Haiti, Backed by Popular Demand

Haiti, Backed by ‘Popular’ Demand

A Critique of the Relief Effort

By Nicholas Palazzo

The Haitian Earthquake death toll has been estimated at somewhere between 50,000 to 200,000[1] fatalities, Port-Au-Prince is in ruins, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in relief efforts, and questions have begun to circle;

“Ok, so what else is new?”, “haven’t we been giving Haiti tons of cash for decades?”, “wait who is ‘Porta’ Prince any way?”, “Did you know that a Google search of Haiti Relief composites over sixty-four-million results?”

The foregoing questions may be found controversial, comical, and enlightening, but the real question is this, is the Haiti Relief effort just some sad attempt at seeking public service recognition?  Celebrities all over are donating, it’s unavoidable on Facebook and CNN, Obama names it a top priority, but do these people really care?  Perhaps some credence should be given to Rush Limbaugh, who was recently criticized for making some controversial statements regarding President Obama’s decision to name the Haiti Relief Effort a “Top Priority”.[2]  Limbaugh referred to Obama’s decision as being motivated by his political agenda.   Could we possibly find grounds for which Limbaugh and Civil Rights activists can agree?  New Orleans is still a disaster zone, yet we donate one-hundred-million dollars to a country where 85% of their nine million people live off one U.S. dollar per day.[3]   Most would agree that the bleeding and suffering needs to stop but is money going to solve Haiti’s problems?  The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) explores countless systemic dilemmas that have halted Haiti’s effort towards Democratization[4].   One particular article presented on the IJDH website outlines the Lavalas’ unsuccessful attempt to elect Jean Bertrand Aristide as president of Haiti.[5]  Aristide, the leader of the Lavalas and representative of the poor in Haiti was denied his presidential seat despite the winning of two elections due to devastating coups.[6]  Despite media alerts referring to the coup of 2004 as a “popular rebellion”, the reality was guerilla military units overthrowing the recently democratically elected, Aristide, rather than a working class coup of a tyrant.[7]  On the IJDH website there is a quote by Artiside, and although it was not made in reference to the earthquake disaster efforts, it certainly fits well. Artiside explains that “the people do not buy liberty and democracy at the market place”. [8]

Interestingly enough this quote provides the proper framework for my next question.  Blinded by the excess of “celebutante funding” are the American people ignorant of the fact that the donated cash seeps through the cracks of Haiti’s shanty infrastructure?  Perhaps our American society is too well privileged to understand Haiti’s deficient organization.  Perhaps Hip Hop Mogul Jay -Z said it best on his song entitled, Minority Report, where he criticizes himself and his contemporaries apathy in the wake of the Katrina disaster.  Jay simply said, “I ‘ponied’ (gathered) up a mill (million dollars) but I didn’t give my time, or a damn, I just put my money in the same hands that left my people stranded”. [9]

Please do not take these concerns the wrong way.  The frustration is not over excess spending or national debt. Nor is the frustration a result of our current economic situation.  The stock market and our deficit are effects of the various actions that are happening around us.  They result from the complexities of supply and demand.  For every cause, there are an infinite amount of effects.  These often debated but rarely problematic issues are not the source of my frustration, for they in reality are nothing more than a facilitator for getting concrete objectives accomplished.  My frustration is a result of the overreaching media whose commercial agendas often dictate their charity decisions.  I guess the real question is, does the Haiti Relief Effort need Hollywood and the media or does the media and Hollywood need the Haiti Relief Effort?

Perhaps maybe at least Ben Stiller has recognized the often paradoxical situation that results when world figures spend more money advertising their charities than they actually raise in support.  Stillerstrong.org is all so comical in its approach but stone serious in their efforts.[10]  The Stillerstrong.org charity has been raising funds in conjunction with Save the Children, in order to provide better schooling in Cévérine, Haiti.[11]  The comedian has taken a concept developed in production of the 2001 motion picture “Zoolander” where Stiller plays the role of a male supermodel that creates a school entitled, “The Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Want to Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too”.  So why spare Stiller from “political agenda” criticism? Simple, Stiller took media and turned it into charity; everyone else is taking charity and turning it into media.  Surely additional aid can only help Haiti, so please do not think of this article as an attempt to stifle relief efforts, but when have we done enough, and when will ulterior motives take a back seat to helping those in need?


[1] http://www.nytimes.com/info/haiti-earthquake-2010/

[2] http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2010/01/15/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry6100434.shtml

[3] http://www.globalissues.org/article/141/haiti-and-human-rights.

[4] http://www.haitiaction.net/News/IJDH/7_19_4.html

[5] Id.

[6] http://www.haitiaction.net/News/HIP/8_7_9/8_7_9.html

[7] Id.

[8] http://www.haitiaction.net/News/IJDH/7_19_4.html

[9] http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Minority-Report-lyrics-Jay-Z/CB179353A1547B254825722F000A4E8F

[10] http://www.stillerstrong.org/

[11] Id.