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All shook up

Half of life is hardships. The other half is getting over them. The people of Haiti have faced many obstacles in the past but the earthquake on Jan.12 seems almost too much to bear. Mother Nature does not play favourites.
Half of life is hardships. The other half is getting over them.

The people of Haiti have faced many obstacles in the past but the earthquake on Jan.12 seems almost too much to bear.

Mother Nature does not play favourites. When the earth begins to shake, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you have or what religion you follow – if you live on the fault line you will be going for a very unpleasant ride. If you are poor, the results will be even worse.

You may be killed. If you survive, everyone you ever knew may be crushed to death under slabs of concrete. There is no time to grieve or worry about the dead. You must flee the area with the clothes on your back. The life you have known is over forever.

There is no bright side to this event but it is encouraging to see and hear stories about human compassion and the triumph of the human spirit. Individual Haitians are displaying courage and determination as they reach out to each other and somehow maintain the will to carry on.

The world-wide response has been generous, as citizens the world over reached into their pockets. Millions are being collected through social networks and other means. A quickly organized telethon brought in millions more. Celebrities are attending $5000-a-plate dinners.
Natural disasters often bring out the best in people.

Canadians themselves are very generous and compassionate. Haiti is already a top recipient of Canadian foreign aid, after Afghanistan. We have always been good friends with Haiti and in the days following the quake we donated millions, on an individual basis, to the Haitian people.

We gave millions more when we allowed Stephen Harper to use our tax dollars to match the private donations. I’m sure Mr. Harper will make it clear that this money is from hard-working Canadian tax payers and not a gift from him and the Conservative Party.

Unfortunately, natural disasters also tend to bring out the worst in people as well.
The dust had hardly settled in Port-au-Prince when a number of fraudulent web sites appeared to swindle concerned citizens out of their well-intentioned donations.

The scam artists and hucksters were determined to get their share of those earthquake relief dollars as well.

The recent conference in Montreal brought world political and financial leaders together to plan the rebuilding of Haiti. Press releases have emphasized two key points.

First, Haiti must remain a key stakeholder in the re-development process. Second, the millions in relief money must find its way to the poor, the destitute and the homeless victims of the earthquake.

However, with so many billions of dollars at stake, foreign ministers, development groups and international financiers are already lining up rubbing their hands together. Given the corrupt state of high finance these days, their motives are questionable.

The U.S. has assumed the leadership role (they have assumed many roles in Haiti in the past) as well as control of the airport. They are maintaining a sea, air and land blockade to prevent desperate Haitians from fleeing to the United States. Thousands of troops have been deployed.

The reconstruction of Haiti is seen by many as a golden opportunity to make huge profits while at the same time extending military and economic control in the region. U.S. corporations, mercenary trade groups, foreign governments and the International Monetary Fund are all standing by, waiting for their share..

Many Haitians have said they would like to have some input and control over the direction of their new country. As former president Jean Bertrand Aristide once put it, Haitians would like the opportunity to move "from absolute misery to dignified poverty."

To some extent this right has already been taken away. After having lost so much already, these poor people may soon lose any chance they have of controlling their own destiny.

Even Hollywood celebrity types may not be able to help. Sean Penn has arrived in Haiti. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it does raise an interesting question. Can Bono and Angelina Jolie be far behind?

It has been almost 200 years since the last big earthquake shook Haiti. It will take at least that long to get over this one. In the meantime who knows what the future holds for this bleak, unfortunate island nation?




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