Why is Haiti so miserable?
If, like me, you’ve realized in the past week that you could stand to brush up on your Haitian history, you might profit from reading Mark Danner’s op-ed in today’s New York Times.
And yet there is nothing mystical in Haiti’s pain, no inescapable curse that haunts the land. From independence and before, Haiti’s harms have been caused by men, not demons. Act of nature that it was, the earthquake last week was able to kill so many because of the corruption and weakness of the Haitian state, a state built for predation and plunder. Recovery can come only with vital, even heroic, outside help; but such help, no matter how inspiring the generosity it embodies, will do little to restore Haiti unless it addresses, as countless prior interventions built on transports of sympathy have not, the man-made causes that lie beneath the Haitian malady.
Danner gives a quick account of Haiti’s history, from slave colony to independent nation to corrupt state. It’s the first such account I’ve read that isn’t blindly condescending or entirely vague — the information is appreciated, and the prescription for the future seems valid. Does it square with what you know? Have you seen anything better on “the reality of Haiti”?
UPDATE: This “comment” from The Nation by Amy Willentz doesn’t take in Danner’s essay, but it does pick apart some of the other, lesser entries in the “explain Haiti” sweepstakes.