If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 18 January 2010

Haiti - why the anger?

I could be setting myself up for a big pasting here, so let me say first of all:
  • The Haiti earthquake was a terrible event
  • The Haitian people deserve the help and support of all of us
  • The earthquake was nobody's fault, least of all the poor buggers who had to endure it.
What has concerned and slightly rattled me over the last few days were the reports of the Haiti victims being 'angry' about the lack of foreign aid. Specifically, the earthquake happened almost a week ago, and they are still living in tents and don't have adequate food and water. Now I can't imagine how terrible the situation must be, but can't they cut us a little slack? The day the news broke, there were search and rescue teams with sniffer dogs sent from the UK. Aid (food and water) is arriving hourly by transport plane, and supplies are being dropped over affected areas by helicopter. This isn't enough, for sure, but it's what we can do.

The problems are that the infrastructure is shot, meaning that getting things around the island is difficult, and this is compounded by the escaped gangsters from the collapsed gaol, who appear, with others, to be looting and terrorising passers-by in many areas. The airport and the aid supply dumps have had to be heavily fortified for this reason. If the situation isn't to descend into complete anarchy, some fairly rigorous security is needed, and some swift and uncompromising enforcement of public order. Security and order are vital if aid is to be got to those in need. Otherwise, it's survival of the strongest and nastiest. Meanwhile, the UN and the US are doing their best to get supplies out of the airport and into the areas that need them.

This is no-one's fault. It's how it is after a major disaster. But it seems a little premature and perhaps a little ungrateful to be getting angry at the rest of the world for their supposedly tardy response.

Having said that, the 'anger' that I have heard of and seen has been mainly reported by the BBC in the TV news bulletins. It's not very evident on the BBC website, or in other media. It's quite possible that the Haitian people are very grateful for everything that is being done, and the 'anger' is synthetic, created by leftie journalists who see a stick to beat the West with.

Meanwhile, we see an interesting contrast in priorities for our Beloved Leader.

We are sending £23m in aid to Haiti (wow, that's 38 pence each).

And the amount pledged to combat Global Hoaxing after Copenhagen?

£1.5bn, or £25 for every man, woman and child in the UK.

That's a factor of 65, if you are interested.


  1. Interestingly, similar sentiments were expressed on CiF (the Guardian forum - not that I'm a Guardian reader, but some of the online discussions are entertainingly robust). They published an article by a Haitian pop star living in Canada appealing for aid to be sent. Unfortunately, it was under the byline "demands that her homeland isn't once again abandoned by the west" - the Guardian's words, not hers.

    She was actually doing okay with her own words, until it got to the emotional blackmail of "the west's centuries of disregard" and "The west has funded truly corrupt governments in the past", amongst others.

    That was about the point where I lost interest, in all honesty (patently, from the debate, I wasn't the only one). I have no problem with extraordinary disasters being the trigger for extraordinary efforts of humanitarian relief. I do have an issue with the sense of entitlement and outrage that assumes that because somewhere in Europe once colonised the place (in this case, the French and, yes, they were quite unpleasant about giving it back) "the west" owes it some kind of perpetual debt. If that's a representative view, perhaps it goes some way towards explaining the anger.

    Funny, though, I always thought we were pretty generous as a country, both with overseas aid and with one-off appeals. Perhaps we are, and that's partly what fuels the expectation of unlimited assistance every time. And I don't mind assisting, but please, be gracious about it. The British Empire wasn't my fault and I don't feel guilty about it.

    £23 million may only be 38p each to us, but it's £7.50 per head at the receiving end. That's a week's wages each, and we're not the only ones pledging. Sounds a not unreasonable contribution, on the face of it.

    I expect they'll be getting a share in the Copenhagen windfall as well. But if not, at least the polar bears will. And it sounded important and statesmanlike when Gordo pledged it.

  2. I suspect our 'knowledge' of what is going on is limited - big disaster, very difficult conditions let's go and interview the folks round the corner.

    If I was one of the folks round the corner I suspect I would be angry indeed- not because the West owes me etc etc but simply because the stuff I desperately need for me and my family (like water, food, morphine etc) is sitting on the airport tarmac the other side of a fence and some logistics expert from the UNDP or US Marine Corps decides it stays there until he/she is satisfied that all the tick boxes on the 'Getting aid to the screaming desperate' check list has been filled in and filed. While there are self satisfied people saying 'I cannot release aid until the distribution network is totally secure' at the same time as people are having amputations with no drugs a car ride away from pallets of medicine people need to be angry.

    The 'rest of the World' team have some excuses - the Tsunami will no doubt have had some lessons but it was different - mostly hit coastal villages over a very wide area.

    The US should be the real experts and 'current' - New Orleans was on their home patch, not long ago, not very far from Hispaniola and, like Port au Prince, involved the destruction of most of a city.

    I fear that the same 'Americans know best' and 'rules is rules' mind set that left the World shocked and baffled after Katrina has been applied in Haiti.


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