[News] Haiti - Boojum Hunting in the Caribbean
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 25 15:12:49 EST 2010
January 25, 2010
Baron Samedi Walks Again!
Boojum Hunting in the Caribbean
By JOHN MAXWELL
When Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic from
Africa to the Caribbean nearly 40 years ago, he
was shocked by -- of all things -- a garbage dump in the middle of the ocean.
In the area known as the Doldrums (wonderful
word), Heyerdahl's papyrus raft Ra II was
surrounded for days by a wilderness of plastic
rubbish from all over the world. The Age of
Plastic has bequeathed countless conveniences to
humanity as well as new forms of cancer and
enormous collections of litter on land, at sea and even in space.
Since Heyerdahl's observations, we now know that
every ocean in the world has its own garbage
dump. The largest by far is the so-called North
Pacific Garbage Patch, an area covering most of
the North Pacific from Alaska to Japan -- twice
the size of the continental United States and
discovered only in 1997. The gyres are not easily
discerned, because most of the plastic rubbish
has been macerated by marine forces and is
composed of small particles that float just below
the surface, killing fish that mistake it for food.
The Atlantic gyre, like all others, has formed at
the confluence of various ocean currents, an area
of slackwater circulating majestically, slowly
and almost imperceptibly until you pick up -- on
a Jamaican or Haitian beach -- soft drink
containers thrown into the Congo or the Niger.
There is another less well-known gyre in the
North Caribbean which has quite different effects
from the other garbage patches.
This area of existential discombobulation is much
more dangerous than its kin. It is, first of all,
not composed of material fragments but of
abstractions, strange apparitions that do not
poison fish or litter beaches, but poison minds
and litter brave new policies with the toxic
detritus of ancient ignorance, hysteria and unreasonable beliefs.
It is a place where ancient racist libels still
hang around, driving US politicians to
distraction and the Bible. It is the place where
apparitions like Pat Robertson, Roger Noriega,
Otto Reich and Luigi Einaudi flourish and have
their being, sustained by vicious fables invented
500 years ago to justify human slavery, revised
and updated periodically to deal with black
rebellion against slavery, colonialism and used
today to frighten and confuse US soldiers and journalists.
Baron Samedi walks again
When I was about 12 years old, I borrowed a book
from the Institute of Jamaica's Junior Centre
library. It was part of a donation by the
Carnegie Foundation and was almost brand new.
I cannot remember the name or author, but the
book was obviously written to sell millions by
frightening the wits out of its American readers.
I had, up to that time, heard nothing about Haiti
or their religious system, Vodun. The novel was
populated by zombies -- the living dead -- as
well as other evil spirits presided over by the
sulphurous presence of Baron Samedi who seemed to
be in charge of everything in Haiti, from cooking
to current affairs. If my memory is reliable
there were incredible scenes of 'demoniac
possession' mostly among the epically
bloodthirsty natives but not sparing the fairest
flowers of Nordic pulchritude and chastity.
Since the book was written in the first half of
the twentieth century, indecencies were suggested
rather than made plain, and even bloodshed was a
lot less indiscriminate than, say, the latest
dancehall invocation against homosexuals. What
was clear was that the narrative was intended to
make your skin creep; in my case it certainly succeeded.
The novel was not unusual for American colonial
narratives of the time. Non-Europeans could be
trusted as far as the front gate, being consumed
by lust and crazed by the need to spill blood.
And the 'black magic' was integral to cultures
that were brutish, repellent and totally merciless.
The Devil in the Flesh
A few years ago TIME magazine, quite seriously,
printed what it said was
recipe for creating zombies. The process was not
difficult, if one was not squeamish. It involved,
among other things, the flowers of the Datura bush.
So, I was not surprised by the most recent
eructations of Pat (Napoleon III) Robertson, a
semi-literate quack who seems to have a hotline
to Satan himself and is always willing to explain
the latest demonic manifestations. Nor was I
really surprised to learn that the US Army was so
terrified of unarmed, starving and wounded
Haitians that it needed about 10 soldiers to protect one aid person.
Others were not so intimidated by the Haitians.
Partners in Health, a Boston-based NGO led by
Paul Farmer, was running several field hospitals
from its headquarters in Cange, in Haiti's
Central Plateau. Tiny Iceland (facing bankruptcy)
had search-and-rescue teams on the ground in
Port-au-Prince within 48 hours of the earthquake.
Andri Magnason, a friend in Iceland, sent me the following:
"There is an Icelandic team of 20 rescue workers
in Port-au-Prince and Leogane. They have saved a
few lives with their special equipment. They have
not seen the violence that has been in the news;
on the contrary, they see only gratitude and
goodwill and cooperation -- no hostility -- and
they have even seen some hope. Strange how the
world media wants to paint things black, while
they could pick up many stories of human dignity from the ruins."
And, of course, the Cubans ("We Never Closed")
had more than 400 medical professionals on the
ground before the earthquake and doubled that
number with their graduating class of 400 Haitian
doctors. Doctors Without Borders complained that
the US military was preventing medical assistance
reaching those who needed it most.
The real problem, as I see it, is that the US has
scared itself silly with the policy garbage
bequeathed by Thomas Jefferson and refined by the
like of William Jennings Bryan, Reich, Noriega,
Einaudi and their sainted mentors, Joe McCarthy,
Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms.
If the US Army had thought to drop water, nothing
more, they could have saved many lives. Some
people drank their own urine. Others, less
knowledgeable, may have died of thirst.
The late Hedi Annabi -- the UN's man in Haiti --
died in the earthquake. He was clearly another
who thought Haitians were all terrorists and his
way of preparing for democracy involved the UN
mission -- MINUSTAH -- making periodic forays
into the slums to slaughter members of Fanmi Lavalas.
The UN secretary general is even more clueless,
tolerating René Préval's de-legitimising Fanmi
Lavalas and appointing Bill Clinton as his
representative in Haiti. Clinton was the man who
restored Aristide in 1994 to stem the flood of
refugees into Miami Beach and then broke every
promise he made and pressured and blackmailed the
Haitians by shutting down essential foreign aid.
So, I must confess that my blood ran cold when
Barack Obama proved even more clueless than Ban
Ki-Moon by appointing Haiti's worst enemy, George
Bush, to join Clinton to raise funds for Haitian
relief. If there is anyone who believes in
Haitian zombies and bogeymen, it is Bush. As far
as Ban Ki-Moon, Clinton and Bush are concerned,
the Haitians are only good for mindless 'jobs' in foreign-owned sweatshops.
What is so tragic about the loss of life since
the earthquake is that, were it not for the
boojums, zombies and Baron Samedi, so much more could have been done.
If you don't believe me, read the following:
"However, away from the glare of the
international media, a team of Cuban doctors has
been working among the quake-affected. The Cuban
government offered its medical expertise to the
governments of Pakistan and India immediately
after the magnitude of the destruction caused by
the quake was known. The Indian government did
not even acknowledge the offer. Pakistan, where
the scale of disaster was humongous, was quick to
accept the offer. The first Cuban medical team
was in Pakistan on October 14, six days after the
earthquake." (Frontline Vol:22 Iss:26 URL:
In short order, the Cubans had established 19
field hospitals staffed by more than 700 doctors
-- half of them women -- working 12-hour shifts.
This was in Pakistan in 2005.
Pakistan is 14,000 miles from Cuba and the Cubans
were working in foreign conditions, in fierce
cold, in a country with whom Cuba had no diplomatic relations.
There are now more than 25,000 Cuban doctors
working outside their country and an almost equal number of teachers.
If you think that boojums are a figment of my
imagination, consider this: Three weeks ago the
US government identified Cuba as one of the countries exporting terrorism.
John Maxwell writes for the
Observer, where this article originally appeared.
Copyright © 2010 John Maxwell
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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