Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why Is Haiti Poor?

Why Is Haiti Poor?

Self-evident ideas are without a doubt the most dangerous of them all.These ideas can be right without reason and accepted without question. Call it dogma, ideology, love-of, moral -- everyone has those things that are beyond reproach and are more or less common knowledge. Why are these ideas so dangerous, and what can we do to counteract such powerful forces? Well, maybe nothing; but maybe with a strong dose of thought, patience and a little help from a friend we can all cognate clearer.

Let's begin: Think of Haiti. What thoughts blossom when you consider the Caribbean island? There was an earthquake, an inescapable poverty (78% below the poverty line), deplorable housing, healthcare and education. This is a harsh reality that is no secret, but now I ask, why?

Do world powers like America share any fault?  Of course not we give tons of aid. Just bad luck? Probably not.

You might know that Haiti's founders were the first of any slaves to revolt and win. But what is lesser known is what happen after they freed themselves from the grips of Napoleon. And here I insert an excerpt from David Graeber's international bestseller, Debt.

...debt is not just victor's justice; it can also be a way of punishing winners who weren't supposed to win. The most spectacular example of this is the history of the Republic of Haiti--the first poor country to be placed in permanent debt peonage. Haiti was a nation founded by former plantation slaves who had the temerity not only to rise up in rebellion, amidst grand declarations of universal rights and freedoms, but to defeat Napoleon's armies sent to return them to bondage. France immediately insisted that the new republic owed it 150 million francs in damages for the expropriated plantations, as well as the expenses of outfitting the failed military expeditions, and all other nations, including the Unites States, agreed to impose an embargo on the country until it was paid. The sum was intentionally impossible (equivalent to 18 billion dollars), and the resulting embargo ensured that the name "Haiti" has been synonymous for debt, poverty, and human misery since.
If you where are already aware of the storied past than good for you. But, I share this 1) for the content itself and 2) for the self-evidence Graeber points out. 

A debt must be paid.

An interesting notion to think about. As for poverty, Haiti and common knowledge -- does this whittle at the foundations of any ideas you had? Should all debts really be paid?

Comment your thoughts.

Graeber, David. Debt. Melville House Publishing. London Oct. 2014.