Letters & Opinion

Why crucify ‘Tim’ for a less-than-cardinal sin?

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Unlike many, I’m not one to crucify Saint Lucia’s popular ‘News Spin’ presenter Timothy Poleon for saying Haitians should be left to fight-and-kill each other.

After all, while considered blasphemous by his critics at home and across the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), it’s also a view innocently (and silently or quietly) shared by many who simply don’t know better or enough about Haiti’s long and proud history.

A similar view is held by many who say that in any armed gangland conflict ‘the process of attrition’ will automatically help reduce the number of ‘killers’ on all sides.
Interestingly, a local Christian specializing in doing only good for the poor took to the airwaves to say Haiti’s sorry problems will likely continue — and tied its relief to ‘Barbecue’ being ‘barbecued’.

For expressing his views, even Christians who claim to value Freedom of Expression have been treating Tim (and those who dare talk their minds on Haiti) as if they committed Mortal Sins.

A fussy Barbadian online commentator said he was so offended by Tim’s remark that he demanded an apology – and threatened to make a major Saint Lucian public influencer into a virtual Persona Non Grata in Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean.

The Tim I know expectedly refuses to ‘apologize’ (to anyone) for saying what he believes; and it’ll be absolutely fruitless trying to extract one.
Unfortunately (but true), like it or not, many Caribbean people – and maybe most – only know of or refer to Haiti from the standpoint of ‘Voodoo’, its strikingly-unique and colourful art and ‘Kompa’ music.

Many will tell you Haiti declared its independence in 1804, but — influenced by miseducation and a lifetime of negative propaganda — most still dismiss Haitians as ‘ignorant’, ‘uneducated’, ‘unable to unite’ and doomed to forever live (and die) in ‘the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.’

But not many actually know that Haiti gained its independence after freedom fighters defeated Napoleon, established the world’s first Black Republic in 1804, outlawed slavery and supported the national liberation exploits of Simon Bolivar in South America — the only condition being that Bolivar’s forces free all slaves.

Nor do most know that Haiti had to pay France 150 million gold francs for its independence to be ‘recognized’ (which took Haitians 122 years to pay); or that since the US launched its first invasion there in 1915, the country’s only other brief moment of exhalation was when Catholic Jesuit priest and progressive theologian, Fr Jean Bertrand Aristide, was democratically elected in 1990 — only to face a kidnapping and two coups that swept him out of office and into exile.

Some of the complexities of the Haitian struggle that continue to baffle even the brightest Caribbean and world scholars are simply beyond the imagination of most Caribbean citizens, who, unlike too-many Haitians, have never had to worry about where their next meal will come from, or forced to either drink dirty water — or die thirsty.

Negative propaganda has left Caribbean citizens honestly feeling the best way to ‘help’ Haitians fleeing their country is to employ them, but also paying less-than-low wages.

Saint Lucia’s late progressive politician George Odlum encouraged Aristide to send fleeing Haitians to the island to work on estates, but they soon discovered that Haitians weren’t interested in leaving home to go plant bananas, but to head instead to fabled Lands of Opportunity.

Tim was no-less ‘wrong’ about Haiti than the soft-ply intellectuals who’ve fallen for the historical imperial narratives about Haiti being ‘a failed state’ that can only survive with ‘help’ and ‘assistance’ from ‘sorry’ outsiders.

Ditto those CARICOM ambassadors, Foreign Ministers, leaders and advisors who feel that only they have guaranteed solutions to Haiti’s myriad mountains of problems.

In fact, many of those claiming to have Haiti’s solutions housed in their brains don’t even wish to start thinking that the reason the rich world is interested in poor Haiti is because of its mountains of hidden natural resources, including iridium and gold, oil and gas.

Most are so caught-up in the entanglement of imperial propaganda that they don’t even realize that the rich nations trying to pull the strings and call the shots on Haiti today were heavily responsible for its misery.

The US helped France drain Haiti dry by collecting the reparations demanded by Paris through New York’s City Bank.

Before and after its Revolution, Haiti was always THE prized colony of France: for example, the value of its crops and goods were almost-equal to all the products of the 13 colonies of North America that exported to Great Britain at the time.

Back then, Haiti produced 60% of the world’s coffee and 40% of the world’s sugar; and the Haitian Revolution was a setback for the European empires, especially France.

Even the British expedition to conquer Haiti was defeated in 1798, before the Haitians defeated Napoleon’s troops to declare their Republic in 1804.

Haiti paid over 200,000 lives for its independence, while most (if not all) English-speaking CARICOM member-states negotiated their independence on a constitutional silver platter, but without any golden handshake goodbyes.

Many are still mired in thoughts about how best to become independent republics, but without violating the constitutions bequeathed by Britain.

But Britain, France, the Netherlands and the USA continue holding-on-dearly to their remaining colonies in the so-called British and US ‘Virgin Island’, Dutch and French ‘Antilles’ and ‘Overseas Departments’, alongside the likes of Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI).

Truth be told, there are still too-many CARICOM citizens who don’t even know that Haiti is not an island but shares half of Hispaniola, the fist island Christopher Columbus saw after losing his way to India, thus calling them the ‘West Indies’, (believing he’d landed in Western India).

So, rather than crucifying Tim for a less-than-cardinal Sin of Commission or Omission, his critics should look in the mirror first — and wheel-and-come-again!’

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