The terrible suffering in Haiti moves us deeply. We want to know what we can do to help.
Many of us are donating money for the immediate relief efforts. Supplies of potable water, food, shelter, and medicines can save thousands of lives -- and at the same time send a message of compassion and support.
But the bigger question revolves around long-term aid.
We are encouraged to believe that USAID, the World Bank, and other institutions are truly philanthropic, there to serve the best interests of the people and the country. However, the reality is that, in previous cases -- such as the Asian tsunami -- much of this aid is employed to help huge multinational companies gain a strangle-hold on resources (including cheap labor) and markets. Instead of helping local fisherman, farmers, restaurant, and bed and breakfast owners rebuild their devastated businesses, the money is invested in projects that benefit the Krafts, Chiquitas, Monsantos, Marriotts, and big box restaurant chains of the world.
In the case of Haiti, we also must not forget history. In the early 1800s the country declared its independence from France and proclaimed itself "slave-free." The French sued the new nation, stating that the loss of the slaves had negatively impacted the French economy. It was just one in a series of actions taken by foreign powers to subjugate Haiti. US Marines invaded in 1915 and occupied the nation for 19 years; ever since Haiti has been the haunt of corporate executives and government officials who have corrupted one leader after another.
While the earthquake happened in an instant, it took years of corporatocracy actions to create such a poverty-ridden country. There was no way Haiti could respond to a 7.0 earthquake because the misguided policies and interventions stripped it of any potential it might have had for surviving such a major traumatic event.
In Hoodwinked, I talk about how debt, the IMF and the World Bank create economies in poor countries that can then be corrupted and exploited. What the corporatocracy and the major media would have you believe is that we're the heroes; we're the ones who are contributing to the rebuilding of the country. The truth is that we provided the economic tectonic shift for decades that ensured that when Haiti was hit by a terrible earthquake it would find itself without infrastructure, without food, without water, without good leadership, and without hope.
The pictures of collapsed buildings in Haiti are a visual metaphor for how the aid, the loans, and policies that promote what amounts to slave labor to benefit foreign industrialists can so quickly bring a country to rubble. Many of the new manufacturing plants and other "modernization" projects established by US and European businesses in fact created an economic earthquake long before the Richter scale hit 7.0.
In the aftershock, the very best thing we can do is to finally rise up against this type of predatory capitalism, tell the bankers to forgive the unfair debts, and the aid agencies to invest in projects that will help the poorest of the poor pull themselves out of poverty and degradation.