Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Headlines. And a Mission

The Painted Maypole hosts a writing group at her site called Monday Missions. Yesterday's mission was to write a post in the form of headlines. The assignments are a lot of fun and I learn a lot from the writers that take on a mission. We all learn from one another. To see the latest MM, go here.

As often happens, I am getting to the mission on Tuesday and twisting its tail. A lot. Because after I slithered down the lane to the mailbox and picked up our papers this morning, all I could see were the headlines.


Disaster in Haiti.

To the horror of the earthquake and the heart tearing frustration of the slowness of arriving help has now been added the violence and fury of looting. It is hard to watch; it must be maddening to try to manage and terrifying to endure. I do not find it hard to understand. When I was taught to be a lifeguard, we were warned and taught how to deal with drowning victims who might be so frantic, so panicked, that they would grab their rescuer and prevent the rescue. We were taught how to approach from behind, how to break a stranglehold under water, how to choke a victim enough to stop the flailing that would prevent us towing him to safety. Tough love, in fact, in the extreme. And I think the people of Haiti are like those drowning victims. So without hope that they see no help, no rescue and flail out at all around them.

I am afraid that the tough love solutions are what is needed now. The rescuers are going to have to defend themselves, to ensure their own safety, before they can rescue. The American group running the airport is going to have to prefer landing for munitions and soldiers over medical aid and supplies. Canada may send peace keepers; as a Canadian I would demand that such young men and women be armed and allowed to defend themselves and the aid workers they support. Of course this slows the aid and limits its delivery and so more people are going to die or go so long without treatment that they will end up with amputated limbs or chronic debility.

The root of it, as I see it, is the poverty in Haiti, a poverty that leads to hopelessness and a hopelessness that leads to rage and amorality. We don't experience that kind of poverty in North America; not even the worst of our slums, the most lost of our homeless, have no one, ever, to reach out a hand to them, have no expectation of ever being helped. Our government works, even when Mr Proroguey is running it, our safety nets are there, stretched thin in places, but there. But in Haiti the government and its programs are sometimes so corrupt that they are part of the problem and not of the solution. So it is a country of grinding poverty in which a disaster brings a situation where it is every man for himself, where morality is a luxury and the ability to fight for it ruthlessly is what gets you food and water.

I am sure that the majority of people in Haiti are, like all of us, a mixture of good and bad, noble and venal. They deserve peace, order and good government, as all of us do. So, I am happy to give money to emergency relief. But I would throw my heart behind anyone who knows how to make that relief effective and who has the skill, the knowledge and the power to clean up some of the basic problems that have made a natural disaster into something so much worse


  1. Mary--thanks for stopping by my place.
    I found your quote, and posted its source in the comments on my blog.
    As for your observations about Haiti--you are dead on.
    I have taught college students of late--and I give them an assignment to research a (so-called) 3rd world country and its problems. Several times students have picked Haiti--and each time I hear the reports, I just shake my head. How can one country be so screwed up? But it is. And now this earthquake--they had little before, and now have nothing.

  2. oh. my husband and I were talking about this yesterday, about the corrupt government and the lack of natural resources and the poverty.... the world has ignored Haiti for so long, and how on earth can we even begin to help in any meaningful way now... there is an obvious immediate need, but the long term needs are so, so great, and were even before the earthquake ever hit

  3. I can't say it better than you did--there is a lot to think about there. I like how you turned the topic around to make me think about today's real and very important headlines.

  4. Some of the pictures of Haiti make me think of post-apocalyptic movies. *shudder* And then to have another big one hit? They have my sympathy, flailing or not.

  5. It is a sad situation but I also understand to some degree. I did see a picture of our guys well armed. Let's hope they stay safe.

  6. Well said, Mary. The situation is just gut-wrenching.

  7. I think the story about Haiti that first got my attention was one done many months before the earthquake. It was on the national news, and it was about Haiti's desperate nationwide poverty. It showed a woman making "cookies" for sale in the sun: they were made from cheap butter, a sprinkling of sugar, and mud. She did not lack for customers, and the people buying them knew they were risking their health and lives, but they were so hungry that they couldn't help themselves. Literally. I cannot imagine such a circumstance, and I am grateful every day that my family and I do not have to.