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The Forum > Article Comments > The forgotten story of Haiti > Comments

The forgotten story of Haiti : Comments

By Bronwyn Winter, published 3/2/2010

The question must be asked: why, if Haiti matters so much to us now, did it matter so little before the earthquake?

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Haiti deserves better than this piece, straight from the feminist, anti-colonial commentariat.

Whose assertions, apparently, need no actual supporting information.

"That this outrage is justified goes without saying... That the mainstream media coverage is insufficient, biased and sloppy, goes without saying."

But hold on a moment...

"Yet saying such things is not saying anywhere near enough."

Surely, they...errrr... “go without saying”? Which rather deflates any rhetorical impact.

But seriously. This isn't about writing style, so much as the article's pervasive vacuity.

"There is an awful lot going on in the world, and it is hard for the general populace - especially located somewhere as far from Haiti... to keep up... How many Australians even know much about Australian history?"

A nice backhander. You don't deserve to know about Haiti's history, because you can't even be bothered with your own.

"The first reason it matters is that a little over two centuries ago Haiti was the first colonised nation in the modern era of European colonisation to rise up and claim its independence."

Ok. The fact that the revolt was against European colonization is the key here. No previous casting-off-the-shackles counts, even though they have actually been going on for a while.

Nothing like nailing your colours to the mast, eh?

Just another brick in the wall for Haiti, though.

"the postcolonial history of Haiti, in which an alarming number of regimes have been overthrown by coup d’état, assassination, or both, as the country has continued to battle political instability, debt and poverty."

No comment, I note, whether this was more or less desirable than being a colony. To the author, it's a given that centuries of despotism are by far the preferable option.

There is indeed an ineffable sadness, that there are still countries like Haiti in the world, whose people are born, live, and die in abject poverty.

We should also be more than a little ashamed, too, that we only notice them when they are in extremis.

There is undoubtedly an important story about it all, that needs desperately to be told.

This isn't it.
Posted by Pericles, Wednesday, 3 February 2010 12:37:41 PM
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The material on the history of Haiti was interesting, but the fact remains that Haiti has been getting by on food aid since well before the earthquake and is one of a number of failed states, some of which were never colonised or enslaved by Western countries. See

On the other hand, some countries that were colonised in the past, such as South Korea (by the Japanese), are now doing very well and part of the First World, or are at least reasonably well run middle income countries, such as Barbados(a former British possession where the people are mostly black, the descendants of former slaves). If we aren't responsible for Yemen or North Korea, to what extent are we responsible for Haiti today, rather than the problems being due, at least in part, to the culture of the people themselves?

If we actually want to help people in the long run, we need to eschew political correctness and look at the facts. It is notable that Bronwyn studiously avoids any mention of population. A few calculations based on the CIA World Factbook statistics shows that Haiti has 0.086 hectare of arable land per person and a population doubling time of 38 years. Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba has calculated that 0.07 hectare is the minimum required to provide an individual with a nutritionally adequate vegetarian diet. This assumes modern farming techniques, but no expensive chemical inputs. A UN FAO report has put it at 0.053 hectare with the full panoply of modern agriculture. Does she think it irrelevant that the population is outgrowing its ability to feed itself, even with the best possible management?
Posted by Divergence, Wednesday, 3 February 2010 3:04:54 PM
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I too noted the awkward style, even the seeming incongruity of the "sisterhood solidarity" bit at the end at the end. Which,made me wonder it the article was really a mule for that.

While I too have a clumsy style I shouldn't comment to specifically, except to say it wasn't up to what one expects from a person with her academic pedigree.

However, I must admit being puzzle as to why you denied the importance of her style when it seems that most of your criticisms seem to focus on exactly that.

I certainly didn't glean the same as you. However, I did note a tendency towards a hyperbolic militancy in her prose, which can be a little off putting.

She did however make some interesting and raise the odd important question, albeit,a little confusingly. Due in part,I suspect to her emotional and myopic political attachments at the cost of objectivity. In short, an emotional opinion.

I do agree that this wasn't the best, totally thought through or contextually complete discussion of the tragedy that is, Haiti.
Posted by examinator, Wednesday, 3 February 2010 4:32:07 PM
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