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Posts Tagged ‘earthquake

“Looters” in Chile

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The rubble from Chile’s horrific earthquake has just barely settled, and already the US media is howling over “looters” and their dastardly attempts to salvage some sustenance and supplies from Chile’s ruined supermarkets.

The Washington Post has the charming headline: “Massive quake brings looters and heroes“, while ABC gives the ominous “Looters Descend Upon Chile“, and The Daily Beast informs us that “Chile Sends Troops To Battle Looters“.

Now, place yourself in the shoes of a Chilean citizen who has just survived the massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake. It’s demolished every structure around you, the shopkeepers have all fled, and you’re literally standing in rubble. You’re hungry, thirsty, and scared. You see, out of the corner of your eye, a bit of canned food peeking out amid the devastation. You’ve got kids, of course, and they’re all clamoring for food. So you pick up the can and begin to dig around for a can opener.

Then clickety-clack go the keyboards of those safe, secure journalists in America and elsewhere, instantly branding you a “looter”. I mean, what would these people have the Chileans do? Go to the nearest ATM, withdraw some cash, somehow find the shopkeeper (who’s house has been destroyed and who has likely fled) and hand him the money? How do they expect them to feed their families if not by “looting”?

This calls to mind the grimly hilarious photo juxtaposition that came out of Hurricane Katrina back in aught-five. I’ve reproduced it here for your viewing pleasure:

Our media learned their lesson well from Katrina: black people loot; white people find.

Written by pavanvan

March 2, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Voodoo Racism

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The Times shows a bit of humanity and gives a reasonable treatment of Haiti’s Voodoo religion, which has been much maligned by Catholic groups (and, notoriously, Pat Robertson).


For scholars whose expertise runs somewhat deeper, such words have understandably provoked indignation. Worse still, the dismissive attitude about voodoo follows a tawdry history of misrepresentation in American journalism and popular culture.

“The media has reported a lot about voodoo but not much of it very insightful or intelligent,” said Diane Winston, a professor of religion and media at the University of Southern California. “Voodoo is one of those flashpoints for Americans because it’s exotic, unknown and has strange connotations. It may be a matter of underlying racism because voodoo is African and Caribbean in its origins, or because voodoo seems so different from Christianity that it’s the perfect Other.” Prof. Leslie G. Desmangles of Trinity College in Hartford, who is the author of several scholarly and reference books about voodoo, views these current caricatures of voodoo as all too familiar.

“There’s been a very degrading, derogatory language about voodoo,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s language that goes back to the 19th century.”

Now if only they could do the same thing for Muslims…

Written by pavanvan

February 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

IMF to Haiti: We Want Our Money!

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From the Inner City Press:

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 — While the IMF’s Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn rushed out a statement that the “IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt,” on Thursday morning his spokesperson Caroline Atkinson called this a “medium range” goal.

Among Haiti’s creditors is the UN system’s International Fund for Agricultural Development. Even as the UN has done into “Haiti only” mode for the past nine days, there’s been no talk of canceling the UN’s own loans to Haiti.

Note that on the IMF’s outstanding $165 million loan to Haiti, reportedly the conditions included restrictions on public sector pay raises, and lifting the price of electricity.

Well, that doesn’t seem very fair…

Written by pavanvan

January 31, 2010 at 8:37 am

Dawkins and Haiti

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To quote the President of one theological seminary, writing in these very pages:”The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe.”

You nice, middle-of-the-road theologians and clergymen, be-frocked and bleating in your pulpits, you disclaim Pat Robertson’s suggestion that the Haitians are paying for a pact with the devil. But you worship a god-man who – as you tell your congregations even if you don’t believe it yourself – ‘cast out devils’. You even believe (or you don’t disabuse your flock when they believe) that Jesus cured a madman by causing the ‘devils’ in him to fly into a herd of pigs and stampede them over a cliff. Charming story, well calculated to uplift and inspire the Sunday School and the Infant Bible Class. Pat Robertson may spout evil nonsense, but he is a mere amateur at that game. Just read your own Bible. Pat Robertson is true to it. But you?

Written by pavanvan

January 30, 2010 at 10:43 am

Girl in Haiti Rescued after 15 Days Underground!

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I find rare occasion to praise The Washington Post, so let me take this opportunity to congratulate them on an excellent story out of Haiti. Would that their domestic coverage was this evocative!

The girl was taking a shower on January 12th when the earthquake happened, and she had been trapped ever since. It’s unclear how she survived – at the very least she must have had some water over these 15 days. The Post’s description of the rescue is quite well done:

After 30 minutes, Luc could see Darline, pinned beneath a piece of metal. He lifted his head and called in Creole to the crowd, by then numbering about 50, “Give me something sweet!”

People passed a peppermint and packets of sugar down to Luc, who handed them to the girl.

Luc then asked the girl her name. She said that it was Darline and that she had been taking a shower at 5 p.m. Jan. 12 when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake brought her house down.

“Please help me,” she told him.

As people heard the name, they spread it from one bystander to another in the growing crowd: “It’s Darline, it’s Darline.”

Written by pavanvan

January 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Haiti’s Earthquake and America’s Shame

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President Obama delivered a speech yesterday morning in which he offered his “condolences” to the Hatian people and offered a vague and unspecific amount of “aid”. The speech was short on actual promises, but I’m sure the Hatians can trust America’s good intentions. I mean, it’s not like the US supported a murderous father and son dictatorship in their country for more than three decades, right? Oh wait…

So let’s see what President Obama intends to do:

I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives.

And that entails what, exactly? The speech leaves it pretty vague: he says the people of Haiti will have the “full support of the US in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble”, but I’m not sure what that means. Will we just be cheering them on? (“You can do it, Haiti!”) – or are we actually sending people to help?

Well, I guess we should look at Mr. Obama’s stated priorities to find out:

Right now our efforts are focused on several urgent priorities. First, we’re working quickly to account for U.S. embassy personnel and their families in Port-au-Prince, as well as the many American citizens who live and work in Haiti.

Okay, first things first – make sure the US citizens are safe! What next?

Second, we’ve mobilized resources to help rescue efforts. Military overflights have assessed the damage, and by early afternoon our civilian disaster assistance team are beginning to arrive. Search-and-rescue teams from Florida, Virginia and California will arrive throughout today and tomorrow, and more rescue and medical equipment and emergency personnel are being prepared.

Alright, that’s more like it – wait … civilian disaster team? You mean we won’t be lending Haiti the use of our professional disaster response? FEMA and whatnot? Oh well.

So this is a big deal, and it requires close collaboration with NGOs and the UN – but strangely, Mr. Obama declines to specify a dollar amount for our aid, despite the generous aid packages announced by Australia, China, Brazil, The World Bank, and even those soulless corporations . Huh.

At the end of the speech,  Mr. Obama inadvertently adds insult to Haiti’s already horrific injury. He says:

With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us and a long history that binds us together, Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home. So we have to be there for them in their hour of need.

What does that even mean? “Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home.” Aren’t you supposed to have written two books?

And I wouldn’t go trumpeting the “long history” that binds the US and Haiti together, as it’s one of overwhelming brutality and callousness on the part of the US. Starting in 1804, when the newly formed US helped France try to crush the slave revolt in Haiti (they failed, hence Haiti’s independence), the US has persistently and constantly meddled in Haitian affairs, much to the detriment of its population. After Haiti won independence, the US and France refused to recognize its government and forced them to pay 90 million gold Francs in “compensation” to the “landowners” (read: slavers) they just kicked off the island.

Later, in 1915, Woodrow Wilson occupied Haiti (illegally, of course) for 19 years. He was also instrumental in creating the Haitian army, which, from the moment of its inception, was used to crush the peasant population. Then, in 1957, we entered into a “strategic partnership” with Francois Duvalier, who had recently styled himself “president-for-life”, and killed, oh I don’ t know – 60,000 Haitians via death squads. Then in 1980 we gave a $22 million “aid package” to the Duvaliers, which really turned out to be a “bribe package”, since $16 million of the aid later went “unaccounted for”. Oh well, the Duvaliers were “anti-communist”, so how bad could they be, right?

Then, finally, in 1991 we allowed Haiti to have free elections. But the guy who won, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was deemed “too soft” by US policy planners, so the CIA funded and armed a terroristic “opposition” organization called the “FRAPH (Haitian Front for Advancement and Progress)” which then proceeded to execute a reign of terror, slaughtering between 3 and 5 thousands Haitians. And the slaughter didn’t stop once they exiled Aristide and took power; in fact, it intensified.Oh yeah, I almost forgot – Aristide was extremely popular, rose from the slums (like a certain president we know today), and won the presidency in a landslide victory (almost 70-30). But yeah, he was way too soft.

Then Aristide somehow made a comeback in 2000 and ruled until 2004, when once again the US funded and sponsored a terroristic “counter-revolutionary” group to oust him from power, which they did in 2004. Why? Because he refused to “privatize” Haiti’s economy.

I’m sure Mr. Obama will consider whatever miserly aid package he chooses to deliver as a “boon to Haiti’s struggling people,” a “manifestation of our common humanity,” or whatever other grandiose titles he wishes to give it. But students of history (something which Mr. Obama professes to be) should, of course, know better.