OUTLAWING POVERTY: DREAM OR NIGHTMARE!

Being poor is not nice, is inhumane and it should be a crime, illegal and punishable at law. Yet, poverty is such a part of our society that we take it for a given. It is institutionalized and common place. Actually, being poor, for some, is so much a lot in life that many have resigned themselves to being poor. Adding to this resignation, is the fact that poverty can create a vicious cycle of persistent poverty. Indeed, poverty is so ingrained in the society that sociologists even have measurement for it. First class, second class and third class “poverty”.

Sadly, many people benefit from the existence of poverty as many great nations are built and structured with poverty as a main stay feature. Then again, some people are afraid that if the poor is no longer poor it might affect the current status quo. Others also find that when there are poor people around, they feel motivated because they can say they are better than “them”. Yes, for some the existence of the poor makes them feel adequate and fulfilled?  Some even believe that if there are no poor people the world would be in disarray?

So it begs questions: “Do we really want to see a change where poverty is discredited and everyone is living like “human beings?”

POVERTY: TO BE OR NOT TO BE

Ben Carson believed that Poverty is also a “state of mind”. 

Is poverty really a state of mind as suggested by Ben Carson, who believed that people with the wrong mind-set, will be poor. According to Ben, “you can give them everything in the world — they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.” He added that helping people may not better their lives.

Interestingly, Mr. Carson then credited his mother for helping him focus on his education and rise out of poverty.  “If everybody had a mother like mine, nobody would be in poverty,” This aspect of Mr. Carson’s speech has not been underscored. WITHOUT ASSISTANCE HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A BUM.

Then again, is it that the poor is a part of life and will always be with us as implied by Jesus Christ and as such it is fruitless to try and eradicate poverty? Matthew 26:11, The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me. We must however hastily add that Jesus did suggest a fix for poverty when he advised his disciples  to “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12:33).

Unlike Mr. Carson, many people such as Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro believed poverty was “created” and is real. Folks such as Marx and Lenin believed poverty is real and blamed Capitalism and market economies as the main contributor to poverty.

WHAT IS POVERTY AND ITS CAUSES?

Everyone knows poverty. You are either in poverty or trying to keep out of poverty. However,  the United Nations definition: “Fundamentally, poverty is the inability of having choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation”.

Image result for castro quote on povertyThe causes of poverty have been cited to include the inability of poor households to invest in property and education; limited access to credit; production of more poverty via inherited poverty and discrimination.

War and violence due to politics, religion or commerce are also some of the primary causes of poverty. Unemployment also contributes. 

How could we leave out Colonialism and slavery. Emancipation in 1838 saw the Blacks having their feet unshackled but their minds fettered. After years of forced labour, Blacks were set free with only their brawn and brain as their sole worldly possessions. Contrast the lot of the Africans vs their brothers, Whites, Indians and Chinese who all came over as free men and are the owners of the main factors of production.

OUTLAWING POVERTY

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Misanthropy is not a commonly used word but unfortunately its meaning is common among people, race,class and creed.  Having bad will towards fellow human beings is unmistakably and sadly prevalent in today’s society. Even the blind can see that with the level of knowledge, development and resource in the world there is no excuse for poverty. Yet poverty abound amidst much wealth.

Maybe the time has come for us to think about outlawing poverty. Poverty should become persona non grata. Government would put in the relevant structures, resources and policies to ensure that poverty is eradicated. Education and schools would be used to kill ignorance while tolerance, goodwill and understanding will be used to convert misanthropy into philanthropy.

Seriously, for just a moment, imagine if there was a law that made it illegal to be poor. Each person in poverty would be arrested along with the heads of government for the town or community in which the poor was found. In other words, if a person is found living in poverty, he or she would first be determined for fitness and if found fit then to the penitentiary at hard labour. The respective members of parliament or congress men would also be taken through the same process.  If the reason for the poverty is government oriented then the politician would be arrested.

Mark Zuckerberg
May 25, 2017. Mark Zuckerberg,  receives honorary degree from Harvard, his former university, 13 years after he famously dropped out to start Facebook. 

On a more palatable note, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is also concerned about curbing poverty but is calling for a universal basic income to boost personal potential and build economic growth. He is touting the idea of a universal basic income – where the government unconditionally pays all citizens a small amount of money to cover basic needs and to cushion them to try new things.”

Supporters of a universal basic income argue that people might decide to acquire more education or change their career, to make themselves more attractive to the labour market. Others might start a business. Finland and a few other countries are experimenting with the idea.

However, there is always the chance that it could be used as an excuse to work as little as possible and as such poverty should be outlawed.

IMPLICATIONS OF OUTLAWING POVERTY

One of the first implications of outlawing poverty is the need for a Paradigm shift in terms of our values and measurement of success. The usual “guns vs butter” economical decision will need revisiting and maybe empowerment could be the key motivator.

Full employment of human resources, and an educated and healthy nation supported by government could lead to the development of more innovation and technology. For example, Zuckerman admitted   “If I had to support my family growing up instead of having time to code, I wouldn’t be standing here today” (as a billionaire and owner of Facebook).

Of course there are some scary and unsettling implications for the outlawing of poverty. Just the thought of eliminating poverty by outlawing it, is a careless reckless idea conjured only by people smoking Champagne and drinking Havana cigars. There are no guarantees that crime and violence, diseases, and inhumane living conditions would be drastically reduced if poverty is outlawed.

Furthermore, being rich is motivational and who doesn’t want to be rich? Think of the displacement it could cause a few rich folks. (According to the 80/20 rule, 80% of the wealth of the world is owned by 20% of the population.) Wouldn’t this border on communism and authoritarian rule. Many will point out that it will even create a military police state which will deprive citizens of basic human rights and democratic freedom. Cuba is seen as an example.

Advocates of capitalism will let you know,that any attempt to interfere with the market structure will result in inefficiencies and bureaucracy. Of course, Cuba’s trump card would include the inequalities, inefficiencies and human rights violations that are traits and characteristic of capitalism and imperialism.

CONCLUSION

Ben Carson feels that poverty can be a state of mind and this is true. There are instances where the individual level of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation can help determine a life of poverty or wealth. Some misled folks also believe that some races are by characteristic lazy and not enterprising. Fortunately, we need not pay attention to such poppycock as the evidence shows that there are bums in all races. What is real is that poverty is an institution created by man and anything that man created can be destroyed. So far Apartheid and Slavery have been toppled and any effort to discredit and remove poverty should be welcomed.

Of course, outlawing poverty may see changes in the existing status quo and might require a paradigm shift. There will definitely be winners and losers to an extent but the glory will go towards humanity. There are no guarantees that a poverty free world will eliminate crime, violence and injustice but just imagine. Indeed, we may just be changing the types of crimes and ills but why stick to the evil we know  when we can venture into a new and exciting world.  Just imagine such nonsense. Poverty is illegal.

 

Clifton Neil is a university lecturer in marketing and a lover of history and literature. Contact – cneil@wordfoodmusic.com. Twitter. @cliftongneil

 

 

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WHY BLACKS MARRY WHITE AND WHO CARES?

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For her Winter Solstice gift, December 22, 2016, Serena Williams,  the 22-time grand-slam winner announced on Reddit her intentions to wed Alexis Ohanian, the 33-year-old co-founder and executive chairman of Reddit, who is a White man.

Of course the internet began buzzing and tweeting with positive and negative sentiments. Some folks even argued whether Serena can continue representing real Black women while marrying a White man.  Serena qualified all responses by noting that “when she dates someone she never sees color as she dates who she has chemistry with”. She also noted that Alexis has treated her better than any Black man she had dated and we know Serena has dated a slew of Black men including rappers Drake and Common as well as former NFL linebacker Lamar Arrington and basketball star Amare Stoudemire. Who feels it knows it. Then again, who cares?

Without defending Serena’s interracial preference, we must be cognizant of the fact that more Black men marry White women than do Black women marry White men.  Truth to be told, there are great catches, oops, great prospects, in every race on earth. In Jamaica we say, ” every hoe has its stick a bush”, meaning that everything has its fit.

It does seem as if Love, beauty, care, protection and compassion are not skin or race restricted. Neither are bigotry, delinquency, ugliness and poor parent hood restricted to race, class or creed. Indeed, the only person incapable of love is either dead or severely mentally disturbed.

HOW MANY BLACKS MARRY WHITE

According to http://blackdemographics.com/households/marriage-in-black-america/ in 2014, 14% percent of Black men were married to non-Black women which is up from 11% in 2010. Only half (7%) of those non-Black women were White. Similarly, the Pew Research Center released a report finding that 25% of Black male newlyweds in 2013 married non-Black women compared to 12% of Black women who “married out”.  However Asian women and Native Americans still have higher rates of interracial marriage. Black women were the least likely to marry non-Black men at only 6% in 2014, and only 4/% were married to White men.

2014 Marriage Chart

WHY THE MYTH THAT MORE SUCCESSFUL BLACK MEN MARRY BLACK WOMEN THAN WHITE WOMEN?

It does seem as if most successful Black men are being stereo typed as prone to marrying White women based on the conspicuous behaviour of plenty rap stars, athletes and musicians choosing to date or marry interracially when they achieve fame. Fact is that the same is not true for the bulk of successful Black men. By analyzing census data, Toldson and Marks found that 83 percent of married black men who earned at least $100,000 annually got hitched to Black women. The same is the case for educated Black men of all incomes. Eighty-five percent of Black male college graduates married Black women. Generally, 88 percent of married Black men (no matter their income or educational background) have Black wives.

On a sexual note, https://www.18karatreggae.com/2016/01/29/6736/, a study from Rutgers University in New Rochelle, NJ, has concluded that approximately 87 percent of American White women have had or fantasize about having sexual relations with African American males.  Interestingly enough, the same study says only 13% of white women said they would would marry and raise a family with a Black man.

CHANGING FACE OF BLACK WHITE MARRIAGES

Why are more people having favourable attitudes towards interracial marriage even if they would not do it  themselves? The major contributing factors would include legality, morality  and shift in attitude due to  change in values and the millennial kids now maturing.

Legality

The simply reason why more Blacks date and marry Whites is because it is now legal. Indeed, we are indebted to Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who were thrown in jail in Virginia for violating the state’s rules against multicultural marriages fifty years ago. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled miscegenation laws—or laws preventing people of different races and ethnicities from getting married—unconstitutional. (By the way Loving is their real surname..lol). Please read this better than Mills & Boon real life love story at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_v._Virginia.

Now, Decades later, naturally, interracial marriage is now the highest it has ever been in the United States, up 14 percent compared with what it was in 1967 when the courts ruled in favor of Richard and Mildred Loving.

Morality

Genesis 2 vs 24 suggests a “man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” but  (Deuteronomy 7:3–4did not encourage the inter marriage of the Israelite with other peoples.  However, the reason for this command was not due to skin color but rather religious. It seemed God felt that people of other races were worshippers of false gods and the Israelite would be led astray from God if they intermarried with idol worshippers. Self preservation?

More intense, Hitler and his followers will let you know that race should not mixed as some races are inferior and will water down the real “master” race. (The verdict is still out. Science has not shown racial supremacy and The Old Testament writers can’t be subpoenaed).

Attitude change to Black-White Marriage

Americans’ attitudes about interracial marriage have changed dramatically over the past 55 years, moving from the point in the late 1950s when disapproval was well over 90%, to the point today when approval is approaching 90%.

Approval of black-white marriage is higher among younger Americans especially the millennial kids (18 – 34), and lowest among those 65 and older.  Yes, the millennial generation has grown up and now they are parents. Their attitudes, behaviors and perceptions are different from that of their conservative elderly parents and fore parents. Colour and race taboo have been significantly downplayed by them and even replace d by diversity, liberalism and alternative lifestyles.

However, Census data indicated that black-white marriages in reality remain fairly rare — although they have increased from 167,000 in 1980 to 558,000 in 2010, they still represented less than 1% of all married couples.

 

Ebony plays with Ivory.

Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney seem to believe that it takes ebony and ivory to make music on a piano. Well, music played on a piano uses two colour keys: black and white. The white keys are more than the black keys yet music require both colours. Although a poor analogy, it is possible for some people to make music and possible find love doing inter racial.

THE CONTRIVED SUPERIORITY OF BLACKS VS WHITES

Fortunately or unfortunately, even the blind can see that since the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 in the Caribbean and the Pilgrims on the Mayflower  in 1620 in the USA, Whites are “superior” to Blacks in status quo and power. The church, the school and the civic organizations all reinforced this false notion in an attempt to prolong the evils of slavery. In primary school we were subtly taught ” “If you are white, it is all right and if you are brown you may stick around but if you are black you better get to the back”. Peter Tosh defiantly added  “or get on the attack”.

Needless to say, apart from melanin and its accompanying nuances, Whites are the same as Blacks. They all have two eyes, ears, hands and feet. They both go to the bathroom, have sex, get kids, and are treated unfairly by narcissistic and chauvinistic males and females. Beauty abounds in all races and for proof, the World Beauty Pageant winners have not been restricted to Black and White women.

THE ENDANGERED BLACK MAN & WOMAN

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Folks usually joke that the USA is such a land of opportunity that it can afford even a poor Black boy to grow up to be a rich White woman. Rudely, Micheal Jackson was used as the ideal example of this. However, many Black women in the USA and the Caribbean have also fallen victims to this “plastic” version of success and beauty. Indeed, Black women are spending millions of dollars each year to look WHITE and “enhance their beauty”. Many have processed their hair to get it straight as if they are ashamed of their so called kinky hair. Some have gone further by bleaching their skins to look white as well.

Understandably, we can be sympathetic with these black brothers and sisters who strive to be “white” and denied their charcoal skin. After all, as mentioned, for centuries Blacks have suffered the indignity of physical rape, robbing, kidnapping and killing mainly by the hands of Europeans under Slavery. They have been stripped not only of their garbs but also of their soul and mind and identity. Despite Emancipation in 1838 in the Caribbean and 1864 in the USA, the black psyche has been warped so badly that many Blacks have found it easier to look and behave like their former white slave owners than to struggle to be free mentally. There is little comfort in reminding them that the ancient Greeks also had slaves who were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war.

A friend of mine sarcastically call these type of Blacks, “Oreo cookies” or “roasted breadfruit”: Dark skin on the outside but white beneath. His claim is that if a Black brother wants a Black sister, he has little choice as the sisters look like White women. He jokingly asked, “What does it benefit the black brother to choose a “black” white woman over a white woman. Is it better to have a real woman who is white than a confused woman who is black?” Quite a dilemma.

However, thanks to Marcus Garvey (1887 – 1940), his rally call for Black consciousness has not fallen on deaf ears and there are a few brothers and sisters have developed a sense of black pride that is creating a glimmer of hope.

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An excerpt from Albert Einstein’s Essay on Racial Bias supports Marcus Garvey’s cry for Blacks to “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery as none but ourselves can free our minds” in his 1946 essay on racial bias against the Blacks in USA.  https://onbeing.org/blog/albert-einsteins-essay-on-racial-bias-in-1946/

“A large part of our attitude toward things is conditioned by opinions and emotions which we unconsciously absorb as children from our environment. In other words, it is tradition — besides inherited aptitudes and qualities — which makes us what we are. We but rarely reflect how relatively small as compared with the powerful influence of tradition is the influence of our conscious thought upon our conduct and convictions.
“It would be foolish to despise tradition. But with our growing self-consciousness and increasing intelligence we must begin to control tradition and assume a critical attitude toward it, if human relations are ever to change for the better. We must try to recognize what in our accepted tradition is damaging to our fate and dignity — and shape our lives accordingly.
“I believe that whoever tries to think things through honestly will soon recognize how unworthy and even fatal is the traditional bias against Negroes.
“What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias”.

CONCLUSION

I am still not sure if inter racial marriage is cool especially for the children of the union who find themselves mid stream, neither black nor white.  Yet, today’s society is wreaking such havoc on the institution of marriage that if a man or woman chooses to marry he or she should be commended because the current level of liberalism, alternative lifestyles and patterns of broken marriages can easily deter people from marrying.

The choice of to whom to marry should be each person’s prerogative since value and love lie in the eyes of the beholder. At the end of the day what is important is the extent to which the brotherhood of man can be pursued and attained. Of course, malicious self interest is misguided and Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, begged us to ditch racism, class, and bigotry and get hitched with understanding, tolerance and  goodwill, In short, philanthropy vs misanthropy. Bob Marley put Selassie’s words of wisdom to music and came up with the thought provoking reggae hit, “War”. Then again, who cares.

Clifton Neil is a university lecturer in marketing and a lover of history and literature. Contact – cneil@wordfoodmusic.com. Twitter. @cliftongneil

HAITI: NOT AN EASY ROAD

HAITI: NOT AN EASY ROAD

I was so relieved when Hurricane Matthew went west and avoided Jamaica on Monday October 3, 2016. It spared us the grief, loss of life and damages that a hurricane can do. However, I was saddened when I saw what Hurricane Matthew did to Haiti, our neighbor. So imagine my chagrin when I noticed many Jamaicans being annoyed that they had spent thousands of dollars preparing for a hurricane that didn’t come. The Haitians, I am sure, would have been more thankful and appreciative than us if the hurricane had slipped them by.

Adding injury to insult, these same ungrateful Jamaicans and misguided folks also blamed Haiti’s calamity and poverty on dubious things such as voodoo practices. Yet, the truth is that although Jamaica was the star in the crown of England during the heyday of sugar and slavery in the Caribbean, according to Adam Smith in 1776, Saint Domingue (Haiti) was “the most important of the sugar colonies of the West Indies.” Beating out even its neighbour, Santo Domingo.

It does beg the question though: what went wrong? Why is Haiti so impoverished, disease ridden, and suffering so much? It seems that even God and man is against them. Nature in the form of earthquakes, floods and wind and man as Nations have plundered, rape, robbed, killed and kidnapped them repeatedly. This may justify ignorant onlookers ludicrously believing that Haiti’s poverty and lack of development are because god is against Haiti.

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HISPANIOLA: One island 2 countries. Haiti, formerly St. Domingue and Dominican Republic formerly Santo Domingo.

The fact is that Haiti is suffering because its people are Black and it became a nation of free blacks and coloured people in 1804 at a time when blacks in the west were seen as slaves or “people of a lesser god”.  Using bullets instead of ballots, it defeated France’s army and this embarrassment to the white psyche of Napoleon Bonaparte and France in 1803, is not easily forgiven, and could not go unpunished, not by god but by man. Yes, their calamity is for being free blacks.

THE SPANISH ORIGINS

Before the Europeans came to the Americas, the Caribbean were striving economies with great peoples such as the Incas, Mayas, Aztecs, Arawaks and Tainos. December 1492, Christopher Columbus sponsored by Spain landed on an island which he called La Isla Española, or the “The Spanish Island,” . The name was eventually Anglicized to Hispaniola. The original Taino inhabitants called  the island Quisqueya (or Kiskeya), which means “mother of the earth”.  It was also called “Ayti,” (Haiti) meaning “mountainous land.”

The Spaniards mistreated the indigenous  Taino population, pillaging their villages, seizing their women and committing acts of violence. By 1514, the killing and maiming of the Taino were so widespread that a priest Bartolome de las Casas, who was sympathetic  and  shocked by the treatment of “this most lovable and tractable people,” unwittingly suggested  that Africans were better made for enslavement. Here began the enslavement of Africans in the west.

Spain halfheartedly continued its rule of the Island but France and Britain also had expansionist ideas and in the early 1600s, the first French settlers began to occupy western Hispaniola as the Spaniards stuck to the eastern part. The three nations battled each other for control of Hispaniola.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

September 1697, with the Treaty of Ryswick, Spain recognized France’s presence on Hispaniola and ceded the western third of the island. The French called their new territory Saint Domingue and the Spanish called theirs Santo Domingo. In essence, the island of Hispaniola now became two countries on one island.Saint-Domingue, known as the “Pearl of the Antilles,” became France’s most lucrative colony, holding world production records for sugar and coffee by the end of the 18th century. Santo Domingo, on the other hand was neglected by the Spaniards.

Large-scale and labor-intensive sugar production necessitated large labor force, and the colonists begin importing more slaves from Africa into St. Domingue. According to a study by the American Library of Congress, by the end of the 18th century, there were about 40,000 white landowners, 25,000 black or interracial freedmen and 60,000 slaves in the Spanish colony (Santo Domingo) compared with approximately 30,000 whites, 27,000 freedmen, and at least 500,000 black slaves in its French counterpart (St. Domingue).

This outnumbering of Blacks to whites by more than 10 – 1 had a profound effect on the colony of St.  Domingue. The Free blacks and many mullattoes acquired plantations, and according to an 18th century French Communiqué:

“These men are beginning to fill the colony and it is of the greatest perversion to see them, their numbers continually increasing amongst the whites, with fortunes often greater than those of the whites . . . Their strict frugality prompting them to place their profits in the bank every year, they accumulate huge capital sums and become arrogant because they are rich, and their arrogance increases in proportion to their wealth. In many districts the best land is owned by the half-castes. . . These coloreds imitate the style of the whites and try to wipe out all memory of their original state”
— Colonial administrators writing to the Ministry of the Marine

THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION

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The 1791 Haitian Revolution secured Black independence and freedom in the former French colony and sounded the death knell for the European slave trade, in 1838.

Despite and maybe because of the increase in the wealth and importance of Free Blacks and Mullattoes, the French settlers  mistreated the Blacks and in 1757 François Makandal, a maroon leader, conspired to poison all the whites, including other slaves who couldn’t be trusted, in a plot intended to spread to “all corners of the colony.” This revolt though suppressed, officially started the Haitian Revolution. Indeed, “Maroons who were fugitive slaves were crucial to the fight for Haiti’s independence.

The French administrators responded by fighting fire with fire and in May 1771, Louis XV, the monarch of France, set new restrictions which elaborated on the Code Noir of 1685 and mulattoes found that they were stripped of many of their freedoms and privileges in the colony.

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During this period, Dutty Boukman (Boukman Dutty) who was an African man, enslaved in Haiti, was one of the most visible early leaders of the  Haitian Revolution. It is believed Dutty Boukman was a self-educated slave born on the island of Jamaica. He was later sold by his British master to a French plantation owner after he attempted to teach other Jamaican slaves to read.  His large size, warrior-like appearance, and fearsome temper made him an effective leader and helped spark the Haitian Revolution.

According to some contemporary accounts, on or about 14 August 1791 Boukman presided over a ceremony at the Bois Caiman in the role of houngan (priest) and Cecile Fatiman (priestess) prophesied of an upcoming resistance movement and revolt that would free the slaves of St. Domingue. Boukman was killed by the French in November 1791, just a few months after the beginning of the revolt and his head publicly displayed in an attempt to dispel the aura of invincibility that Boukman had cultivated.

Toussaint L’ouverture.

General Toussaint Louverture, the Blackman that embarrassed Napoleon

If one of the most dangerous things in the world is an educated man, imagine an educated Free Black man. In 1791, such a Free Black man by the name of Toussaint L’ouverture, inspired by events of the American Revolution of 1776 came to power.The American Declaration stated “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

While Toussaint was fighting for Independence in St. Domingue, the French Revolution (1789 until 1799) began and far-reaching social and political upheaval took place in France. The Revolution overthrew the French monarchy, established a republic and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon that rapidly brought many of its principles to Western Europe and beyond. You can imagine the inspiration these developments were giving to Toussaint and the Blacks: ” Liberty, equality and fraternity”

Although L’Ouverture and his successor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, succeeded in re-establishing order and renewing the economy of Saint Domingue, which had been badly devastated, the new leader in France, Napoleon Bonaparte, could not accept having France’s richest colony governed by a Black man. Succumbing to the complaints of former colonists who had lost their plantations in the colony, a large expedition was mounted to conquer the Blacks and re-establish slavery. Led by Napoleon’s brother-in-law, General Leclerc, the expedition turned into a disaster and napoleon suffered his Caribbean Waterloo.

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Napoleon Bonaparte met his first “waterloo” at St. Domingue when he encountered Toussaint in 1802.

The newly independent United States under President Thomas Jefferson reassured the French (new independent state) that he opposed independence in Saint-Domingue and pledged to support Napoleon’s agenda. France still lost the war and in April 1803, The Louisiana Purchase Treaty is signed and Napoleon ceded its North American territory to the United States and withdrew from the western hemisphere.

Toussaint Louverture successfully defeated the French but was tricked and deported to France where he died in jail in 1802. As he was being transferred to France, he famously warned his captors that the rebels would not repeat his mistake:  In overthrowing me you have cut down in Saint Domingue only the trunk of the tree of liberty; it will spring up again from the roots, for they are numerous and they are deep.

FLAGS AND HEROES OF HAITI

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The evolution of Haiti’s flag since independence in 1804. Dessalines had ripped out the white from the French flag.  Seems the white colour got back in, subtly.

Indeed, on January 1, 1804, Dessalines proclaimed Haiti’s independence, signaling the formation of the world’s first black republic and becoming the first independent nation in the Caribbean, and the second democracy in the western hemisphere. Dessalines created the new republic’s flag by simply ripping out the white fabric from the French tricolor of red, white and blue, with the remaining red and blue representing the unity of blacks and mulattoes

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French Flag

against the whites.

He published a Declaration of Independence, signed by himself and Henry Christophe, and the colony “Saint-Domingue” is abolished forever. The original Taino name of Hayti “land of mountains,” is officially restored.

The independent Republic of Haiti that eventually emerged in 1804 was never an equal among the fraternity or brotherhood of Western nations. French troops remained in the eastern part of Hispaniola (Santo Domingo) and France actively lobbied England, Spain and the United States to isolate and ostracized the fledgling nation politically and economically. France emphasized that Haiti was a threat to the countries’ plantation system and slaveholders. The global community shunned Haiti, and boycotted its merchants which is a major contributing factor to Haiti’s later impoverishment.

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Great heroes of Haiti whose efforts taught us that real freedom can only exist when both the captors and the captives are free

To make a bad matter worse, France, the spurned former colonial ruler, fumed at its losses and in 1825, crippled by an international embargo with a French flotilla of war ships threatening invasion, Haiti was compelled to pay a king’s ransom or “independence debt” of 150 million gold francs — estimated to be ten times the country’s annual revenues. Haiti, in effect, was forced to pay reparations for its freedom and to compensate French settlers and slaveowners for their lost plantation lands and slaves. Although the indemnity was later reduced to 90m gold coins, the debt crippled the Caribbean nation, which did not finish paying it off to French and American banks until 1947.  It further set the stage for many decades of Haitian economic misery and underdevelopment and becoming one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere

“We Haitians know that a big reason why we are suffering today is because we were forced to pay France for our freedom. If we were not punished for our independence long ago, we would have had a better time,” water seller Jean-Marc Bouchet said on a dusty, unpaved street in Port-au-Prince. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/13/hollande-haiti-visit-france-former-colony)

Whilst this is true, the revolutionary wars also contributed to the country’s demise as it had destroyed nearly all of  Haiti’s colonial infrastructure and production capabilities. Noticeably too, the big estates were divided among the population and soon, almost every Haitian owned some land but hardly anyone could live from it since the allotments were too small and the new owners struggled to agree on a shared management of the land.

The problem was compounded by Haiti’s ethnically diverse population. “The slaves came from over a hundred different ethnic groups and originally had nothing to do with each other”.

The 20th century ushered in an era of American occupation from 1915 to 1934 and totalitarian regimes under the Duvaliers from 1957 to 1987. After decades of political suppression, Haiti had new democratic elections and in 1991 President Jean-Bertrand Aristide took office and was ousted just months later, reinstated and ousted again. In 2003, Haiti became the world’s first former colony to demand reparations (in the form of debt restitution) from a former colonial power. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government conservatively calculated the value of the restitution due at some $21.7 billion. Although in 2001, the French parliament had unanimously approved a law recognizing the slave trade as a crime against humanity, France responded to Haiti’s petition with fury. It angrily rejected the lawsuit and joined with Washington in brazenly fomenting a coup d’état against Aristide, who was ousted on Feb. 29, 2004. http://www.globalresearch.ca/haiti-independence-debt-reparations-for-slavery-and-colonialism-and-international-aid/5334619.

HAITI’S NEIGHBOUR: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

In 1795, in the Treaty of Basilea, Spain had ceded the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo to France and as such both Western and Eastern Hispaniola were under French Rule. After its losses to Haiti (Saint Domingue) in 1804, the French in 1809 returned it to Royal Spanish rule. The Spaniards not only tried to re-establish slavery in Santo Domingo, but many of them also mounted raiding expeditions into Haiti to capture Blacks and enslave them as well. In 1822, fearful the French would mount another expedition from Spanish Santo Domingo to re-establish slavery, as they had threatened to do; Haiti’s President Jean-Pierre Boyer sent an army that invaded and took over Santo Domingo; abolished slavery and incorporated it into the Republic of Haiti.

For the next 22 years the whole island of Hispaniola was unified under Haitian control. Due to their loss of political and economic control, the former Spanish ruling class deeply resented the occupation by these former slaves. Dominicans call the period “The Haitian Occupation”,

Religious and cultural life also suffered under the Haitian occupation. The Haitians, associated the Roman Catholic Church with the French colonists who had so cruelly exploited and abused them before independence, confiscated all church property in the east, deported all foreign clergy, and severed the ties of the remaining clergy to the Vatican. For Dominicans, who were much more strongly Roman Catholic, such actions seemed insulting.

As a result, during the late 1830s, an underground resistance group, La Trinitaria, was organized under the leadership of Juan Pablo Duarte in Santo Domingo. After multiple attacks on the Haitian army, and because of internal discord among the Haitians, the Haitians eventually retreated. On February 27, 1844, the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola was officially declared independent and the name República Dominicana (Dominican Republic) was adopted.

Strife between (as well as within) Haiti and Santo Domingo was constant. While both countries struggled with democracy, economically they began to diverge and the two countries’ fortunes got reversed. Haiti which was once the Pearl of the Antilles was boycotted, burdened by heavy reparation payments and becoming impoverished while the  lighter-skinned Dominicans started to look down on the darker-skinned Haitians  as Dominica’s economy prosper as the world embraced them.

Haiti’s challenges and grief despite Acts of God (hurricanes, floods, earthquakes) and Acts of Man (deforestation and cholera), stem not from voodoo but from the fact that they are Africans who “rudely” changed their lots in life and dare to be free in 1803. So as we criticize Haiti, let’s remember that, fortunately or unfortunately, when Haiti got its independence in 1803, and took a road to being hungry yet free, we in Jamaica were slaves, well fed but chained and was a colony.

A POEM FOR HAITI – Clifton “NOTCLIF” Neil (Written on Oct. 16, 2016 @ Tuff Gong, Jamaica while waiting  for my daughter rehearsing for a concert)

clif-tuff-gong
NOTCLIF hanging out at Tuff Gong Studios, Jamaica, Oct 16, 2016

As you all belittle the impoverished island Haiti

Be sure to know you making their burden much more weighty.

Remember that there were times when they were free

And we were slaves, well fed but living in a colony.

As you all undermine the first free black nation in the west

Be sure to know they deserve to be put among the best,

Remember that nations and nature have treated them merciless

And as their cries pierce your hearts, don’t be void of tenderness.

As you all doomed Haiti  and claimed they are living in sin

Be sure to know their only wrong was having too many blacks within.

Remember if their people were brown or white, many would join in

But being all Black is their curse and also their blessing.

 

NOTCLIF is an avid reader of Caribbean History and a Marketing Lecturer at a university. Contact: cneil@wordfoodmusic.com. Website http://www.wordfoodmusic.com