Monday, January 18, 2010

tonton macoute, walking disaster

"You could be as great a leader as Ghandi, " John Edwards' mistress allegedly cooed to him in the scramble for Democratic nomination in 2008.

For maximum effect, one must employ the curious American pronunciation: Ghaundi; as in aunt.

As in gaudy. Bauble. And balls.

Without the faintest trace of irony. Like a line from a popular sit-com. Canned laughter and a tightly cropped close-up on a kooky, lopsided smile to camera. As she pulls on what resembles a perfectly sealed spliff.

For her part, we are informed, she was the self-proclaimed "witch"; a voodoo fixer with all the right stars in ascendancy. Fashioning a stripe. Presumably, this anecdotal scrying predated events in Iowa, down the road a piece.

Or so I gather from Peter Stothard's 'book of the week' review of "Peace of a Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House", a collaboration between Mark Halperin and John Heilemann documenting the campaign which ultimately returned a result set in motion decades earlier with those reforms pursued by the Civil Rights Movement.

Rewind half a century.

Papa Doc Duvalier - poised on securing presidency in Haiti on the back of a populist noiriste
strategy, born out of the négritude (black pride) movement first popularized by mentor, Dr. Jean Price-Mars - consults a Vodou priestess in the slums of Port-au-Prince . She spreads out a tangle of chicken feet and deludes herself of grand design.

"Papa Doc," she says. "President Duvalier. There is no mistake; make no bones about it."

The squat little man stands with hands folded behind his back. His mouth a trembling slit. A mosquito fastens itself to a mole on his neck. Milking a teat.

"The mulatto twitch and see only fear. The Haitians revere you as Ghaundi..."

Donna DeCesare analyzed the Haitian predicament thus, in 2000:

...the transition to democracy at the end of the millennium with anxiety over violent crime exacerbating perpetual third world miseries... from the ousting of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986 through the long and violent backlash against those struggling for democratic rule... has worn people out.

The murder rate for young men remains high, but in the late 90s the body count is seldom politically motivated. Homicide is most often the work of vigilantes, angry mobs or criminal gangs. Persistent corruption and economic recession have eroded faith in political leaders."

Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, is routinely described by the UN as "the most dangerous place on Earth". On a good day.

This most recent natural disaster, Haiti's most severe in over two centuries, might justifiably be construed as insult to injury; the coup de grâce delivered without mercy or conception of fair play. The shortest straw yet in a fistful of consecutive ill blessings.

Bad juju. A vodou harvest of rubble and dust.

photographs: (top) anonymous; (bottom) "children in cité soleil", donna decesare.

DRUMMERS OF THE SOCITÉ ABSOLUMENT GUININ: MAS KARON from "Voodoo Drums" 2 x LP (Universal Sound) 2001 (Haiti)


@eloh said...

I knew it was bad, but like most people I have had other things on my mind. I doubt if Haiti has crossed my mind at all since the Papa Doc days that it wasn't linked to AIDS. The two words have become synonymous (Haiti/AIDS) in my mind.

It will most likely stay a goat fuck down there. Bush and Clinton were interviewed... first thing out of Bush's mouth was "security"... medical food etc.

Clinton discounted it of course was all into getting the food help in there... effectively making Bush look like a fool or war monger.

CUT TO HAITI.... doctors, food, water, rescue workers all run off from performing their mission.... because of the dangers from no security.

""Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, is routinely described by the UN as "the most dangerous place on Earth". On a good day.""

And a "good day" would be BEFORE over four thousand criminals escaped the prison.

ib said...

You know. Your comment really made me think.

I wasn't really sure what I was driving at with this post. My reading about Obama, Clinton and McCain on the campaign trail was overshadowed by events in Port-au-Prince as they continued to unfold.

That ridiculous quote from Edwards' mistress sealed it. The rampant egotism underpinning the fabric of natural disorder; the cult of personality.

Oddly. Despite unsubstantiated reports that one individual from Haiti introduced HIV to the US as long ago as 1969, HIV levels in Haiti are relatively modest in comparison with Africa and some regions of eastern Europe: 3.8% in adults between 15 and 49 in 2005; dropping to 2.2% in the year ending 2008.

Compare that to 38% of the adult population of Swaziland living with HIV; and 21.5% of the same group in South Africa.

Haiti ranks a mere 17th on a world league table, if mere statistics deliver any substantial degree of comfort.

But. Flash forward to your observation on security, coupled to the trend among 'volunteers' to line their pockets from the dead and dying. It hadn't occurred to me, even, that the earthquake would facilitate the escape of high security prisoners.

In fact. I have not seen such hopeless scenes of complete social collapse since Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast of Mississippi in 2005.

As Bush struggled to mobilize the National Guard, New Orleans then scarcely seemed a part of the USA.

@eloh said...

You don't even want to get me started on Katrina.

My opinion here...civilization DEPENDS on people utilizing some measure of common sense.

A goat fuck wouldn't even describe Katrina.. it was and will remain just plain mass murder by the local government.

What you probably didn't hear about..or see any pictures of... were many other in the US... as local government was busy using common sense AND the people affected helped themselves and their neighbors.

Unlike the Katrina debacle where the residents were used to Uncle Sam wiping their ass.

I know, I'm an asshole.

ib said...

You're right. Not with regard to being an asshole, but in terms of 'success' stories playing second fiddle to breakdown as the lenses zoomed in on the aftermath of Katrina.

I remember watching the National Guard open fire from a helicopter as the sociopathic ran amok on the bridge. Like a scene from "Dawn of the Dead".

The total absence of infrastructure and planned response on the ground was staggering.

Haiti, by comparison, is a whipped dog which has been kicked and beaten so often that bewildered rage seems a perfectly excusable reaction. Its people have been scarcely surviving for so many decades now, that this latest 'act of god' is naturally overwhelming.

@eloh said...

See, now I don't even know what you are referring too. I'll have to go look and read.

Don't forget that here in the United States over 90% (if not more) of our "news" is spoon fed to us.

Obama is trying to put some brakes on the internet... that would about take care of it.

Until then, the news and opinions of people, like you, from other countrys is more valuable than gold.

emmett said...

Hey, I thought you were going to post something from these guys!

ib said...

Yeah. I came across this LP when searching for the alarming pic posted. Have you heard it ? Are they any good ?

The king Crimson reference in the Amazon review is compelling. But. Any mention of Jethro Tull makes me wince.

ib said...

Well. I switched on the news this morning. It would appear celebrity activist, Heather Mills has got involved in the aid process.

That's all right then.

Another world crisis averted just in the nick of time.