Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Weeks like these will happen to you (1)

Crazy times. For one thing, I seem, largely as a result of my goddam insomnia, which kept me up way past any normal person's idea of bedtime, involved in the efforts on Twitter to draw attention to the Haitian earthquake, the ways that people can donate, and the reasons why rich, privileged, white people like us should donate as a result of the horrible history of colonial interference in that country's history. Haiti is the one country in the world which had a successful slave revolt, and, as Noam Chomsky points out, colonizers have to punish successful dissent pour discourager les autres. So, despite the failure of a variety of European powers, including both Britain and Napoleonic France, to conquer the Haitians, they were eventually starved out and forced to submit anew to our dominion, and - in one of the most twisted moves in the sordid history of colonialism - made to pay reparations to the French for the 'crime' of daring to revolt against slavery.

During the twentieth century, as a country in 'America's backyard', Haiti was a battleground in the Cold War, and the US, pursuing its interests, supported the monstrous regimes of 'Papa Doc' and 'Baby Doc' Duvalier , and undermined more democratic governments. The constant interference, terrorism, and atmosphere of coup and counter-coup destabilised an already-weakened country, and created the conditions which have made it hard for the country to deal with this disaster.

Haiti is our problem. The wealth that we, in our privileged nations, enjoy, is based in part on the fruits of colonization, slavery, and the economic terrorism leveraged against the Haitian people. That's why I've been telling people as often as I can, via Twitter, to donate using sites like the British Red Cross site here. There are other places to give. Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Foundation and Medecins sans Frontieres are doing good work too - I gave to the British Red Cross because I know they have people on the ground there, and I could donate in pounds. But please, whatever you do, visit one of the sites, or some other, and give what you can. I gave, and I'm poor and unemployed (though that's 'poor' in the sense of 'spent stupid money on skincare stuff today' and 'unemployed' in the sense of 'had two interviews this week', so...).

I don't want to go all 'white man's burden' here. But I don't think that's what I'm doing. We created this problem. We are complicit in a system which keeps countries like Haiti poor, and badly-placed to weather disasters like this. It's not paternalism. It's not white guys knowing best. It's privileged people making up for the shit they created.

In fact, y'know what? It's not even that. It's being a good person. It's not passing by on the other side. It's doing what we can 'cause, really, but for an accident of birth, we could be sleeping outside tonight, surrounded by the wreckage of our country, wondering if tomorrow we'll see the corpses of people we know piled up by the Canape Vert road for identification. It, like everything I pull people up for not doing on this blog, is being a good human being.

So...if you've been good already, then thank you. If you haven't, yet, then go be good. You don't have to give money, if you can't afford it. Just tell people there are ways they can give. Throw your weight behind ideas like granting Haitian refugees temporary protected status, or cancelling Haiti's debts (the modern-day equivalent of those reparations). Just keep going on about it - that's all I'm doing here, really. Keep it trending, keep it in the media, keep it before the eyes of the powerful and the privileged. Keep it going.

And...I'm done. I had intended to talk about other stuff in this post. I finished the manuscript for what might be the most important book of poems I've ever written yesterday. Today I had a fun day in Morpeth attending an interview and doing a lot of other stuff. But this isn't the time for that. I will talk about that, but not now. Not today.

Today is the day that we think about Haiti.

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