Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Country We Love to Hate

Someone said, many years ago, that liberals love mankind but hate people. Which is to say, they love “the people” -- in the abstract – but when it comes to dealing with the real thing they tend to retreat into their high-rise redoubts and college campuses. This is especially true when it comes to the middle class – universally despised by the liberal elites, while they pretend to honor and respect “the poor” and “the underprivileged”. Well – it's hard to see how you can love the poor but hate the middle class, since isn't the idea of any social welfare program to promote, sooner or later, everyone from the ranks of the poor into the ranks of the middle class? What will the liberals do when that happens? No one left to love, and a whole lot more people to hate. Well – I wouldn't worry, since this is unlikely to happen very soon, if ever – thanks to those same social welfare programs, that seem to perpetuate poverty and the poverty mindset almost as if that were the intent. (Ahem!) But in any case, liberals down through the years have had about as much use for normal working Americans as Boy George has for suits off the rack at Sears. And it feeds into that liberal dream of building a majority out of a gaggle of oppressed minorities – which actually works some of the time, except that the immediate result is likely to be squabbling among those minorities as to who gets the biggest piece of the spoils pie.

All the above is in ample evidence in the Obama administration and its slowly-dwindling band of supporters. Looking forward to another year of blaming George W. Bush for all of his troubles, Obama seems to be morphing slowly – like a cheap special effect in a B-grade horror film – into Jimmy Carter, a phenomenon that I predicted way back prior to the election. He's starting to look, act, and talk in a way that is bitter... resentful... and verging on self-pity. Clearly, he needs a victory -- an unarguable mark on the plus side of the score sheet – and, just in the nick of time, Haiti comes along to save the day. Ah yes – the bitterest fruit of the discovery of America, the place where things could not possibly have gotten any worse... except that they have. And I have to recall an interview with an American soldier who had served in both Haiti and Somalia – he said that Haiti was much better off; no comparison. So clearly the place was not yet at the bottom – and may not be yet. After all, we could always bring back Baby Doc.

And that's the point – or at least “a” point. We've been mucking about in Haiti for decades now – it's sort of been under our thumb, but sort of autonomous at the same time. One minute we're occupying it for some reason, the next we're leaving, and the next (like now) we're headed back in. It's a sort of cat and mouse game -- “approach-avoidance” as they say in learning theory. But through it all, nothing ever really changes, and the mystery is why. I mean, we could have gone in, set up shop, and simply stayed there decades ago... and more or less made Haiti into an American colony, or dependency (which it basically is anyway – but make it official)... and sort of run it the way we run... oh, let's say the DC city government. In other words, benign neglect with a paternalistic tone. But there would at least have been a sort of safety net (and who knows, maybe even building codes).

And why should we have done this? Why Haiti, of all places? Well – it is, after all, the first black republic, which is braggable, and you'd think we might have done more to support the notion of blacks being capable of self-governance. (Yeah, I know, it's a contradiction – we go in and help them out so they can show they can govern themselves. But we do that everywhere else, so why not there?) Secondly, it's fairly close to the U.S., unlike most black enclaves around the world. And let's not forget that it's a source of incredibly cheap labor – a fact that some American businesses have taken advantage of over the years. Plus, it could have turned into another pre-Castro Cuba – you know, basically owned and operated by the Mafia for their own fun and profit. That would have removed some of the residual sting from Castro's takeover of Cuba and expulsion of the mob.

What I'm saying, in a sense, is that Haiti was ripe for the picking, and has been for years – nay, decades. So why wasn't it picked? And don't give me any lame blather about “self-determination”; that has never been very high on our list of values when it comes to foreign relations. Self-determination is great as long as we do the determining – or at least have veto power. Hey – I'm not saying we could have made a silk purse out of a sow's ear, or created a “model Latin American democracy” along the lines of Costa Rica – just that things never had to get as bad as they did. Or did they?

I've pointed out before that one of the more perverse impulses that Americans seem to have is one they inherited from their Puritan forebears – namely to insure that there is always, somewhere, someone more miserable than ourselves. This constitutes proof of our merit and of the lack of merit of the other party; in other words, it serves as a reliable morale-booster in times of trouble and uncertainty (which means, basically, at all times). I offer as Exhibit A for this theory the bloated prison system in this country, which is kept that way primarily based on the “war on drugs”. And there are other examples on the domestic side – but how about when it comes to other countries? Certainly a motive this powerful, that has had such a negative effect on the quality of our national life, could not be confined just to our own shores; we have had to figure out ways of making, or keeping, other peoples and nations miserable as well – and my suggestion is that Haiti is the poster child for this impulse, and has been for many generations. As long as they are there – as long as they exist – even the most miserable American can, if he chooses, lift up his eyes to the heavens and give thanks that “at least this isn't Haiti”... or “at least I'm not in Haiti”... the same way liberals give thanks, on a daily basis, that they don't live in Mississippi.

But there are other payoffs as well, in addition to the guaranteed feeling of superiority anyone can tap into by merely contemplating the fate of “our little black brothers” on Hispaniola. There is also the warm, fuzzy feeling one gets from “helping out” -- through countless charities, not to mention government programs and U.N. programs (which are also, by and large, U.S. government programs). And I'm not saying that these things are useless or should not be done – but they can provide a false sense of virtue, especially when one considers that – once again – nothing down there ever seems to change, or get better. We are, as the saying goes, giving people fish but not teaching them to fish. Are all of our aid programs nothing more than a form of methadone – keeping things from getting worse but not a cure, and in fact serving to maintain the habit? Should we have been giving more all these years – or, despairing, have given less, based on a cynical Darwinian premise that there are some places – and some peoples – that are simply not meant to survive?

Ah, but – lest we forget – there is another motive that may, in fact, have been the predominant one all this time, and that's guilt for slavery. Haiti was, after all, originally settled by African slaves, and what better way to show solidarity than to maintain them in perpetuity (albeit in considerable misery)? Clearly, all that has been done for black Americans is not enough – we must also reach out to other victims wherever they may be, and Haiti is an obvious choice, since it is close by and overwhelmingly black (rather than confusingly, or “kind of” black like most of the West Indies). But again, we're not solving anything – just keeping people in a state of dependency, not unlike the black underclass in this country – and again we're confronted with the spectre of the Puritan concept of merit, which is, of course, heavily correlated with not only creed but also race. What, in fact, could have been more offensive to our Puritan forefathers than an entire country of “blackamoors” who were, on top of everything else, Catholic? Clearly these people are cursed – as Pat Roberton says – and their torment has to be perpetuated as long as possible, as a lesson not only for themselves but for others.

And of course, there are clear racist reasons for the treatment Haiti has received over the years. As the first black republic on earth, it could have... should have... “been a contender”. But what racist wants to see a country of blacks, run by blacks, succeed? None that I know of. Much better to have it be a pathetic, failed country on perpetual life support to serve as proof that blacks are incapable of self-governance. And allowing it to be governed for decades by a claque of vicious, corrupt buffoons just adds weight to the case.

So for the Haitians, it has been a perfect storm – the Puritans and racists want to keep them in bondage simply because they are black (and Catholic), and the liberals want to keep them in bondage because... well, because they need to live in a world where there are plenty of people poorer and more desperate than themselves, because only then can they exercise their paternalistic and “charitable” impulses – which are, in my opinion, often no more than a thinly-disguised, more politically acceptable version of the Puritan obsession with merit.

So what I say is this. Don't despise charity, the way Nietzsche would have done – or Hitler and his crew. But at the same time, don't expect anything to change, because Haiti was chosen, many years ago, to serve the purposes outlined above. If our reasons for keeping Haiti the way it is do not change, then Haiti will not change – it's far too poor and powerless to rebel against the crushing weight of all of its “friends”.

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