Stop. Breathe. Think.

This is what I’ve trained myself to do in times of tragedy. Thinking is always the hardest part because my gut reaction is to DO SOMETHING because by doing something, I feel like I’m helping.

As I watch the condensed images of Haiti filter through, I’m met with the conflicting reaction. My connection to Haiti and the Dominican Republic draw me to do something, obviously meeting the initial needs of people is priority. But I’ve stepped back and started to put the pieces together especially after reading this quote on the Heritage Foundation’s website.

“In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.”

There has been a pattern of  development industries and venture capitalists seeing opportunity and EXPLOITING natural disasters in order for them to accrue disgusting amounts of wealth. This is what Naomi Klein describes as “disaster capitalism” at its finest.

Probably the most relevant comparable example would be Hurricane Katrina, which wiped out New Orleans in 2005. With the new “clean slate” the Bush administration was able to take advantage of the collective panic and pass otherwise contentious pro-corporate policies to ensure that money was made.

For example, within one year after Hurricane Katrina only 4 of the once 123 public schools reopened. The remaining schools were auctioned off to the private sector to create charter schools. The once 4700 teachers who represented a strong union were all fired, some were hired back, but on reduced salaries.  Contracts for clean up and redevelopment were bestowed upon corporate sponsors of the government du jour. This privatization of the public school system had long been a dream for opportunistic capitalists, but had never materialized because the deeply polarizing effects of charter schools between the regions rich and poor did not bode well with the people of New Orleans.  The hurricane, and the collective vertigo it created changed everything. To quote Milton Friedman “Katrina accomplished in a day…what Louisiana school reformers couldn’t do after years of trying”.

There are countless other instances of disaster capitalism in the last few decades (9/11, the war in Iraq/Afghanistan, H1N1 etc). In which policy makers and government executives play on the fear, declare martial law and let their cronies dive in and scoop up the profits.  As I step back and watch the truly tragic events unfold in Haiti, a country that owns a piece of my heart, I have a righteous anger towards the deals for profit that are being made before the dust settles.

I echo the sentiments and actions of people wanting to help and send money, we must dig deep and give hard. But we cannot disorient ourselves from what is going on, or depoliticize the state of Haiti while we grieve. Catastrophe is big business and it does not work in the interest of those who are the victims. We must not allow our panic and grief to be used to pass advantageous policies, or allow the facade of “development” and “reconstruction” to further exploit the impoverished. Lets not mistake vultures for angels.

In the mean time, Stop. Breathe. Think

*And read “Shock Doctrine” by: Naomi Klein.


About Ashley Drake
Don't cha wish your girlfriend could blog like me

3 Responses to Haiti

  1. Nico says:

    Its hard to imagine how much more can be done in Haiti in terms of utter exploitation and privatization of the commons; however, means will be found. Haitians have become, it may be argued, a subject-less society. It has no alternatives, it has no identity, it has no power it is fully at the whim of the other and therefore, has nothing left to lose. Haiti may be that type of ‘universal’, revolutionary human Marx was talking about, like they were in the 1790s when the slaves of the island rebelled against the French. Unfortunately, in order to become a revolutionary subject is not inherent within exploitation as Marx may have thought, it is a overtly political project, and this is non-existent in Haiti, and let us not fool ourselves, in most of the world today. The subjectless are, instead of attacking the enemy, are attacking each other in the battle for scarce resources, i.e., crime, which is the signal of a society with displaced revolutionary potential and a country without a future and increasingly, a world without a future. As Alain Badiou states:

    “We need to re-install the communist hypothesis—the proposition that the subordination of labour to the dominant class is not inevitable—within the ideological sphere.”

    In terms of ‘disaster capitalism’; I wouldn’t be surprised if private contractors become the new ‘national’ police-force, with profit as their driving motive, will tend to protect those are wiling and able to pay, leaving the rest in the aforementioned misery; the emergence of walled, foreign enclaves in the rebuilding of the city; the sale of land to corporations for socially-unproductive use, as the Haitian state has already done in the North, by selling an island to a cruise corporation. I could also see Haiti succumb to the latest neo-colonialist trend, selling huge parcels of land to corporations for 99-years to directly produce cash-crops, i.e. Madagascar with, I think, half of the country’s arable land now under South Korean corporate ownership to supply industrial plants, not food to the starving local population.

  2. Rachel says:

    I hope despite of what is to come, and what has happened, that there is still some way that we can serve the individuals affected. Your compassion and “doing” in the past has posatively affected the indivual. As we lament the big picture, which I agree is dark, and as you seek to create awareness, be encouraged that you are not now, nor have you ever been an obscure drop in the ocean.

  3. Tangaroa says:

    I finally decided to send donations for Haiti’s orphans. I hope that people send money to those scarred by this terrible disaster too.

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