Everyone here in San Francisco is talking about the earthquake in Haiti and asking each other, what has this poor little country done to deserve such a sorry run of luck over the past, say, three hundred years?
The answer is: they are paying the price for having had the first successful slave revolt in the Americas. Inspired by the French Revolution in 1789 they rose against their French colonial masters, taking at full value the purported ideal that all people being are equal, and putting it to immediate test.
The bloody revolution that followed freed the country but doomed it to centuries of punishment by the colonial powers that prevailed around it, and thus it is no accident that Haiti remains the poorest country in the hemisphere. And as always, we will probably witness an aggressive attempt at neoliberal re-conquest in the aftermath of the earthquake.
The 18th century Haitian revolution itself is best written about by C.L.R. James in his excellent The Black Jacobins, but it is referred to most recently by aging televangelist Pat Robertson, who is making headlines – again – with yet another idiotic claim.
Preacher Robertson is now saying that the reason Haiti is suffering so much is because they “made a pact with the Devil” when they “kicked out the French.”
Here he is, in all his predictable fundamentalist inanity:
Oddly enough, I agree with Pat Robertson. The Haitians did make a deal over two centuries ago, and they made it with an entity that for all intents and purposes is the Devil to a rightwing evangelical: anti-colonial revolution. He appears to be saying that the contemporary Haitians are paying for the Original Sin that the rebellious slaves committed over two hundred years ago, the sin of overthrowing their masters.
At least Old Man Robertson knows the Devil when he sees him, and it’s no surprise that he is absolutely terrified at the idea of black people revolting, even if the instance he refers to happened way before his great-grandfather was born.
Because when the people take the streets the likes of him are usually (if history is any guide) the first ones who are, quite deservingly, strung up from the nearest pole. See illustration, above.
I stand with the Devil on this one.