By now most of us probably have an idea of just how catastrophic the Haiti earthquakes have been for the people of that nation. Relief efforts have dominated the news for the past week. WH suggested on this blog that people give something to those efforts. Someone commented it was not clear what charities one could trust. I commented that I personally trust Paul Haggis and his Artists for Peace and Justice, http://www.artistsforpeaceandjustice.com/. I know that Paul has been working on Haiti relief for years – and not just as a photo op. I spoke to Paul yesterday. He was on his way to Haiti, despite being in the midst of round the clock production on a film. He said it was rather personal for him, since a number of close friends were killed by the quakes. That speaks volumes as to Paul’s deep ties and commitment to the beleaguered nation and its people.
WH also suggested that if you could just donate a nominal amount it would make you feel better. Well, Mosey and I took her advice. I’ll tell you straight up, we were only able to contribute $25. It is all relative. It made us feel like we were doing at least something.
For those who have an attitude that Haiti is not their problem, fine. But, I did a lot of research on Haiti a couple years back while writing a book. I am going to share with you the draft chapter that dealt with Haiti below. It is rough, and it might shock your sensibilities and some of your stable data. I am not attempting to go political on anyone. I’m not recruiting anyone for anything. I’m just sharing some facts that have been kept from the public view by the powers that be for some time. If nothing else, it might help dispel some ingrained false perceptions you did not even know that you carried around with you. From my perspective, a contribution to Haiti ain’t a hand out, it is a hand back.
The American media and entertainment industry is fond of portraying Africa as a land of inherently savage, backward people. A review of the history of Africa vis a vis American media, politics, literature and film reveals a studied 350 year campaign to denigrate an entire race of humanity and the very land from which it was born. And it continues to this day, albeit more subtle than in the earlier days.
We briefly examine two countries that white America has defined as the epitome of failed black rule; the Caribbean island nation of Haiti and the heart of the African continent, Nigeria.
Haiti has become a modern metaphor for “failed state.” History has been very cleverly written by the conquerers to misrepresent who made it fail.
Haiti was the first and last slave state that was liberated exclusively by the slaves themselves. Prior to the 19th century, Haiti was widely considered as the richest land in the world. It was estimated that a significant percentage of France’s economy was built on the exports from its Haitian plantations.
Toussaint L’Overture is known as the liberator of Haiti. He lead some of the most heroic campaigns in world military history against technologically advanced and numerically larger French and British forces. For generations his revolution was cited by both pro and anti slavery forces as the most barbarous in history. Pro-slavery advocates used Haiti as the example of what would occur to white America if black slaves were not physically and psychologically tamed to obey their masters. Anti-slavery folks pointed to Haiti as a scare tactic against plantation owners, predicting the most blood curdling atrocities when the black slaves ultimately revolted in the South.
Yet, the truth is that Toussaint L’Overture was anything but savage. L’Overture was given a measure of freedom by his master that the vast majority of slaves were not. His master encouraged L’Overture to become educated, which he took full advantage of. Ultimately L’Overture came to the rescue of his former white master and curbed the natural impulses of the Haitian revolutionaries to exact revenge and inflict punishment upon their esrstwhile overlords – an impulse carried out to one degree or another in all Caucasian revolutions. The acts of the Haitians against their former masters were tame by comparison to the atrocities committed during the nearly contemporaneous French revolution.
The carnage that would falsely paint Haiti and its then-African governors as savage for the next two hundred years occurred years after L’Overture had wrested control of the island nation. Upon forcibly severing the yoke of slavery over his people, L’Overture initially did not even declare independence from France. He was willing to allow white French to remain in Haiti and for the country to remain under French jurisdiction. All that he demanded was that slavery be abolished forever.
The most astounding aspect of the Haitian revolution – which you will find in no standard European/American history texts – was the record time in which it rebuilt itself. With the majority of its population forbidden any sort of education, even the right to learn to read, for many generations the prospects for reconstruction were dim. Yet, L’Overture quickly rebuilt agriculture and commerce, and collected taxes and used them to build infrastructure, most importantly, schools.
Within two years of the revolution, Haiti’s gross domestic product was 2/3rds its pre-revolution level. Nowhere in any land has a country so rapidly recovered economically from a revolution or war that ended in a newly formed government.
L’Overture’s efforts were so steller, the three powers of western civilization conspired amongst, and against, themselves to put period to Haiti’s rise.
The French violated a number of internationally recognized conventions among nations to attempt to regain effective control over Haiti. By deceit they lured L’Overture into captivity, and shipped him to France. When L’Overture arrived he was imprisoned in the Alps, where after several months of subjugation to inadequate nutrition and shelter he perished.
Meanwhile, the United States government was conspiring with the British to make Haiti fail. Thomas Jefferson himself expresssed concerned that a successful black nation would send the wrong message to the slaves on US plantations and sought to ‘confine the plague to the island.’ Representatives of the Jefferson administraton and British counterparts embargo’d Haiti, isolating and choking off its interaction with the rest of the world. When the embargo began to destroy the Haitian economy, the British and Americans told L’Overture’s successors that the only way it could enter the world of trade and commerce would be if the Haitian’s executed all remaining French on the island and cut all ties with France.
After complying with US and British demands, the Haitians learned they’d been subjected to a bait and switch con. Instead of lifting the embargos, the world powers broadly disseminated the ‘atrocities’ the Haitians had commited against the remaining French in Haiti to paint people of African descent as having an inherent inability to civilize or govern themselves. The American sanctions against Haiti stayed in place for more than fifty years, when they were finally cancelled by Abraham Lincoln’s administration. By then Haiti was a virtual anarchy with much of its natural resources stolen by western powers. And once the American Civil War reconstruction efforts were discredited and abolished, more sanctions and lopsided trade policies were inflicted upon Haiti for decades to come.
For over one hundred and fifty years western corporate interests have looted Haiti for its natural resources and have twice incited the US government to invade and occupy the country to protect their interests.
It fairly makes one wonder what would have become of the emerald island nation had its independence been nurtured rather than suppressed.