The world as we know it is continually under going change, sometimes for the good but more often than not for the bad. Only last night I went to sleep with the news-flash that Haiti had been devastated by a rather large earthquake. As if the poor country did not have enough to contend with already being the poorest country in the Americas and having had to endure 500 years of slavery, rebellion, disease and invasion the Gods decided to level it with a magnitude 7.0 earth shattering quake targeted at the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Haiti has been home to 32 reported coups at the last count and you can be sure that number will only go upwards in the future. The people of Haiti know only oppression and misery. Papa Doc and Baby Doc ruled the already broken country with a spiked glove through the vicious methods of the Tonton Macoutes who were the private militia of the government and more powerful than the national army. The Tonton Macoutes were not paid for their efforts so they extorted whatever they could from the long suffering people and anybody else who happened to cross their path. As usual foreign powers have played their part in the evolution of this failed state, most notable France, Spain and yes you guessed it…The United States of America.
Life was not always so tortuous for the Haitians, they hold the distinction of being the first country to rise from the manacles of slavery when they gained independence from the French on the 1st of January, 1804. This is when the old indigenous name Haiti was used to refer to the western part of the island of Hispaniola which was previously know as Saint-Domingue. However that’s about as good as it got. An estimated 100,000 imported slaves gave up their lives as well as 24,000 white colonists for freedom.
The new leader, Despot, then went on a killing spree and butchered the remaining white colonists before being assassinated two years later which lead into another phase of bloodshed and war. I might add that most of the indigenous Indian population were wiped out in the 1500’s by smallpox and other such European diseases brought by the settlers. The only good thing going for the country was that it was incredibly fertile and massive profits were made by the ruling colonists in sugar cane plantations and other such agrarian past times. However since colonisation it has always been soaked in the blood of slaves and soldiers alike.
Now the bit you’ve all been waiting for…Voodoo.
Voodoo is what Haiti is famous for, along with being an old Pirate haunt, and what some say is to blame for the country’s ills. Voodoo was brought to Haiti as something else by African slaves and then mixed with some good old white man religion and whatever else was floating round at the time. I’m sure that there is a certain amount of native Indian hokus pokus thrown in for good measure too. In a country so fucked up by years of bloodshed it’s hardly surprising really that ritual sacrifice of farm yard animals and missionaries are par for the course, and don’t forget about the Zombies.
Papa Doc used Voodoo to cement his power and curry favour with the illiterate and superstitious population, I’m sure he won’t be the last considering the recent tragic events.
It is estimated that upwards of 100,000 people have perished already in the last day or two with more to follow when disease sets in. This island nation could easily have been a tourist Mecca of the tropical Caribbean, like its neighbour, The Dominican Republic, however I reckon only the hardest masochist would venture there.
I would recommend Wes Craven’s “The serpent and the rainbow” for an insight into the island’s Voodoo Zombie culture, it is not a bad film at all and I’m no Wes craven fan.
If only they had oil reserves or a diamond mine things might have been different…the Yanks might have stayed there after one of there many mini invasions and the Haitian denizens might have avoided the descent into the nth circle of hell.
I cannot bring myself to mention the hurricane season as I reckon I’ve described enough woe but it is only round the corner.
Which brings me by contrast to the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean and another divided island with it’s own set of not so unique problems.
The British Isles is so named after Greater Britain and Lesser Britain; the lesser being Brittany in France. This delightful collection of islands off the north western coast of continental Europe should ideally be known as The Celtic Isles for obvious reasons. However it has been the Anglo Saxons, Normans and Romans who have ruled the area and provided the nomenclature, thus our story begins.
Columbus first stamped his size nines on the island of Hispaniola in 1492/3, at this time Ireland had already been occupied for a couple of hundred years and was to be for most of the remaining millennium. Both countries share an astonishing amount of tragedy and failure. Like the indigenous Indians of Haiti the Celts of Ireland had an ancient culture with their own pagan religion, language and customs. The Irish had taken on the deplorable cult of catholicism quite voluntarily it would appear, what chance now I ask, and were quick to find themselves impaled on the spear of the neighbouring Hun. The soil of Ireland has been fertilised by generations of murder and oppression.
Ambrose Bierce wrote of aborigines(natives of a land) in The Devil’s dictionary;
Aborigines: n persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilise.
Old Ambrose may have had a rapier for a tongue but I think he used a hammer now and then to hit the nail right on the head. Without getting all bogged down in the history of Ireland, which to be honest I am no expert in, lets just say that The Old ‘blood stained’ Sod had it hard, just like the Haitians. The Haitians have Voodoo and Zombies: the Irish have Religion and drunks. We’re really not that different after all! They had Papa Doc and Baby Doc: we had Haughey and Ahern. They had thousands enslaved on plantations: ditto Ireland. But by God we have some great fucking soil don’t you know!
And the best bit is that both these islands are divided in two! That’s like chopping Smarties in half to settle an argument.
But Ireland hasn’t had an earthquake I hear you shout, well…I beg to differ. The last ten years has seen unprecedented and foolish growth in the Celtic Isle leading to a situation where things just can’t remain as they were. A massive shift in the financial markets acted like a seismic shake up on the economy and damn near tore the country asunder. What goes way way up must eventually come crashing down. At least we could have begged for humanitarian aid had God been responsible but instead the Irish were irresponsible and thus the creators of their own misery. This is all very similar to the other island of the story. The Haitians have had coup after coup and replaced despot with dictator with tyrant but they still won’t learn, they still believe in hokus pokus and are not willing to step up to the plate and take control of the situation. The Irish have a knack of voting in the same larcenous eejits year after year and can also be trusted to opt for the short term option.
But where is this going I hear you ask. I’m leading up to the icing on the proverbial cake. After several years of outstandingly miserable weather and perhaps one exceptional summer Hibernia has at least been rewarded with a generous dusting of icy Bolivian marching powder across its frozen and damp land shortly after being rinsed and drenched so thoroughly I’m amazed the country has any substance to it at all. But sadly good things don’t last in Ireland and before long the beautiful flakes will all be turned to snot-like slush. The irony is that although Ireland is one of the wettest countries in the known universe and has had record amounts of rainfall this past year but yet there is water rationing! What I hear you say? You can’t be serious? Well, apparently the blanket of flakes across the country has frozen and cracked the pipes of the houses and thus the inventive people have been leaving the taps running so they don’t freeze up. Is there somebody running the show there or what? Apparently the minister responsible for gritting the roads has deemed it necessary to remain on holiday while the whole country goes off the rails. I wonder will he keep his seat at the next round of government ‘shoe in’ re-elections? Of course the wealthy folk of Hibernia are not affected by such daily dramas and tribulations. If they desire water a quick trip to the pantry is all that must be done to find a stash of Ballygowan( a local Perrier) mineral water. Enough surely to have a bath in and if one is feeling particularly down one could always opt for the sparkling version just to pep one up.
Anyways, I’m done here…..time for tea.