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Santiago Álvarez de Mon, Professor, IESE, University of Navarra

Yesterday and tomorrow of Haiti

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 10:03:17 +0000 Published in Expansion

Writing about Haiti is an unavoidable moral obligation. Human suffering shakes us out of our slumber and questions us about the ultimate meaning of life. Natural catastrophes of this magnitude make us see our radical impotence and insignificance and question us about the existence and character of God. "God whispers and speaks to the conscience through pleasure, but he shouts to it through pain: it is his megaphone to awaken a deaf world," wrote C.S. Lewis. The one at the top can shout so loudly and speak so softly that it takes away our will to live. Seeing so much suffering, broken families, helpless children who strip you naked with their eyes, accompanied by the pillage and barbarism that follows, one is reminded of the words of Elie Wiesel: "I will never forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul, and that gave my dreams the face of the desert. I will never forget that night silence that forever took away my will to live". In the limits, the hope of the human being is tested to infinity, dragged to a strip of land where its Maker listens to what others silence. So much desolation and anguish, at least, serve to relativize our problems. I do not intend to minimize the economic and professional challenges of citizens trapped in the crisis, but let us agree that they are pecata minuta if we face them with Haitian eyes. As a society cradled in abundance, the earthquakes and tsunamis that nature's majesty gives us more and more often should help us to gain a certain perspective on our ills.

In the short deadline, I have no doubt about the sincerity and generosity of our response. The ordeal of others shakes the best of each of us and invites us to lend a hand. In addition to disturbing scenes of violence and savagery, we see exemplary behavior and commitment. After the rubicon of the first few weeks, after the most immediate aid has been provided, what will happen next? The future dissects the depth and consistency of our values and motivations. If they remain on the emotional surface of the initial impact, unable to dig deeper, the Haiti of tomorrow will be very similar to that of these years. Does its past allow me to be optimistic? What does its history and tradition tell us? What does its ancestral misery say about us? What did we know about Haiti 15 days ago? Who cared? Until 1804 a French colony - Paris is already tearing its clothes for the rapid American intervention -, occupied by the USA from 1915 to 1934, since the dictatorship of Francois Duvaliér its history is an uninterrupted succession of coups, popular insurrections, overthrows, sporadic elections and interventions of the UN blue helmets. Bordering the tourist paradises of the Dominican Republic, neighboring the USA, nestled in a strategic location, Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, with the highest per capita income leave in the West. Its levels of Education and health are dramatic and its indices of corruption and violence achieve dreadful records. Why? Until yesterday, what did we do about it, what will we do after the outbreak of solidarity and decency? Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan... the list of failed states lacking a constitutional architecture in which chaos and mafias reign is growing daily. On what legal, political, health and educational foundations can the new Haiti be built? It is the only advantage of the brutal earthquake, sample us the crude reality of a country abandoned to its worst destiny.

How much does the world spend on armaments? What is the budget destined to diet food for dogs? How many liters of milk are thrown away every day? How much does Europe spend on subsidize stupidities and privileges? What will be the next Haiti to be discovered? The list of questions could go on ad infinitum, there is no need. It seems to me perfect and opportune to question God about the suffering of the poorest, let each one do it or get angry with Him in the intimacy of his conscience. Of course, many questions should be addressed to ourselves, to our materialistic way of understanding life. That could be our homage to the victims.