Why is Haiti so poor? Is it because Haitians are dimwitted or incapable of getting their act together?
Haiti isn’t impoverished because the devil got his due; it’s impoverished partly because of debts due. France imposed a huge debt that strangled Haiti. And when foreigners weren’t looting Haiti, its own rulers were.
The greatest predation was the deforestation of Haiti, so that only 2 percent of the country is forested today. Some trees have been — and continue to be — cut by local peasants, but many were destroyed either by foreigners or to pay off debts to foreigners. Last year, I drove across the island of Hispaniola, and it was surreal: You traverse what in places is a Haitian moonscape until you reach the border with the Dominican Republic — and jungle.
Without trees, Haiti lost its topsoil through erosion, crippling agriculture.
To visit Haiti is to know that its problem isn’t its people. They are its treasure — smart, industrious and hospitable — and Haitians tend to be successful in the United States (and everywhere but in Haiti).
Awhile back I posted on a Wired article featuring the ‘New Environmentalists’ who were selling conern about the environment as a fashion accesory.
Today on Kester Brewin’s blog, I found a May 16 post on Bono’s ‘Brand Red’ label, which deals with many of the same issues. Kester called it the ‘commodification of poverty.’ A couple quotes:
As you know, I’m a fan of the concept of ‘gift’, and this idea seems to
me to be anti-gift. We buy the phone because we are buying into a
brand. Not because we really care. If the only way we can get people to
help those in dire need is to have to offer them something cool in
return for their pennies, then I think there’s something very wrong.
If environmentalism, or aid, is simply a fashion statement, it will go
out of fashion like bell bottoms and floral shirts. And this is the
problem. Brand Red is a brand. And the companies involved are involved
to make money, not to give it away. The want to align themselves to
something that is ‘cool’.
There are a few comments on the post, too, that are helpful. What do you think? Is this the commodification of poverty? Is buying a new ‘Brand Red’ shirt the best way to fight poverty, or should we perhaps instead spend the $20 on fighting poverty, and skip the fashion statement? Or is Bono just being a realist, realizing that people won’t fight poverty unless it’s fashionable and they can buy into the brand?
UPDATE: There are some more perspectives on this at Jonny Baker’s blog.