The world grieves as images of the beleaguered and dying Haitian people find their way into our homes. Despite the outrageous statements of Pat Robertson (Haitian people made a pact with devil), Rush Limbaugh (President Obama is going to use tragedy to improve his poll numbers, so don’t give), David Brooks (Haitian culture is the real culprit) and miscellaneous right-wing Republicans, the world is responding.

Governments, including our own, social organizations and ordinary people are sending aid to the Haitian people in this moment of national tragedy. Thank goodness moments like this evoke our better angels. Tragedy, as we know from Katrina, can tear down the barriers that fracture humanity along so many lines. It can enlarge our sense of solidarity that in ordinary times is often confined to family, or city, or region, or nation, or race, or nationality, or religion.

We see this happening now. Old social boundaries that are real and historically constructed are melting away in the face of this catastrophe. Across the planet people are opening up their hearts and pocketbooks.

And it must be sustained and enlarged upon by the U.S. and the other economically advanced countries for two reasons.

First, these countries have the resources and people power to maintain a steady flow of aid to the victims of this crisis.

Second, the scope of this human tragedy is connected to Haiti’s history of underdevelopment, which is explained, first of all, by the division of the capitalist world from its very beginning into a few developed capitalist states and a majority of states on the margins of development. Moreover, this initial division of the world has been sustained and reinforced by military coercion, unfair economic advantage and racism over the past three centuries, locking countries like Haiti into a state of permanent poverty and underdevelopment.

So let’s press ahead with our effort and let’s press our leaders to do more to assist the people of Haiti. At the same, let’s join in the dialogue (already under way in the countries of the South) on the larger reality in the background of this tragedy. We can’t control earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters, but we can better prepare for them and the world, if it is to survive and peacefully prosper, has no choice but to construct a different developmental path that is sustainable and just for everyone inhabiting this planet.

Not only are the people of Haiti and the other people and states of the South insisting on it, but the American people in our own interest, in the interest of our children and grandchildren, should do likewise, if not for ourselves as an act of intergenerational solidarity.



Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.