a “stereotype,” which makes it wrong, and you’re a bad person for noticing it.
The book makes a lively read, dispelling these notions, and firmly locating the roots of Haiti’s poverty in its history.
Haiti, you see, was an “extractive” colony, indeed “a dystopic colony, based on terror and repression,” with “brutal punishments… common for the most minor of offenses.” As a result, “slaves died at staggering rates,” such as the completely made-up figure of “10% of the slave population dying of disease, overwork and other causes.” Fortunately, “Haitians shocked the world with a formidable slave revolt in 1791, ultimately leading to independence from France.” Unfortunately, “this revolt did not lead to the development of inclusive institutions.” Nope. Instead, it lead to a “vicious circle of extractive institutions.” Fascinating. As Steve Sailer puts it:
MIT economist Daron Acemoglu has a blog in which he advances his world-shattering insight that the reason some countries are poorer than others is because they have worse institutions bequeathed them by European imperialists. (Personally, I think he can take it a step further and point out that what’s even more true of poor countries in general is that they have less money.) […]
Diamond’s comparison of the differing fates of Haiti and Dominican Republic, both in Collapse and after the Haitian earthquake reads like 40 proof crimethink compared to Acemoglu/Robinson’s embarrassing handling of the same subject.
While Acemoglu’s political correctness certainly has promoted his career, as far as I can tell, though, Acemoglu is a True Believer. He comes across as being wholly untainted by the slightest doubts in the conventional wisdom.
It’s actually rather amusing to see the newer generation of True Blue dopes turning on the aging cynics who taught them too well.
But now we really are getting ahead of ourselves. No, we’re not ready for a “formidable slave revolt” yet. See, we haven’t truly experienced the hell-hole of modern Haiti yet. Let’s review this earthquake business, shall we?
‘The horrifying moment lynch mob beats to death a looter and drags his body through the streets as Haiti descends into anarchy’ (Daily Mail, 2010):
A mob of men and children watch as the bloodied corpse of a suspected thief is brutally beaten by a man with a stick.
The victim is naked and bound at his hands and feet. It is broad daylight in the devastated capital city of Haiti.
These are the latest in a series of chilling images from the country as anarchy threatens to destabilise the relief effort following Tuesday’s earthquake.
(Make sure to check out the awesome pics.)
Meanwhile, fears are growing for the continued safety of the nation with violence rife as scavengers and looters swarm over the wrecks of shops, carrying off anything they can find.
Robbers prey on survivors struggling without supplies in makeshift camps on roadsides littered with debris and decomposing bodies.
Men armed with machetes and other weapons walk brazenly through the capital city while others stalk the streets holding shotguns.
‘One Year After Earthquake, Haiti Still in Ruins’ (Voice of America, 2011):
January 12 marks the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation of Haiti. One year later, reconstruction is moving at a snail’s pace, millions of people are still without a permanent home, a cholera epidemic has killed thousands, and the recent first-round of the presidential election is under investigation for fraud.
Only an estimated five percent of the capital’s rubble has been cleared, and many streets are still blocked by debris. Makeshift camps in and around Port-au-Prince house more than a million people.
‘Haiti: 2 Years After the Quake’ (Atlantic, 2012):
Two years ago tomorrow, January 12, a catastrophic 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, leveling thousands of structures and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Haiti, already an impoverished nation, appears in many ways to have barely started recovery 24 months later, despite more than $2 billion in foreign aid. So many homes were destroyed that temporary tent cities hastily set up throughout Port-au-Prince have begun to appear permanent — more than 550,000 people still live in the dirty and dangerous encampments throughout the Haitian capital.
‘3 years after Haiti’s quake, lives still in upheaval’ (USA Today, 2013):
On this third anniversary, local refugees and aid groups working in the impoverished Caribbean island nation say recovery is still painfully slow, despite billions in aid donations, including funds that remain undistributed.
An estimated 357,785 Haitians still live in 496 tent camps, according to a recent report by The New York Times. Others have moved to shanties or slums. Cholera, widespread joblessness and other woes still grip the nation.
‘Four Years Later, Haiti’s Troubled Recovery Haunts Its Future’ (Time, 2014):
Four years after an earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince, capital of the poorest country in the western hemisphere, killing more than 100,000 people, pushing 2.3 million into homelessness and reducing tens of thousands of structures to mere matchsticks, Haiti slowly continues its resurrection from ruin.
Port-au-Prince has rebounded to an extent, considering its airport, roads and seaport were unusable or barely functional, hampering the quick influx of aid and personnel. But the simultaneous collapse of its political system and public-health infrastructure, among other sectors wracked by endemic corruption, made a bad situation worse for its 10 million people. At the time, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it “unprecedented” and “overwhelming.” And in many regards, as international relief organizations renew their calls for attention and resources in hopes of highlighting slim progress and a mélange of challenges ahead, that hasn’t changed.
Billions of dollars in promised aid haven’t yet been dispersed and may never trickle down far enough for victims to feel it. A new action plan by the U.N. found that at least 70% of Haitians lack access to electricity, 600,000 are food-insecure and 23% of children are out of primary schools. At least 172,000 people remain in 306 displacement camps, down significantly from a peak of 1.5 million, but often with little or no access to safe water, sanitation and waste disposal. Amnesty International claims that many camps are at risk of flooding during hurricane season and their residents are privy to forced evictions.
Okay, that’s Haiti now. Let’s back it up a couple hundred years. From Remember Haiti at Brown University’s John Carter Brown Library — ‘Economy’:
Once the richest colony in the world, Saint Domingue was a leader in the production of sugar, coffee, indigo, cacao, and cotton.
Haiti’s early history is characterized by remarkable economic output. On the eve of the Haitian Revolution, Saint Domingue had become the most lucrative colony on earth. It was the world’s top producer of sugar and coffee and among the global leaders in indigo, cacao and cotton (which was rising rapidly in importance). Indeed, Saint Domingue, occupying only a small territory, outproduced the entire Spanish empire in the Americas.
A dazzling array of flora and fauna greeted Haiti’s earliest visitors.
Travelers and local writers found Hispaniola a luxuriant paradise, not only endowed with tremendous economic potential, but also full of the wonderment of life, as defined by a rich variety of flora and fauna unknown in Europe. […] In 1742, Jean-Baptiste Labat wrote, “one does not know any other country in the world more abundant than this island, the land here has an admirable fecundity, rich, profound, and in a position of never ceasing to produce all that one could desire.”
Compare Spenser St. John’s Hayti: The Black Republic (1889, p. 20):
I have travelled in almost every quarter of the globe, and I may say that, taken as a whole, there is not a finer island than that of Santo Domingo. No country possesses greater capabilities or a better geographical position, or more variety of soil, of climate, and of production, with magnificent scenery of every description, and hill-sides where the pleasantest of health-resorts might be established.
Whereas today: ‘Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt’ (National Geographic, 2008).
It was lunchtime in one of Haiti’s worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud.
With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some must take desperate measures to fill their bellies.
A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.
Which is… quite a difference. Now, opinion is divided as to whether the changes in Haiti have been positive or negative. Divided, that is, between sane people (or “racists”) and the staff of the New York Times (‘A World of Its Own,’ 2013):
What if conventional wisdom has it exactly wrong? What if Haiti, instead of being mired in retrograde customs and superstitions the developed world cast off centuries ago, is in fact ahead of the curve? What if, as Amy Wilentz posits in her excellent “Farewell, Fred Voodoo,” Haiti has always been the most modern of nations, at the forefront of every major historical trend since Columbus dropped anchor off the Hispaniolan coast?
Yes, what if. Let me just think on that, friends. Hmmmm…
HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM I WONDER
Well, anyway, it’s still quite a difference — which brings us to Haiti’s exceedingly “formidable slave revolt.” From the John Carter Brown Library again — ‘Revolution’:
The Haitian Revolution was the world’s only successful slave revolt.
The Haitian Revolution was one of the great episodes of human history. Although perpetually overshadowed by the American and French Revolutions, which preceded and to a degree caused it, it forever changed the history of the world. It witness [sic] the first successful slave uprising, introduced the first African-led nation in the new world, and profoundly affected France, the United States, and the neighboring nations and colonies of the hemisphere.
Huzzah! Truly “one of the great episodes of human history” — although, as it turns out, this “episode” was not exactly a straightforward “slave revolt.” No, Spenser St. John (no doubt an evil raciss) begs to differ (pp. 49–50):
It is curious to read of the projects of these negro leaders. They had no idea of demanding liberty for the slaves; they only wanted liberty for themselves. In some abortive negotiations with the French, Jean François demanded that 300 of the leaders should be declared free, whilst Toussaint would only have bargained for fifty. The mulattoes, however, were most anxious to preserve their own slaves, and, as I have related, gave up to death those blacks who had aided them in supporting their position; and a French writer records that up to Le Clerc’s expedition, the mulattoes had fought against the blacks with all the zeal that the interests of property could inspire.
“As I have related” (pp. 41–43):
In the meantime the coloured men at Mirebalais, under the leadership of Pinchinat, began to arouse their brethren; and having freed nine hundred slaves, commenced forming the nucleus of an army, that, under the leadership of a very intelligent mulatto named Bauvais, gained some successes over the undisciplined forces in Port-au-Prince, commanded by an Italian adventurer, Praloto. […]
When everything had been settled between the chiefs of the two parties, the Haytians returned to Port-au-Prince, and were received with every demonstration of joy; they then agreed to a plan which showed how little they cared for the liberty of others, so that they themselves obtained their rights. Among those who had fought valiantly at their side were the freed slaves previously referred to. For fear these men should excite ideas of liberty among those blacks who still working on the estates, the coloured officers consented that they should be deported from the country. In the end, they were placed as prisoners on board a pontoon in Môle St. Nicolas, and at night were for the most part butchered by unknown assassins. Bauvais and Pinchinat, the leaders and the most intelligent of the freedmen, were those that agreed to this deportation of their brethren in arms who had the misfortune to be lately slaves! I doubt if the blacks ever forgot this incident.
The coloured men, jealous of each other, did not combine, but were ready to come to blows on the least pretext; while the blacks, under Jean François, were massacring every white that fell into their hands, and selling to the Spaniard every negro or coloured man accused of siding with the French.
The horror of the race war in the West now  almost surpassed that of the North. The mulatto Confederates, in hideous token of their Royalist sentiments, fashioned white cockades from the ears of then-dead enemies. The atrocities perpetrated upon the white women and children are past belief. “The mulattoes,” writes the Colonial Assembly to its Paris commissioners, “rip open pregnant women, and then before death force the husbands to eat of this horrible fruit. Other infants are thrown to the hogs.”
And that’s not at all (pp. 281–282):
It was on August 1, 1800, that Toussaint Louverture made his triumphal entry into Les Cayes. After a solemn Te Deum for his victory, Toussaint mounted the pulpit according to his wont and promised a general pardon. But this was only a ruse. Toussaint knew that the mulattoes were his irreconcilable enemies, and he had no mind to see himself stabbed in the back at the height of some future struggle with France. He therefore appointed the sinister Dessalines Governor of the South with general orders for the “pacification” of the country. And Dessalines did not disappoint his master. Backed by overwhelming masses of negro troops, this ferocious brute born in the wilds of the Congo traversed in turn the districts of the South. Not by sudden massacre, but slowly and methodically, the mulatto population was weeded out. Men, women, and children were systematically done to death, generally after excruciating tortures chief among which was Dessalines’s own special invention, — a form of impalement christened “The Bayonet.” The number of persons who perished in this atrocious proscription is usually estimated at ten thousand. Toussaint’s comment was characteristic. Reproached with Dessalines’s cruelty he answered, “I told him to prune the tree, not to uproot it.”
Check out the ‘1804 Haiti Massacre’ at Wikipedia (source of all truth):
The 1804 Haiti Massacre was a genocide, which was carried out against the remaining white population of French Creoles (or Franco-Haitians) in Haiti by the black population on the order of Jean-Jacques Dessalines. […]
Squads of soldiers moved from house to house, killing entire families. Even whites who had been friendly and sympathetic to the black population were imprisoned and later killed. A second wave of massacres targeted white women and children.
After the defeat of France and the evacuation of the French army from the former French colony of Saint-Domingue, Dessalines came to power. In November 1803, three days after the French forces under Rochambeau surrendered, he caused the execution by drowning of 800 French soldiers who had been left behind due to illness when the French army evacuated the island. He did guarantee the safety of the remaining white civilian population. […]
Whites trying to leave Haiti were prevented from doing so.
On 1 January 1804, Dessalines proclaimed Haiti an independent nation. Dessalines later gave the order to all cities on Haiti that all white men should be put to death. The weapons used should be silent weapons such as knives and bayonets rather than gunfire, so that the killing could be done more quietly, and avoid warning intended victims by the sound of gunfire and thereby giving them the opportunity to escape.
Women and children were generally killed last. White women were “often raped or pushed into forced marriages under threat of death.”
Before his departure from a city, Dessalines would proclaim an amnesty for all the whites who had survived in hiding during the massacre. When these people left their hiding place, however, they were killed as well.
Y’see, ’cuz “the Haitian Revolution was one of the great episodes of human history.”
By the end of April 1804, some 3,000 to 5,000 people had been killed and the white Haitians were practically eradicated. […]
In the 1805 constitution, all citizens were defined as “black,” and white men were banned from owning land.
Jumping back to The French Revolution in San Domingo (pp. 349–350):
The nature of these events is well shown by the letter of a French officer secretly in Port-au-Prince at the time, who himself escaped by a miracle to the lesser evil of an English prison in Jamaica. “The murder of the whites in detail,” he writes, “began at Port-au-Prince in the first days of January, but on the 17th and 18th March they were finished off en masse. All, without exception, have been massacred, down to the very women and children. Madame de Boynes was killed in a peculiarly horrible manner. A young mulatto named Fifi Pariset ranged the town like a madman searching the houses to kill the little children. Many of the men and women were hewn down by sappers, who hacked off their arms and smashed in their chests. Some were poniarded, others mutilated, others ‘passed on the bayonet,’ others disembowelled with knives or sabres, still others stuck like pigs. At the beginning, a great number were drowned. The same general massacre has taken place all over the colony, and as I write you these lines I believe that there are not twenty whites still alive — and these not for long.”
This estimate was, indeed, scarcely exaggerated. The white race had perished utterly out of the land, French San Domingo had vanished forever, and the black State of Haiti had begun its troubled history.
Yes, “the Haitian Revolution,” as we were so kindly informed by Brown University, “introduced the first African-led nation in the new world.” So how did that turn out? I mean, we already know the ending (mud for dinner). But — in the short term?
Back to Spenser St. John’s Hayti: The Black Republic (p. 78):
The tyranny exercised by Dessalines and his generals on all classes [from 1804] made even the former slaves feel that they had changed for the worse. There were no courts to mitigate the cruelty of the hard taskmasters, who on the slightest pretext would order a man or woman to be beaten to death.
Yeah, but… things got better, right? Well, actually (p. 86):
I am quite unable to reconcile the reports made of the state of affairs in Hayti at this time . After a twenty years’ peace, the country is described as in a state of ruin, without trade or resources of any kind; with peculation and jobbery paramount in all the public offices; an army supposed to consist of 45,000 men, according to the Budget — in reality, few soldiers, but many officers, among whom the appropriations were divided. I feel as if I were reading of more modern times [i.e., circa 1889] instead of the halcyon days of Haytian history.
In other words: instant, permanent failure forever.
And now it’s earthquakes again, for crying out loud (pp. 12–13):
Cap Haïtien never recovered from the effects of the fearful earthquake of 1842, when several thousands of its inhabitants perished. To this day they talk of that awful event, and never forget to relate how the country-people rushed in to plunder the place, and how none lent a helping-hand to aid their half-buried countrymen. Captain Macguire and myself used to wander about the ruins, and we could not but feel how little energy remained in a people who could leave their property in such a state. It was perhaps cheaper to build a trumpery house elsewhere.
One of those that suffered the most during that visitation wrote, before the earth had ceased trembling, “Against the acts of God Almighty no one complains,” and then proceeded to relate how the dread earthquake shook down or seriously injured almost every house; how two-thirds of the inhabitants were buried beneath the fallen masonry; how the bands of blacks rushed in from mountain and plain, not to aid in saving their wretched countrymen, whose cries and groans could be heard for two or three days, but to rob the stores replete with goods; and — what he did complain of — how the officers and men of the garrison, instead of attempting to keep order, joined in plundering the small remnants of what the surviving inhabitants could save from the tottering ruins. What a people!
Whereas today: ‘Haiti Authorities Battle Looters’ (The Wall Street Journal, 2010).
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Thousands of looters played a deadly version of cat-and-mouse with police in the earthquake-shattered capital on Sunday, stripping stores of canned goods, wash basins and other wares along block after block of a downtown thoroughfare.
The stealing surged and ebbed as police, far outnumbered by the teeming mob of mostly young men and some women, occasionally passed through the section of Boulevard Jean Jacques Dessalines [trollolol]. Sometimes the officers stopped and fired some shots or arrested a looter or two, and sometimes they simply drove through.
Do you think, perhaps, that things might have been slightly better under the evil white-supremacist French racists? The historian James Anthony Froude actually visited Haiti in the late 19th century (The Bow of Ulysses, 1888, pp. 301–303):
We were to stay some hours. After breakfast we landed. I had seen Jacmel, and therefore thought myself prepared for the worst which I should find. Jacmel was an outlying symptom; Port au Prince was the central ulcer. Long before we came to shore there came off whiffs, not of drains as at Havana, but of active dirt fermenting in the sunlight. Calling our handkerchiefs to our help and looking to our feet carefully, we stepped up upon the quay and walked forward as judiciously as we could. With the help of stones we crossed a shallow ditch, where rotten fish, vegetables, and other articles were lying about promiscuously, and we came on what did duty for a grand parade.
We were in a Paris of the gutter, with boulevards and places, fiacres and crimson parasols. The boulevards were littered with the refuse of the houses and were foul as pigsties, and the ladies under the parasols were picking their way along them in Parisian boots and silk dresses. I saw a fiacre broken down in a black pool out of which a blacker ladyship was scrambling. Fever breeds so prodigally in that pestilential squalor that 40,000 people were estimated to have died of it in single year. […] We English are in bad favour just now; no wonder, with the guns of the ‘Canada’ pointed at the city; but the chief complaint is on account of Sir Spenser St. John’s book, which they cry out against with a degree of anger which is the surest evidence of its truth. It would be unfair even to hint at the names or stations of various persons who gave me information about the condition of the place and people. Enough that those who knew well what they were speaking about assured me that Hayti was the most ridiculous caricature of civilisation in the whole world. […]
In this, as in all other communities, there is a better side well as a worse. The better part is ashamed of the condition into which the country has fallen; rational and well-disposed Haytians would welcome back the French but for an impression, whether well founded or ill I know not, that Americans would not suffer any European nation to reacquire or recover any new territory on their side of the Atlantic. They make the most they can of their French connection. They send their children to Paris to be educated, and many of them go thither themselves. There is money among them, though industry there is none. The Hayti coffee which bears so high a reputation is simply gathered under the bushes which the French planters left behind them, and is half as excellent as it ought to be because it is so carelessly cleaned. Yet so rich is the island in these and other natural productions that they cannot entirely ruin it. They have a revenue from their customs of 5,000,000 dollars to be the prey of political schemers. They have a constitution, of course, with a legislature — two houses of a legislature — universal suffrage, &c., but it does not save them from revolutions, which recurred every two or three years till the time of the present president.
What have we learned here? The India-born British explorer/adventurer/big-game hunter/sniper/cricketer Major Hesketh Vernon Prichard has an idea — but I’m not sure you’re going to like it much (Where Black Rules White, 1900, pp. 277–278):
Can the negro rule himself?
The present condition of Hayti gives the best possible answer to the question, and, considering the experiment has lasted for a century, perhaps also a conclusive one. For a century the answer has been working itself out there in flesh and blood. The negro has had his chance, a fair field and no favour. He has had the most fertile and beautiful of the Carribbees for his own; he has had the advantage of excellent French laws; he inherited a made country, with Cap Haytien for its Paris, “Little Paris,” as it was called. Here was a wide land sown with prosperity, a land of wood, water, towns, and plantations, and in the midst of it the Black Man was turned loose to work out his own salvation.
What has he made of the chances that were given to him?
What indeed (pp. 280–281):
To-day in Hayti we come to the real crux of the question. At the end of hundred years of trial, how does the black man govern himself? What progress has he made? Absolutely none. When he undertakes the task of government, he does so, not with the intent of promoting the public weal, but for the sake of filling his own pocket. His motto is still, [Dessalines’] “Pluck the fowl, but take care she does not cry out.”
Corruption has spread through every portion and every department of the Government. Almost all the ills of the country may be traced to their source in the tyranny, the ineptitude, and the improbity of those at the helm of state.
Whereas today (I do hope you’re “enjoying” these asides as much as I am): ‘In Haiti, Little Can Be Found of a Hip-Hop Artist’s Charity’ (The New York Times, 2012).
Portraying himself as persecuted like Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Jean, 42, writes with indignation about insinuations that he had used his charity, Yéle, for personal gain. […]
Even as Yéle is besieged by angry creditors, an examination of the charity indicates that millions in donations for earthquake victims went to its own offices, salaries, consultants’ fees and travel, to Mr. Jean’s brother-in-law for projects never realized, to materials for temporary houses never built and to accountants dealing with its legal troubles.
On the ground in Haiti, little lasting trace of Yéle’s presence can be discerned.
Oh well. I’m sure some generous white people will pick up the slack!
Froude writes, in The Bow of Ulysses (p. 304):
I stayed no longer than the ship’s business detained the captain, and I breathed more freely when I had left that miserable cross-birth of ferocity and philanthropic sentiment. No one can foretell the future fate of the black republic, but the present order of things cannot last in an island so close under the American shores. If the Americans forbid any other power to interfere, they will have to interfere themselves. If they find Mormonism an intolerable blot upon their escutcheon, they will have to put a stop in some way or other to cannibalism and devil-worship. Meanwhile, the ninety years of negro self-government have had their use in showing what it really means, and if English statesmen, either to save themselves trouble or to please the prevailing uninstructed sentiment, insist on extending it, they will be found when the accounts are made up to have been no better friends to the unlucky negro than their slave-trading forefathers.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds: ‘Protectorate Touted to Mend Haiti’s Crippled Society’ (Los Angeles Times, 2004).
With Haiti’s interim government halfway through its 18-month mandate and the Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeeping mission nearly at full strength, life remains cheap and security elusive in a society so broken it can’t cobble together even the means to accept humanitarian aid.
Fruitless efforts to impose peace and pave the way for elections after years of dictatorship and chaos have given rise to debate about whether Haitians are capable of resolving their own crises or should have their country placed under international control.
In a briefing paper prepared for American military commanders on security challenges in Latin America, Gabriel Marcella of the U.S. Army War College warned that Haiti was undergoing an implosion and suggested that an international protectorate might be the only way to contain the disaster.
“Haiti’s violence is the consequence of a predatory state, a nonexistent political culture, economic collapse and ecological destruction,” Marcella wrote in the November advisory. “Long-term measures are necessary, to the point of considering Haiti for protectorate status under a Brazilian-led regional coalition, if one can be created that is willing to support a 10-year restoration initiative.”
The protectorate idea, tantamount to foreign occupation that could last at least a decade, has ignited more enthusiasm among Haitian intellectuals than might have been expected in a year marking the bicentennial of the country’s independence. Celebrations of the anniversary have been muted by catastrophic floods that killed at least 5,000, armed rebellion and repression.
“People are exasperated and exhausted. If you took a poll, 65% to 70% of the population would support a protectorate,” said Claude Beauboeuf, an economist who compares Haiti with Afghanistan after the ouster of the Taliban government.
Politicians and historians note that one of the few periods of stability in Haiti stemmed from a 1915–34 U.S. occupation, now fondly regarded by many here as an act of benevolence rather than imperialism.
And Bret Louis Stephens (Pulitzer Prize winner, 2013) throws out this: ‘Haiti, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire: Who Cares?’ (Wall Street Journal, 2011).
What, if anything, does it all mean?
It means that we’ve come full circle. It means that colonialism, for which the West has spent the past five decades in nonstop atonement, was far from the worst thing to befall much of the colonized world. It means, also, that some new version of colonialism may be the best thing that could happen to at least some countries in the postcolonial world.
Take Haiti. Haiti is no longer a colony of the West, but it has long been a ward of it. Even before the earthquake, remittances and foreign aid accounted for nearly 30% of its GDP. The country is known as the “Republic of NGOs,” since some 3,000 operate in it. What good they’ve done, considering the state the country has been in for decades, is an open question. Security, to the extent there is any, is provided by some 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers.
Should more responsibility be handed over to Haitians themselves? I used to think so, and debate on this subject rages among development experts. A new consensus holds that the long-term presence of foreign aid workers is ultimately ruinous to what’s known in the jargon as “local capacity.” Probably true. Prosperity has never been built on a foundation of handouts.
But last year’s fraudulent elections are a reminder that Haitians have been as ill-served by their democracy as by their periodic dictatorships. When “Baby Doc” Duvalier was overthrown in 1986, per capita GDP was $768. In 2009, on the eve of the quake, it was $519. Nor do the troubles end there: Criminality is rampant, and Haiti ranked 177th out of 179 on Transparency International’s 2008 corruption index. These are not the depredations of greedy foreign interlopers. This is the depravity of the locals.
Put simply, Haiti has run out of excuses for its failures at the very moment the “international community” has run out of ideas about how to help.
The West professes to “care” about countries like Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire and — at least for as long as George Clooney is in the area — south Sudan. But “care” at the level of simple emotion is little more than a cheap vanity. The colonialists of yore may often have been bigots, but they were also, just as often, doers. Their colonies were better places than the shipwrecked countries we have today.
One day, some latter-day King Acqua will come to the West with a similar plea. If we aren’t prepared to shoulder the full burden entailed in the request, the least we can do is stop pretending we care.
Alternatively, we always have the “Carlyle Option” (Occasional Discourse, 1849):
Or, alas, let him look across to Haiti, and trace a far sterner prophecy! Let him, by his ugliness, idleness, rebellion, banish all White men from the West Indies, and make it all one Haiti, — with little or no sugar growing, black Peter exterminating black Paul, and where a garden of the Hesperides might be, nothing but a tropical dog kennel and pestiferous jungle, — does he think that will forever continue pleasant to gods and men? I see men, the rose-pink cant all peeled away from them, land one day on those black coasts; men sent by the Laws of this Universe, and inexorable Course of Things; men hungry for gold, remorseless, fierce, as the old Buccaneers were; — and a doom for Quashee which I had rather not contemplate! The gods are long-suffering; but the law from the beginning was, He that will not work shall perish from the earth; and the patience of the gods has limits!
Meanwhile, Haitian gratitude to the West has not been conspicuous.
‘Quixotic Haiti Seeks French Restitution’ (Los Angeles Times, 2003):
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — France owes this country exactly $21,685,135,571.48, the government figures — not counting interest, penalties or consideration of the suffering and indignity inflicted by slavery and colonization.
Paris swiftly rejected the demand for restitution when Haiti raised the issue in April, on the 200th anniversary of the death of Toussaint Louverture. A revered figure here, Louverture led fellow slaves in throwing off their French colonial oppressors.
‘France urged to repay Haiti billions paid for its independence’ (Guardian, 2010):
A group of international academics and authors has written to Nicolas Sarkozy calling on France to reimburse the crushing “independence debt” it imposed on Haiti nearly 200 years ago.
The open letter to the French president says the debt, now worth more than €17bn (£14bn), would cover the rebuilding of the country after a devastating earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people seven months ago.
Its signatories — including Noam Chomsky, the American linguist, Naomi Klein, the Canadian author and activist, Cornel West, the African-American author and civil rights activist, and several renowned French philosophers — say that if France repays the money it would be a solution to the shortfall in international donations promised following the earthquake.
Their letter says: “The ‘independence debt,’ which is today valued at well over €17bn… illegitimately forced a people who had won their independence in a successful slave revolt, to pay again for the freedom.”
‘Haiti’s Ex-Slaves Demand Land and Mule From France’s CDC’ (Bloomberg, 2013):
France’s colonial past in Haiti is coming back to haunt it.
A group of black-rights associations is suing a French state-owned bank over compensation payments it collected for slave owners in the Caribbean nation, citing as precedent reparations ordered by U.S. Civil War General William Sherman.
The group is demanding that CDC pay 10 million euros ($13 million) to fund slavery-related research and education.
CDC should pay for French school textbooks to be updated to explain the consequences of French imperialism and a slavery museum should be built in France, Tricaud said.
France in 2010 canceled 56 million euros of remaining debt from Haiti and said that it would spend 230 million euros to help the country rebuild after the earthquake in January 2010 that killed about 300,000 people.
Never fear, Haitians: President Obama is on the case (Newsweek, 2010):
We look into the eyes of another and see ourselves.
— which turns out to mean amnesty for 100,000 Haitian illegals. You see, as Froude pointed out, Haitians would gladly settle for resettlement in the (hateful, raciss) West. ‘Haitian invasion welcomed in rural America,’ apparently (BBC, 2012):
Mount Olive is a small town in rural North Carolina, best known for its pickle factory and southern charm. Less than two years ago the Census listed this place as having zero immigrants from Haiti among the town’s 4,600 inhabitants. But over the past 18 months that has changed as thousands of Haitians have flocked to the area.
The BBC’s James Fletcher has been to Mount Olive to find out why and to see how the town is coping.
I’m sure they’re loving it. More Haitians! We must have more Haitians!
I mean, really, what could go wrong?
Presented without comment (AlterNet, 2010):
Two weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I started to write what I thought was a very clever editorial about violence against women in Haiti. The case, I believed, was being overstated by women’s organizations in need of additional resources. Ever committed to preserving the dignity of Black [sic] men in a world which constantly stereotypes them as violent savages, I viewed this writing as yet one more opportunity to fight “the man” on behalf of my brothers. That night, before I could finish the piece, I was held on a rooftop in Haiti and raped repeatedly by one of the very men who I had spent the bulk of my life advocating for.
It hurt. The experience was almost more than I could bear. I begged him to stop. Afraid he would kill me, I pleaded with him to honor my commitment to Haiti, to him as a brother in the mutual struggle for an end to our common oppression, but to no avail. He didn’t care that I was a Malcolm X scholar. He told me to shut up, and then slapped me in the face. Overpowered, I gave up fighting halfway through the night.
Black men have every right to the anger they feel in response to their position in the global hierarchy, but their anger is misdirected.
Women are not the source of their oppression; oppressive policies and the as-yet unaddressed white [sic] patriarchy which still dominates the global stage are. Because women — and particularly women of color — are forced to bear the brunt of the Black male response to the Black male plight, the international community and those nations who have benefitted from the oppression of colonized peoples have a responsibility to provide women with the protection that they need.
I went to Haiti after the earthquake to empower Haitians to self-sufficiency. I went to remind them of the many great contributions that Afro-descendants have made to this world, and of their amazing resilience and strength as a people. Not once did I envision myself becoming a receptacle [!!!] for a Black man’s rage at the white world, but that is what I became. While I take issue with my brother’s behavior, I’m grateful for the experience. […]
My brothers can be sensitized to women’s realities in Haiti and the world over if these are presented to them by using their own clashes with racism and oppression as a starting point.