Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti: The New Frontier

I know that political posts are too numerous to count these days. And it seems that I've turned continuously to the subject for reflection, especially since reading Ayn Rand's works. Events in this world, as I've discovered, cannot be evaluated without looking at the ideologies that run it. And since I can honestly say I don't care for the platforms of either Republicans or Democrats, I have to search for what I do believe in. World events help to put this in perspective.

Thus we come to Haiti. Natural disasters occur frequently throughout the world, bringing misery, death, corruption. They bring to light the best and the worst in human nature. They also elucidate what has been missing for so long, "the safety valve." The unique aspect of the Haitian disaster is that, since the country is so small, the earthquake devastated the entire country. The infrastructure, the government, everything, wiped away. Thus the people there have to begin anew.

What an opportunity, to start over again. To erase the old ways and create new ways of living. A responsible and self-aware human being would jump at the chance to create a society, to borrow a religious phrase, in their own image. We used to have that ability, freely, in this world, before every corner was explored and colonized. The frontier, the lands beyond human habitation, for which we were the pioneers that started over just by traveling over the land and seas, away from corrupt governments and totalitarian religious systems, to live in our own way. Naturally, I would think of the Utopian land of John Galt in Atlas Shrugged, but Ms. Taggart was right in that book, too, when she looked back in admiration to her ancestors who built the railroads across the country to give people the chance to build their own lives, out of the land and the soil and the rocks and the gold.

For more information on the idea of Frontiers, especially of Fredrick Jackson Turner's idea of the "Safety Valve" and the American West, check out this link. Great stuff!

One day, in the future, we will be given that chance again, when human technology gives us the chance to expand the frontier beyond our planet, to the regions that Roddenberry imagined. But for now, this isn't possible. We have to make do with circumstances that provide us with frontiers here, today. The rebuilding of a country, out of the catastrophes, either man made or natural, give us a unique chance to start another experiment, much like that of the United States, some 200 years ago. Haiti, I'm afraid, will not be given that chance, because some of the government is still left, and our current government won't take over. I wouldn't want them to, anyway.

Instead, we hear on the television, on the radio, constant pleas for donations of money (which we don't have in abundance), charged to our cell phone bills (to which the telecommunication companies profit), or added on to our grocery bills, to be taken down to Haiti by some domestic non-profit organization, and used to rebuild the ruined infrastructure. Or, the donations might be given to international organizations that might do the ame thing, only to have the money disappear into the pockets of corrupt politicians, upstart military generals, and those who would control the people of Haiti through meager rationing of that which we give freely to them. In my opinion, it is not money that we need to give to the people of Haiti. It is ourselves.

Investors, entrepreneurs, ambitious people with dreams of success, of building their own empires in a place where they can live their lives and pursue their dreams without being regulated and controlled...these are the ones that should go to Haiti. Those that can rebuild the infrastructure, the hospitals, the schools, the roads, these people are essential to the future of the country. Yes, it takes money, but it takes the people who can undertake the operation and create something out of the rubble. Let's turn Haiti into a country of profit, into a place of tourism, industrial businesses, and educational and scientific marvels, not a land where we've dumped money into a government that will simply waste it all, or by giving to organizations that leak money as through the cracks in the buildings around them.

I don't know how to do this, but I would start with the idea that the government (for starters, the people who would invest in the country) have a responsibility to provide the basic necessities for the people who live there. Food, water, shelter, safety. For shelter, I would look at the works of Le Corbusier, a french architect, or look at the ideas that Americans have had with turning empty train cars into housing (see earlier blogs). We can provide the water and food, and the safety is of the utmost importance. That's where our military should step in, in levels similar to those in the middle east. Call it Imperialism, call it Manifest Destiny, whatever you will, but the idea of turning an impoverished country into one of great potential fulfills the American Dream.

So, fine, write the checks for $100 million dollars, but let's send the people to Haiti that can not only rebuild the nation's present, but build its future as well. I'd like to think that this what George W. Bush called "Compassionate Conservatism." It's a term that has been ridiculed by liberals, by the media, and misunderstood by everyone else. What could have been done better in Iraq, in Afghanistan, we have the ability to do it now, here, in Haiti. Let's lift them up, to fulfill the dreams of the impoverished, and our own as well. Let's not just shove money at them, a little food, and then leave for them to be ruled again by whomever would. It's our chance to show the world that America builds people up, and not just tears them down.

1 comment:

  1. [I'm adding comments made by A. from my facebook page, as they are as essential to this blog as the text itself.]

    Great read! We differ here, not surprisingly...a great deal ;) What you've described, has been tried rather relentlessly by many a country. Rather than turning Haiti into a "country of profit" in our own image, as the colonial empires attempted to do, we should do what we can to empower that particular society (not the failed Haitian state) to ... See Moresucceed...economically, in civic matters, what have you. Honestly, I don't know how to do that, but sending carpetbagging, oppurtunistic American citizens to Haiti will not work. Sure, these Americans will bring investment and economic oppurtunity to Haiti, but it will be superficial & temporary and will largely empower and pad the American emigres, as well as the U.S. economy, instead of Haitians themselves.

    One aspect that shouldn't be forgotten in this particular case is the Haitians themselves. For good and for bad (though, as the past 200 yrs have proven, it is safe to say there's more bad than good in the Haitian experience), there is a lot of baggage....historical, political, social, etc...shouldered by Haitians and their society. That baggage ... See Morehasn't been wiped out by this earthquake, unfortunately, and it will be clung to by Haitians more fervently than ever now, as it is just about all they have left. Such baggage, to my eye, terminally inhibits your scenario. In several of his books, Graham Greene does a fairly transparent job of mocking Westerners who think they know better than the natives how to proceed with the trajectory of their own country, and Haiti's current situation reminds me of this. In fact, one his books just may be next on my reading list :)

    This is my last comment...I think, lol. If Haiti is to begin anew, and do so successfully, it has to start with Haitians, rather than foreigners coming into their country doing it for them. They have to want change...political, economic, social, etc...and they have to begin by overcoming their own baggage. The Western world, for all its wealth, expertise, good intentions, etc. cannot do this for them.
    [And My response]

    I agree with you. It's the paradox of most of the philosophies I agree with. Idealism vs. Reality. I realize the error of my theories above, as Le Corbiseur was very heavily into the Socialist movement of the early 20th century, and I am advocating the opposite. Yes.... it's putting the impoverished in a place where they will be happy while the... See More people the "know what they're doing" take over. It's one of the fallacies of Rand's philosophies as well. She advocated, in later years, almost letting the handicapped and mentally ill people be totally separated from the rest of society, and not cared for. She almost accepted the idea of a perfect race, which would have been accepted by the nazi's, a group she despised. There must be an answer to acheiving "Compasionate" aid without debt spending and giving into the corruption that so often comes with large sums of money. Your right, that the people of Haiti have to accept moving their country forward out of the rubble. It is also certain that if we do not help them, Dictators like Castro and Chavez will, and the outcome will not be good for us. Thanks for the thoughts! Very helpful!!!