By Max A. Joseph Jr.
Naiveté is indisputably expensive, whether one thinks of it as a virtue or a mental weakness. On Dec. 5, 1492, a flotilla of Spaniard sailors arrived in Haiti and was welcomed not with apprehension, but with elation by the Arawaks and Tainos, who inhabited the island. Had the opposite occurred, the adventurous Indians would have been slaughtered by the Spaniards upon landing. On or around the same time, Africa was falling prey to the duplicity of other Europeans whom the natives had innocently identified as traders. Unbeknownst to the Indians and Africans, their fate was intertwined and sealed. As a result of these epic encounters, the gullible Indians and Africans were enslaved by the Europeans who regarded them as uncivilized sub-humans deserving no less. In less than two generations, the former were practically exterminated and the latter enslaved for three centuries.
While the extermination of the Arawak and Taino Indians is regarded as a footnote of history, the enslavement of the Africans is invariably perceived as a necessary occurrence that brought civilization to an inferior race. Complicating matters, many descendants of those unfortunate Africans agree with that presumptuous argument, and nowhere that sentiment more pervasive than Haiti, which incidentally was the first country to have rejected that perverted notion in the most unequivocal way. This lingering attitude helps explain the current occupation and the occupiers’ determination to stay in Haiti as long as they deem necessary.
As the patronizing attitude of the United Nations indicates, Haitians are being taught an advanced course in civilization for having extricated themselves from oppression earlier than the masters would have wanted. Like Hitler’s irrational dream of genetic and racial purity, the international community’s emphasis on uniformity in customs, ideals, and aspirations would inevitably fail. 5 years into the purported stabilization or nation-building project conceived by the international community, the scorch-earth tactics of the occupation force (MINUSTAH) in Haiti leave open the possibility of a genocide rivaling that of slavery.
As during the colonial period, the natives are denied their basic rights and any protest is equated with subversive activities that are dealt with accordingly. The June 6th 2005 bombardment of Sité Soley, during which many innocent civilians were killed and wounded, was never investigated because the victims were uncivilized natives. So were many other deadly encounters between the occupation force and the local population. It was in that context during the April 2008 food riots that Jacques Edouard Alexis, the then prime minister, nonchalantly laid the blame on drug smugglers and other troublemakers trying to destabilize the Haitian government. How spontaneous protests against poverty and inflation in many Haitian cities are associated with drug smuggling and subversive activities could only be explained in a preconceived and perverted notion that holds Haitians as incapable of making the most mundane decisions about their lives. Protesting against hunger and rampant inflation is understandably one of them.
One remarkable episode characterizing the insolence of the political establishment and duplicity of the occupiers was Gerard Latortue’s formal surrender of Haiti’s sovereignty to the U.N, the week following the 2006 elections. The impostor prime minister, under whose rule 4000 Haitians perished (2004-06), surreptitiously went to New York and signed over jurisdictional control of the Haitian National Police to the MINUSTAH. Because a newly elected president and parliament were poised to take over the destiny of the country, the timing could not be more inauspicious. Adding insult to injury, the buffoon prime minister, derisively called Gros Gerard, disingenuously claimed to have been unaware of the contents of the document he had signed because he had misplaced his spectacles. The man was merely expressing contempt for the people he led. In any case, before the installation of the new government, Latortue simply left Haiti without the courtesy of telling the citizenry what, if anything, he had accomplished during his murderous reign. Apparently, Latortue’s efforts were meritorious, because his handlers appointed him head of a U.N observer mission in Togo for that country October 2007 parliamentary election.
Despite Latortue’s unforgivable treachery, the new administration and parliament diligently followed his policy of encouraging the continued occupation of the country by being administratively and legislatively irresponsible. Not a single decision made during the former prime minister’s illegitimate tenure was looked into or overturned. In fact the new government is acting as caretaker of Latortue’s legacy. The only difference between the old and the new regime is that the latter can claim to have been elected by the victims, hence legally empowered to punish them even more.
As Thomas Jefferson correctly wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Unfortunately, this universal philosophy has remained an unattainable dream for generations of Haitians, because of the arrogance of a degenerate and avaricious clique. Repression never last; its staying power depends on the cooperation of the persecuted with their persecutors. The day will come when the word “barbaric” would become associated with a singular event, because the Haitian people, pushed to the limit of human endurance for over two centuries, would turn mercilessly on their tormentors. As we say in our idiomatic and colorful Creole: “Sa neg fè neg, bon dié ri nan sa.”