jump to last post 1-2 of 2 discussions (4 posts)

Haitian and underdevelopment

  1. 61
    Joe2011posted 5 years ago

    Early last year a powerful earthquake hit Haiti—the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere—killing tens of thousands of people and destroying most of Port-au-Prince, the country's capital city. The tragedy led to a heated public debate about the connection between the impact of natural disasters and poverty and about the causes of underdevelopment.
    Most experts agreed on one point: much of the destruction of lives and property could have been prevented since Haiti's underdevelopment (a manmade condition) had made Haitians more vulnerable to the effects of the earthquake. However, serious disagreements emerged when they offered explanations of why Haiti was so chronically poor and underdeveloped, as the following two quotes illustrate.
    "This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It's a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services.... it is time to put the thorny issue of culture at the center of efforts to tackle global poverty. Why is Haiti so poor? As Lawrence E. Harrison explained...Haiti, like most of the world's poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10. We 're all supposed to politely respect each other's cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them. " (David Brooks, New York Times, January 14, 2010)'
    "Much of the devastation wreaked by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence.... [It is] the result of a...longer-term history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment. Haiti is routinely described as the "poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. " This poverty is the direct legacy of perhaps the most brutal system of colonial exploitation in world history, compounded by decades of systematic postcolonial oppression. It is this poverty and powerlessness that account for the full scale of the horror in Port-au-Prince today. Since the late 197 Os...hundreds of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents now live in desperately sub-standard informal housing, often perched precariously on the side of deforested ravines. The selection of the people living in such places and conditions is itself no more "natural" or accidental than the extent of the injuries they have suffered. The noble "international community" which is currently scrambling to send its "humanitarian aid" to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. " (Peter Hallward, Guardian, January 13, 2010).2
    compare and contrast the views expressed by Brook and Hallward in the above two quotes and draw on  your knowledge of modernization and dependency perspectives to explain whose ideas (Brooks or Hallward?) offer a better explanation of underdevelopment

  2. wilderness profile image96
    wildernessposted 5 years ago

    I'm certainly no expert and know nothing of the history of Haiti, but Hallward seems to say that someone else is responsible for Haitians not being able to take care of themselves while Brooks places the blame on the Haitians themselves for their poor condition.

    If, as seems to be the case from the very limited information here, Haitians have had decades to improve things and no effort has been made then the majority of the responsibility rests on them and not the evil colonial forces from the distant past.

    1. kerryg profile image87
      kerrygposted 5 years ago in reply to this

      From my understanding, it was a combination of factors, but the legacy of colonialism gets the bulk of the blame. It's not accurate to say that "evil colonial forces" are a thing of the distant past in Haiti. Their influences extended well into the modern era, and are arguably still active today.

      Since you say you know nothing of Haitian history, here's a quick overview:

      Haiti finally finished repaying the colossal debt ($20 billion in today's dollars) that France demanded after independence in 1947, and in the process it destroyed most of its natural resources (especially its native forests), decimated funding for education and other social services, and similar.

      While still repaying the debt, it was placed under a crippling, decades-long embargo by the US, which was afraid its own slaves would get ideas from the Haitian slave revolt, and was later forcefully occupied by the US from 1915-1934. A few decades after that, the US supported the Duvalier dictators, who proceeded to rape the country further, and in the 90's the US dumped millions of tons of subsidized rice and sugar into Haiti after the World Bank and IMF forced it to open its markets, underselling Haitian farmers, destroying what remained of the Haitian rural economy, and forcing hundreds of thousands into city slums in search of work. Needless to say, most of these slums were a tad short on earthquake-proof buildings.

      1. wilderness profile image96
        wildernessposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        If so, it would then sound like the major problem has indeed been out-of-country forces, from a variety of sources.