Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti and the devil

Crazy old Pat Robertson has a theory about the Haitian earthquake:
"And you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon the Third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story. And so the devil said, 'O.K., it's a deal.' "
I love that "true story" bit. Pat sounds like the Bottled Head of Nixon on Futurama.

But I'd prefer to get my wacky history from someone who knows his chronology. That weirdly lovable scalawag Louis Napoleon was elected President of France in 1848. Not wanting to give up the gig, he staged a coup in December of 1851 and was crowned emperor in 1852, in a ceremony no-one really wanted to attend because it was all so very vulgar. The first Napoleon became emperor in 1804. The Haitian revolution broke out in 1791, when France was still a monarchy, although just barely. (Louis XVI did not officially lose power until the summer of 1792.)

Just last night, as it happens, I read a chapter by A.E. Waite ("Wisdom-while-you-Waite" to un-fans of his writing style) on The Saviors of Louis XVII. That was a small but "buzzy" faction in 19th century French politics that wanted a return to the monarchy. Many of them were Naundorffists -- people who believed that the Dauphin (the heir to the throne) had survived in the person of one Karl Wilhelm Naundorff, who had a record for counterfeiting and arson but still thought he'd make a really good king. (His family is still pressing his claim!)

Naundorff was something of whack-job mystic, and so were many of his followers. Two of the leading "saviors" were Eugene Vintras and the defrocked priest Boullan, both accused of some rather extreme practices -- including child sacrifice, sex magic, devouring excrement and the classic old-school black mass, as seen in any number of those wonderful old Hammer horror movies. In fact, there were thaumaturges and mystagogues lurking around the goofball right-wing of French politics all the way up through Vichy. And maybe today.

My point is this: By Robertson's logic (if I may call it logic), the earthquake should have happened in France. That's where the devil stuff actually took place. Not Haiti.

(Huysmans once described such a ceremony, which he had reputedly witnessed. Oooh, scary!)

Incidentally, as the Haitian ambassador has noted, the revolution in Haiti led directly to the Louisiana purchase. The devil works in mysterious ways, eh wot? For the real history of Haiti, go here: France and the U.S. were the true devils.

On a serious note: Please donate to Haitian relief. I have a link in the upper right-hand corner. Any charity endorsed by Bill Clinton is trustworthy.
Every now and then the 700 club will appear as a news hour on different channels. I've actually witnessed Mr. Robertson talk in a lucid, normal manner.

The "they deserve it motif" is not one of those moments however. I also don't understand the huge delay. Seems to me punishing several generations downstream is kind of mean spirited by the one and only kindred spirit.
Lenin's Tomb:

At the same time, Clinton's plans for Haiti include an expansion of the sweatshop industry to take advantage of cheap labor available from the urban masses. The U.S. granted duty-free treatment for Haitian apparel exports to make it easy for sweatshops to return to Haiti.

Clinton celebrated the possibilities of sweatshop development during a whirlwind tour of a textile plant owned and operated by the infamous Cintas Corp. He announced that George Soros had offered $50 million for a new industrial park of sweatshops that could create 25,000 jobs in the garment industry. Clinton explained at a press conference that Haiti's government could create "more jobs by lowering the cost of doing business, including the cost of rent."

As TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson told Democracy Now! "That isn't the kind of investment that Haiti needs. It needs capital investment. It needs investment so that it can be self-sufficient. It needs investment so that it can feed itself."

One of the reasons why Clinton could be so unabashed in celebrating sweatshops is that the U.S.-backed coup repressed any and all resistance. It got rid of Aristide and his troublesome habit of raising the minimum wage. It banished him from the country, terrorized his remaining allies and barred his political party, Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular in the country, from running for office. The coup regime also attacked union organizers within the sweatshops themselves.

As a result, Clinton could state to business leaders: "Your political risk in Haiti is lower than it has ever been in my lifetime."
Actually, after the response to Hurricane Katrina, I was begging my old neighbors at the French Consulate to convince the French to take us back. I'm not sure this section of the country benefited all that much from being sold by the French. I'm also sure that back in the states where I grew up, the Sioux and various other tribes in the region whose land got sold without their permission would most likely agree with that too.
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