Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti, Earthquakes and the Undead

Sadly, news headlines commanding attention to a "Haiti in Crisis" and a "Nightmare in Haiti" after the devastating earthquake ravaged Port-au-Prince don't qualify as a "man-bites-dog" story.

Haiti has long been a nation where a “nightmarish” existence is the perpetually state of life for the residents of that failed state. Indeed, images being broadcast from Port-au-Prince of the rioting over food and relief supplies by the Black people in Haiti are just another macabre day in the piteous life for those brave descendants of the only slave revolt in history.

Who is running the country? No one, eerily similar to the madness that gripped New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina (where is Kanye West when we need him most?).

Black people in the United States identify with Haiti, for it is a land where Black power reigns supreme and white interference is kept to the bare minimum (foreign aid and the helping in the erection of the presidential palace that was destroyed in the earthquake, notwithstanding):

“Built during the U.S. Marine occupation of Haiti in the 1920s, the presidential palace seems almost a mirage in a city of mean, sprawling slums, rickety tin shacks and jury-rigged infrastructure. Its public rooms are pristine, its sprawling grounds immaculate, and beyond its wrought-iron gates are broad boulevards flanked by the national police headquarters and other instruments of government power and prestige.”

Black people control the government and live peacefully with nature, much like the indigenous people of Pandora in Avatar.

Haiti, however, does offer some tremendous exports, for Haitian cadavers have long filled medical colleges throughout the United States, giving aspiring medical doctors the opportunity to learn about human anatomy thanks to Haiti’s abundance of dead criminals.

The nation – prior to the earthquake – largely subsisted off the largesse of the United States taxpayer:

The World Economic Forum ranked Haiti last in its 2003 Global Competitiveness Report. Thus, Haiti’s role in the global economy often has been confined to receiving foreign aid. The United States has been the leading donor to development in Haiti and plays a vital role in Haiti’s economy…

“In 2005 Haiti's total external debt reached an estimated US$1.3 billion, which corresponds to debt per capita of US$169, in contrast to the debt per capita of the United States which is US$40,000.[4] Following the democratic election of Aristide in December 1990, many international creditors responded by cancelling significant amounts of Haiti’s debt, bringing the total down to US$777 million in 1991. However, new borrowing during the 1990s swelled the debt to more than US$1 billion.

At peak, Haiti's total external debt was estimated at 1.4 billion dollars, including half a billion dollars to the Inter-American Development Bank, Haiti's largest creditor. In September 2009, Haiti met the conditions set out by the IMF and World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program, qualifying it for cancellation of its external debt.”

However, Stuff Black People Don’t Like will explore Haiti’s No. 1 export in a post that is forthcoming, for George Romero would be without an income if it weren’t zombies. And the Black people of Haiti happened to be the inspiration behind tales of the living dead walking the earth again.

In literature, film, video games and popular culture, zombies captivate the imagination of humanity like few other horrific stories can and we owe the Haitians a debt of gratitude for this creation. Indeed, royalties should be paid to Haiti for every DVD starring Zombies sold; books detailing world-wide undead apocalypses; and this would undoubtedly cover foreign aid henceforth.

Bodies line the streets of Port-au-Prince and the putrid stench of the recently deceased permeates the air with the fetid odor of a nation in peril and a city beset in chaos (whoops, that’s Detroit).

The crisis in Haiti has resorted to bodies being burned in massive pyres, the only saving grace from the disorder in Port-au-Prince being compounded by thousands of zombies parading around the city, threatening to engulf the nation into a state of rampant zombidom:

“Like a thick fog, the stench of death curdles the air in the streets of this shattered city. It comes from trundling trucks, where corpses are piled up and covered by bloodstained sheets, while young men with scarves on their faces warn onlookers to stand aside. It is expelled from pyres of burning tires that incinerate cadavers that have remained unattended too long in the dust and heat, lit by residents afraid that the carrion will attract prowling dogs and endanger children."
The idea of zombies both captivates and horrifies Black people, for – as we will see – ancient beliefs in voo-doo and witchery raising the dead conjures up images of backward Haitians rattling bones and casting spells.

Black people can’t be associated with zombies, for this aligns them once again with unsavory origins of zombies- Haiti.

1 comment:

charlie sierra said...

Haiti is the embodiment of the type of "culture" depicted in Lord Of The Flies. But they do serve up a tasty dirt cookie.