Off the cuff (II) HAITI

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Now!... and above all, from now on. Yet again it has taken a huge catastrophe to make the world “wake up” and stretch out its hands, and “turn”, concerned, moved, compassionate, to help a population – the victim which has suddenly appeared before our eyes which are so entertained, so distracted, by a horrendous, heart-wrenching spectacle. As happened with the tsunami in December 2005… We all rushed to help … and then what? Then, nothing. There are parts of our conscience that we do not often visit and which gradually become forgotten.

When, some years ago, I learned what I knew about the history of Haiti, I saw what I saw of its daily life; I remembered with them, especially with the women, the incredible humiliation suffered under the era of the dictator Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes… I decided to hold this dark part of the precious Caribbean island deep within my heart.

Shame on us for being spectators! Shame on us for enjoying extremely high per capita income when so many of our brothers and sisters are living in abject misery! In Haiti they do not even have a dollar a day... and, yet, at the beginning of the 19th century, Haiti (under Alejandro Pétion) and the United States were the only countries in the western hemisphere whose republican ideas had prevailed.

I never tire of repeating that this is the great challenge: to go from exploitation to cooperation, from an economy of speculation and war (3 billion dollars a day in military costs -and neither must we tire of repeating it – as over 60,000 people are dying of hunger and neglect–) to an economy of global sustainable development, with investment in renewable energy, food production, obtaining water through desalination, access to health services for all, protection of the environment, eco-friendly homes, electric transport …

In a nutshell, if we win the battle against poverty and exclusion not only morally but also socially and economically, Humanity would be able to embark upon a new era.

The banks have been “rescued” and are now seeing the stock markets buoyant once again. Now, and quickly, it is time to rescue the people, starting with the most vulnerable.

Where are the human and technological resources allocated especially for lessening the impact of catastrophes? Between 1989 and 1999, a study was carried out by the United Nations System on all the circumstances (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires...) in which it would be necessary to always remain alert and available under the coordination of the United Nations in order to act effectively. Once again, the machinery of war is the only one available: F-16, F-18… in huge amounts, but we can see with alarm how even the “most developed” countries with the largest number of weapons, are inadequately protected against fire, the wind and overflowing waters …

“Mission: the Earth”! Mission, Mother Earth! And, when appropriate, a mission to Mars and to other more distant places. But for now, and from now on, Haiti and Darfur and all places in which the future of Humanity is at stake.

The “leaders” must be aware that, from now onwards, the decision regarding these issues is not theirs alone. That civil society will have its say – above all in cyberspace – and this will gradually get louder. That the incoherence and pressure that are still keeping the tax havens going – a large number of which are near to Haiti, incidentally – have come to an end and that we will be able to look the survivors in the face and tell them: “the time of no solidarity and oblivion, the time of indifference, is over”.