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An irate tirade for Haiti [Jan. 14th, 2010|11:55 am]
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The disaster is natural but the circumstances of the Haitian people are manmade.

When I said I wished for a world wide redistribution of wealth this is what I meant. There is much brutally wrong with our global society when on one end of the spectrum we have excesses that should turn the cheeks of the wealthy crimson with shame, and on the other end are countries steeped in poverty, like Haiti, just waiting for one final sweep into utter destruction.

This earthquake would have been devastating anywhere, developed or undeveloped; it was shallow and hard. But the people of Haiti never had a chance. In England we can’t take two steps without a health and safety warning “for our own good”, building regulations, benefits, school policies. I know it’s corrupt, I know it’s flawed but damn it that doesn’t mean there is any sort of equality between us and them. I have known what it is to be poor; I have known the feeling of having nothing but pennies, two weeks until payday and a child to feed. I know the mortification of always having a cold because your shoes have holes in the soles and you can never afford to replace them. I know about the humiliation and hope destroying powers of always coming up short. But I also know that 80% of the battles we fight in this country, while absolutely necessary, are intellectual battles for rights and freedoms.

I was born into my life just as people in better or worse situations were born into theirs. But I don’t want any part in contributing to this abhorrent disparity of basic human rights. Potentially tens of thousands of people have died; god only knows how many are trapped and injured. Children’s hospitals brought to the ground, homes, business, and aid agencies. The people of Haiti live on an average of less than $2 a day. They never had a chance.

Compare and contrast: In October when I was still working part time at a convenience shop, every other customer I served came in grumbling about the flu vaccination. “What’s the point of getting it?” they said, “If it’s going to make me feel rubbish for the whole weekend anyway?” Since I was there in a capacity to scan milk and not hand out lectures I smiled bit my lip (usually). What I wanted to say was, “Well, you can take a weekend of feeling rubbish or the potential to develop pneumonia. I’ve had it, twice, and I’m now practically an invalid. You choose! Or you could immigrate to a country that doesn’t provide you with such medical advances, and just take your chances with nature. Either way shut up and move on.”
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Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 12:22 pm (UTC)

well said

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you sum up the disaprity perfectly. governing powers near to Haiti and distant can do a lot more.
and people should get the flu jabs to stop spreading it to others, damn their bad weekends...
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 12:28 pm (UTC)

Naive nonsense

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Let's move away from the 'gosh the West should feel so guilty' stuff shall we...The issue is not the redistribution of wealth, it's the need for poorer countries to move-on from tribalism and corruption.
[User Picture]From: erinnorman
2010-01-14 12:42 pm (UTC)

Re: Naive nonsense

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It is not naive nonsense. If you want to see corruption look no further than our own developed countries, there is as much here as anywhere else. If you don't think capitalism and centuries of haves and have-nots has created this gulf then I probably wont be the one to change your mind. Your comment about tribalism smacks of racism, so perhaps an element of that is influencing your opinion. Is it 'poorer countries' you mean or countries where the population is of a different race? I was not aware they had to shed their heritage in order to have a right to the same basic living standards that we enjoy.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 01:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Naive nonsense

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Erin, you lose credibility when you make claims that there is as much courruption in the developed world as "anywhere else". This is so clearly untrue I don't know why you would make such a claim, and it's couner-productive to helping a country like Haita. If you are interested in differences in the form and levels of corruption between countries I suggest you research the subject. For example, see the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, which can be found here: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781359.html

Here you will see that only 3 countries in the world are more corrupt than Haiti.

There is a world of difference between a country such as the UK, in which some MPs accommodation, food and gardening expense claims constitute a major scandal, and for example, countries where the head of state treats the country's central bank as his own private current account, takes over other's companies and has his own family members run them, has rival business leaders murdered, and acquires a fortune almost as large as the country's economy. This sort of thing has happened time and again - think Mobutu or various other African countries. I have lived in various countries, and there are some where it is virtually impossible to have anything administrative, bureaucratic or legal done without paying a bribe to the official. This hasn't been my experience in the UK and I doubt it has been yours.

I would also like to comment on your remark that "I was not aware they had to shed their heritage in order to have a right to the same basic living standards that we enjoy." I agree that the poster's comment on tribalism seems questionable, and that differing cultures to our own can become prosperous. However he was also talking about corruption and it's worth considering that what you call "the basic living standards we enjoy" are, both in international and historic terms extremely unusual and even unprecedented. The life lived by most Haitians today is much more typical of human experience thoughout history than our own is. In order to create a society which cretaes as much wealth as our own many things need to be in place - some of the most important are low corruption, the rule of law, effective government, individual liberty and respect for individual property rights.

If a country is effectively governed then even an impoverished country with a terible violent history can become prosperous. South Korea was once one of the poorest countries in the world, brutally colonised by the Japanese, and the battleground for a huge war against the North. Despite low natural resources it's government transformed the country in a few decades so that now its standard of living rivals European levels.

[User Picture]From: erinnorman
2010-01-14 01:44 pm (UTC)

Re: Naive nonsense

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I understand your point about the difference in corruption but I stand by what I said.

The corruption you speak of is of course on a totally different scale than what is experienced in the UK, America etc. I love my home(s) and by no means do I think they are all bad. However I am not naive to the fact that there have always been cold blooded decisions made that have knowingly sacrificed human lives in far off places (and closer to home) for profit or politics. That is corruption, and that, we have.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 12:58 pm (UTC)

Re: Naive nonsense

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If you call this naive then yours is the sort of mind that has got the world into the mess that it is currently in. Take yourself out of your well insulated upper middle class bubble and into utter and abject poverty and see how long it takes before resentment, helplessness and the need to do anything to survive don't bring corruption directly into your experience.
How convenient to let the west off the hook. How utterly misguided to condem tribablism and link it with corruption. Your judgment and narrowminded misunderstanding of tribal culture syas it all. Go on living your climate change creating existance, all snugged up in your utterly superior perceptions, and if you can spare the time, thank God that you were born into the life that you were where you could actually DO SOMETHING like redistribute your wealth to those in desperate need, rather than sitting in self congratulatory glory that those poor people over there should just move on....
How convienient for you.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 12:55 pm (UTC)

Poor countries

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Sure, America isn't perfect. Tell me what country is. Plenty of blame to go around this world. But why is America the richest and strongest and most free and one of the least corrupt? Because we made it like that, struggles, civil rights and all the warts that go with it does not detract from it. Mimick us if you want to be the same. If not, then you made your bed now lie in it.
[User Picture]From: erinnorman
2010-01-14 01:09 pm (UTC)

Re: Poor countries

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You sound wilfully tunnel-visioned.. Also if you read my post I said England, not America. Although I am American, I live in England. It isn't about mimicking your betters, you know, its about working with what you've got.

I agree that there is blame aplenty to be had and none of us are perfect - None. That has no bearing on my argument that the vast economical, medical, and educational difference in opportunity experienced by different people of the world is disgusting, and needs to be rectified.
From: michele_laidlaw
2010-01-14 02:13 pm (UTC)

Re: Poor countries

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If you believe that America (which I must assume, you mean the states) is free of corruption then you are living under a well-meaning cloud of deception. Why don't you try visiting an American Indian reservation, and see how well-meaning corruption plays out.

Plus, the old you made your bed now lie in it response is tart and cruel. I must take it that you don't wish for China to keep bailing out the US by buying our T-bills and practically zero return.

The focus here is on the disparity in the world of the haves and have-nots. So, look in your own backyard.

To say that the US doesn't have a history of corruption and greed is sadly like you are reading the rewritten history of the US as taught in elementary schools. Expand your mind sir or madam.
[User Picture]From: ron_broxted
2010-01-14 01:01 pm (UTC)

Beehive State.

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The rule (misrule) of the mulatto elite contributed in no small way to the situation in Haiti. Read Koning's novel "America made me" for a good account of it. Anon said the U.S was the strongest, etc nation on earth. Least corrupt? Rubbish anywhere in Scandinavia is far more transparent. Whitewatergate? Halliburton?
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 01:27 pm (UTC)

Re: Beehive State.

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Raising straw men are we? I said "ONE of the least corrupt," now didn't I? Scandanavia has its own share of issues, as do we all.

http://edition.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/europe/scandinavia/02/02/racism/
[User Picture]From: ron_broxted
2010-01-14 03:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Beehive State.

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Troll?
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 03:21 pm (UTC)

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Give me an example of a successful, prosperous country based on a "world wide redistribution of wealth"...
[User Picture]From: erinnorman
2010-01-14 03:35 pm (UTC)

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None exist as it hasn't been done before. That doesn't mean it is impossible. Give me your definition of "prosperous" and "successful" they might not be the same as mine.

I dont think the changes I want could be made within the status quo, but it isn't the status quo I'm after. We never had the perfect model, its a false economy to fight tooth and nail to attempt to maintain it.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 03:37 pm (UTC)

Tragedy in Haiti

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Can we get back to the subject please? I think it's indecent to wallow in this specious, elite,intellectual sophistry when people are slowly suffocating under tons of concrete as we argue.
This type of argument, multiplied to legislative level, is one of the reasons there is such a disparity in wealth between nations - the fortunate are too busy proclaiming what the less fortunate should be doing to help themselves.
[User Picture]From: erinnorman
2010-01-14 03:45 pm (UTC)

Re: Tragedy in Haiti

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I agree with what you are saying - but I cant do anything to save those people physically. I wish I could, believe me. All I can do is try (in whatever very small way) to work against the poverty and injustice that is at the root of so much of this. I feel impotent that I am unable to help on a practical level so until I am capable of giving in that sense I give in this and hope it gets through somehow. That is not indecent. And I am self educated, I left school at 15 due to personal circumstances. There is nothing elite about me.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 04:18 pm (UTC)

Re: Tragedy in Haiti

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I meant no disrespect, Erin. I agree with everything you say.
[User Picture]From: erinnorman
2010-01-14 04:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Tragedy in Haiti

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Thank you. I'm sorry if I misunderstood you. I agree with you that this is all academic to the people suffering in Haiti right now. But I am, and I have always been, doing whatever I can (which sadly isn't much) to reverse the madness that we are living in. I write these things and have these conversations because I truly believe that to achieve progress you often have to deal with the radical. And if that means redistributing wealth then so be it. What we have is unacceptable.

At the heart of the whole point of this is my heartbreak, and yours, and everyone's for the people of Haiti. They don't even know I exist and they don't need my hand wringing, but I will give them my advocacy, whatever its worth.
[User Picture]From: greyeyedeve
2010-01-14 04:19 pm (UTC)

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Erin, I just admire your willingness to engage with an anonymous troll-you have a great deal more patience than I do! And excellent, thoughtful and thought-provoking post as ever.
[User Picture]From: erinnorman
2010-01-14 04:43 pm (UTC)

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thank you. This is entering into my obsession territory.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-14 04:44 pm (UTC)

Tragedy in Haiti

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Oops, I'm anonymous number two. When I can work out how to register for this forum I will. Meanwhile refer to me as 'Dachyone'.
I find anon number one's arguments both offensive and elitist. Life is unfair, making privilege purely an accident of birth. I didn't earn the right to be born into the Western world. In the face of this appalling tragedy I too feel helpless and hopeless. Contributing what I can is the only way I can help - it's woefully inadequate.
[User Picture]From: erinnorman
2010-01-14 08:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Tragedy in Haiti

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I'm working on a *very* long term project for people in the position we're in - the woefully inadequate. Its a lot of energy that should be harnessed and put to good use. Don't lose it.
From: hamshaw
2010-01-14 07:54 pm (UTC)

America

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The reason the USA became the richest and most influential nation is entirely related to the Second World War, when its GDP increased by 100% in four years, nearly all the massive expansion in productive capacity within USA was funded from outside (much of it by UK) After the war, which left its infrastructure unscathed, its civilian population unharmed and its economy transformed. It was in a position to both bankroll development and coerce economies to do whatever it wished. If you seek to know how a great number of Americans lived before the war then a good reading suggestion would be;
The Hour before daylight" by Jimmy Carter no less. The state of the European continent in the immediate post-war years is a matter of almost total ignorance to most Americans, for fairly obvious reasons.
From: hamshaw
2010-01-14 07:56 pm (UTC)

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Splendid, thought-provoking piece from Erinnorman incidentally.
[User Picture]From: ron_broxted
2010-01-14 08:30 pm (UTC)

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I see you have been elevated! Well, as a Commentator you should be paid (don't quite me I am not a solicitor). Anyway you are at the top of the main page. How long will it last? Group-Captain Hicksley-Alton to be replaced by Rod Liddle? A.Y.Lebedev to buy the Indy? Y nye znayu o chom etat dyela.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-15 08:03 am (UTC)

Re: America

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From anonymous two. Well said, hamshaw. Let's not forget Lendlease - one has to look no further than that to understand why Britain is still reduced to 'How high Mr President?'