I ask you now friend, in whose reality do you live? We all dedicate our actions to the future. But, what is it that we claim to do with our little lives as that future narrows? Have we all lost our faith in outer generations or a glorious world to come? Of course, all lives are both great and also quite little, but it was a matter of sure and soulful pretension; crossed of course a bit with the “sollidaritous” desire to teach a nation of certain newly freed slaves to fish. Allegorically speaking. The fishing and the slaves. More to the sharp of the point, we were training quietly amidst the dust and rubble of the fourth detachment of a growing underground medical battalion, to aid a coming “Great Revolt”. A guerrilla army of young rescue workers and student teachers preparing to accomplish the basic yet audacious task of combating meaningless death and diseases of poverty pandemic on the island of Hispaniola.
The effects of 210 plus years of chattel servitude, rancorous massacre, ceaseless uprisings and put-drownings; varying quarantines, Blan occupations, re-occupations by proxy and an induced poverty inflicted upon these people, mostly from the outside. In short, we are the latest reinforcements penetrating a long besieged slave revolt. These long abused stalwarts, there are believed to be eight million poor unfortunate souls on the Haitian side of the line, but the number is truly anyone’s guess; no realistic census has been taken since the last coup against President Aristede in 2004. Which was ten years ago. The date now is presently 4 June, 2014. Thus 210 years and six months since the declared success of the initial bloody rising.
I will tell you now where power comes from. It comes from any grouping of people that can devise a just means to secure one’s Maslow hierarchy of needs and elevate then a given population toward their droits de moun, human rights. The power is not in any violence or coercion and fear but in the bravery of provisioning hope. Ah, yes indomitable hope! Hope for the “rights of man” are an issue of freedom. Freedom is well and good but what is freedom inside of total misery and deprivation. What say I on due process when I must mix dirt with my flour to watch my family starve at a decreased pace! Or, watch my fallow fields yield nothing as my children die not long after birth. Or, when my parents perish in a brown and vivacious filth of their own vomit shit and piss from contaminated water. What are our rights when we cannot read and we cannot flee and we cannot work and there are no schools and we die by the age of mid fifty.
Thankless, faceless and fully unknown negs. Masses huddling amid the hottest of hot heat, and ash and dust. Statistics the UN tallies on we slaves. Power comes from control of the means of development! To those who run the schools, the clinics or the farms the means to secure basic things so that hope is alive again and then once fed clothed houses secure I can wonder about my so-called “rights”.
The trouble with the utilization of stranger volunteers in any operation of stress and seriousness is tri-part for vast complication. Since there is no material compensation it is hard to prevent adventurism and privateering. Since they are all mostly strangers it is hard to enforce the chain of command flat as it may be. And since they are often multidisciplinary; a linguist, a paramedic, a marine, a fire commissioner, a spook and an inner city transport e.m.t. they are all mostly unfamiliar with the dynamic of free association based two tiered consensus utilized by the People’s Army. The third part of the problem beyond privateering and command control is loyalty. Sebastian and Adelina are lovers, but the love is mostly gone. They have been living together for the last nine months in the exile of Massachusetts so despite it, or her total lack of interest not one shit given not a shit of a shit on the subject of politics or dialectics, she does truly love him and he loves her as well and therefore she controls him. Abstaining from the politics of the coming operation she can dispassionately suggest the common sense approach.
This approach is hardly common here if you wonder about the chicken and the egg you are working with often with a sea of self-proclaimed experts that expertise on shells or eggs or how they crack. Or chickens and how to raise them. Or which comes first. But all the local Haitians on the street are not concerned with theories like this. They are concerned with survival for themselves and their families. Once everyone has survived peaceably for some time then maybe there would be time for speaking of the perfect egg, the just economy or the chicken the functional state. If that’s what chickens and eggs are really about. And all these experts, these NGO technocrats speaking English or Portuguese, Spanish or French they don’t trust governments and see nothing in the economy to so easily carry them off. For there is nothing; they devise ways to raise chickens from broken eggs from sick diseased chickens. Then they blame the Haitians in languages they don’t speak. But they are still just fighting to survive.
The Quarantine, as we call it, is 210 years old. It began the day the revolution was declared victorious with the separation of the tricolor into the red and blue bi-color ripped by JJ Dessalines. The revolution which had begun by the Jacobins in France whose ideas spread to the blood soaked paradise of St. Domingue purged the entire island of foreign rulers, resulted in a loss of life of an estimated 500, 400 inhabitants and 60,000 soldiers from France, Spain and Greater Britain. It began in 1791 and culminated in the only victorious slave uprising in 1804. Shortly after the quarantine and civil war between blacks and mulattos began; JJ Dessalines signed a purge order of all whites of the island which remained. And by 1805 there were less than 300 alive in greater Hispaniola, mostly female, Polish or medically trained. White physicians and Polish conscripts had also fought for newly freed Haiti. The quarantine was not about race or racial antagonism. Whites Negs and Mulats fought on both sides of the great revolt. The issue for Napoleon and other leaders of European powers was that of newly freed slaves. With weapons and armies, cannons and turf proclaiming rights of man that had been defeated in the cradle of the uprising, France. The issue was still that in the Americas in Europe, Africa, Asia and most of humanity remained a type of slave and this revolt might spread rapidly.
To the other islands of the Wild West Indies; to all of Latin America; to the USA and reverberating out back to Europe and the serfs of Russia and China. In fact the defeat of the Haitian revolution was one of the greatest foreign policy objectives shared by nearly every power. And since the armies of Spain, France and England had not been able to re-impose the hated regime of chattel servitude the new policy was containment.
They had by 1802 captured, tortured and killed the only man Toussaint L’Ouverture who had the moral authority and military genius to secure a multiracial Hispaniola as a rebel base. He was the father of the revolution. The great powers stirred racial tensions inside and locked Haiti off from the world. And by 1806 JJ Dessalines had been assassinated and rebel Generals Petion a Mulatto in the south was at war with Christophe in the north and these exhausted former slaves were freed to a country mostly burned to the ground in 13 years of violence. Most of the people functionally illiterate content to retreat to tiny plots allotted to them and world their own land staying away from the intrigues and civil conflict between Cap Haitian and Emperor Christophe and President Alexander Petion in Port-au-Prince. And the outside world whispered sedition and tightened the quarantine. The revolt which could not be suppressed had to be buried. Economically this was a success. Haiti no longer had her sugar infrastructure or the means to export anything. So Alexander Petion in a historic meeting with Simon de Bolivar in Jamel, the southern port city, agreed to export the revolution. In exchange for Haitian guns and fighters Bolivar agreed to liberate Latin America and free all the slaves there. By 1820 both colonialism and slavery in Latin America were finished. But newly freed slaves and revolutions do not always quickly make chickens eggs or democrats and by the time Bolivar was dead there were new oligarchies laying claim to all of the newly freed turf. By 1822 Haiti was unified under Haitian President Boyer who, surrounded by French war ships, signed the indemnity. These freed slaves would pay back France. 21 billion USD between then and 1947. To end the quarantine the economic blockade Haiti would impoverish herself further. And there would be coups. 22 coups until 1915 when the US occupied Haiti with troops until 1934. Imposing a new slavery. Building roads and new plantation infrastructure. And an army which a man named Francois Duvalier would use to come to total power in 1957. And he and his son Jean Claude would rule until 1986 with vile secret police, the Maccoutes supported by US money and of course the CIA support for the killing of communists. And a revolt from the peasants and church brought to power a priest. The liberation theologian Aristede. Toppled in 1991 after serving 9 months. And then more bloodshed and coup and more us occupation. And then came a quake which killed 300,000 perhaps. Or 220,000 or 100,000; no one actually knows. As rounded numbers suggest. But, it leveled the capital and the technocrats descended and missionaries. And now four years since the quake a pop singer and Duvalierist is president. A UN occupation is in its tenth year and there are still over 10,800 small, medium and international ONG talking about chickens and eggs and such. The quarantine never really ended. And now 98 percent of the trees are gone. Life expectancy is 56. Half the population cannot read. And a cholera epidemic introduced by the UN troops has killed 9,000 and crippled over 600,000. And yet still people speak of building back better with the Sai Ah Industrial park mega sweat shop or the tourist build up in Ile-a-Vache or new plans to link Haiti into the globalized economy, via a mighty chain of sweatshops.
But the typical Haitian wonders about the power which goes on for two hours a day for the world cup. Or the water supply. Or how to afford two meals a day. It is not so much that one must believe in this narrative but one must listen for a narrative. Or the quarantine succeeds. It succeeds by painting these newly freed slaves as savage primates unable to have a country. Haiti instead of being a triumph of will for human rights and freedom is used then as a cautionary tale. For the long suffering Haitian people do not always get their news, except by radio. And since most cannot read French there are only irregular reports in Haitian Creole about the success or failure of this revolt they began. That it spread to Russia, China, and Cuba and then to Algeria, Congo, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Iran and dozens of others plantations. For those with the ability to read history and current events it seems to be spreading like fire into the Middle East.
This revolt is an apolitical desire to enjoy the human rights codified by the UN in 1945. It isn’t about government or economic organization. After the abolitionist battles and legal end of slavery there are still 37 million slaves worldwide. The great powers and their oligarchies propagated race hatred and then utilized the quarantine of the Soviet Union as blackest proof this socialist modal was unsound. But there remain bastions. And again it is not about politics or the economy but about justice. About not spending a half-life fighting only to survive like an animal.
We have broken the physical quarantine with ease because our passports are blue and we have 15 USD and a base of operations in this dusty old fort. But perhaps we will have to spend the rest of our lives breaking the secondary quarantine. The false consciousness. The separation of fakeness and real imposed by the oligarchy telling us who is white and who is black. Man and woman. Haitian and foreigner. Capitalist and communist. It is a matter of knowing that all of these divisions are lies. Separating us from our human rights. Rights such as healthcare, education, food, water, living wages, unions, the right to speak or write our opinion without being put in a bag by masked men. Raped. Cut into pieces. And dumped by the roadside at night.
Sebastian and Adelina, joined shortly after by the Marine Peter Saint Reed newly re-trained as an EMT, but of course always a marine. And Barbara Jean Louis Danton a Haitian American Paramedic and Eric Addman a firefighter-paramedic from the Seattle area. And the aging but always smiling, clandestine character Mr. Smith. Or the Dr. Nina Yoh. None shared a simple identity or united world view. If such labels were too imposed about nationality all were card carrying Americans. And it was this exploitation of privilege that we hoped to use to win. The oligarchy of any country relies on division. And therefore our greatest strength is not our nationality or privilege but that we are forcing an opening. Haitian leadership in Haiti. A simple objective; teach more forty Haitians to save lives. But we have a narrative though not agreed to by all of this ad hoc unit; it forms the underpinning. If there is to be change here and abroad we must control our own means to human development. As a means to human rights.
Covered in dust and baked by heat and surrounded by endless miles of corrugated shanty dwellings and walled compounds no will pay much attention to us. The revolution began by murdering the oppressor. For 21.0 plus years that fight has been fought to a stalemate. And the resulting rights have been transient and largely un-won.
So we are switching the tactic in accordance with orders from rebel leadership here and abroad. We are internationalists. We are willing to travel country to country to go where needed to the most remote jungle or mountain. The oppression is real. The violence is real. The slavery is still real. Our oppressor will still stick a gun in our face and drag us away in a sac and torture us over rights. The way we win is to make our oppressors irrelevant. For they wish to read us some Machiavelli or Hobbes and tell us as we are but violent little monkeys. That without them we’d eat each other. I will say that when men and women can fish; can educate, heal and keep roads open and trash free then we will not need them. We will not pay them taxes. We will not let them use our money or hard earned money to buy guns and kill people just like us over their ideas on chickens and eggs.
We are not alone on this island with this idea. My place in the chain of command is that of a staff sergeant. The day we got here we were but five more reinforcements. We have broken the first level of the quarantine by penetrating the siege. And now with but a few devices carried in supported by the local arm of the resistance we train forty more souls how to prolong a life. The insurgency began with weapons and ideas. I will not survive this war to see Zion. But that is not my role. Nor Adelina or Pete Reed or Eric Admen or Jean Louis or Barabera Danton. You give a slave a gun and say freedom and you will wash the blood of an entire generation onto the sea and streets. You give a slave training to heal and save and the blow to the oppressors on the mountain is fully sustained. We are but an army of newly freed slaves who have chosen to build the world we wish to see, rather than again set on fire a world already burning.
Within the confines of a dusty but patriotic fort barely held together by cinder blocks rebar pillions and chipped paint; partially overrun by cats a small internationalist unit composed of but five volunteers who will garrison the outpost beginning 3 June, Gregorian Year 2014. Behind a mammoth red iron door is the concrete skeleton of a school called “Ecole Shalom des Frères”, which means a ‘school of the brothers of peace’ being intermittently erected, year by year and brick by brick. And in the adjacent courtyard is a two story maze of chalk board dimly lit classrooms, a small mess hall and some ten second floor rooms worth bunks to accommodate the inbound reinforcements.
There is a water tower that supplies clean chlorinated water to the locals at 5 goudes a liter. There is a parade ground field covered now completely in debris an impassible dumping ground occupying half the forts enclosure. There is a field kitchen and a wrangle of mangy creatures that when bled or squeezed make what passes as food. Or, eggs. There is a small partially compensated staff of locals. There are two former restaveks, one 12 and one 22. They accomplish various tasks of carpentry banditry plumbing an electric work. Three female cooks live in town. One is old women is young and the third of medium age. There is a transporter named Colbert; a former tap tap driver on staff along with several other useful quasi useful or only vaguely advantageous adjunct personnel with vague if not wholly nepotistic function. And the ground commander gong on his business card as a “country director” is one Mr. Avinadav DeBuitléirs educated at the University of Stony Brook in Long Island. He affiliates himself with the diaspora aspirations of various movements in Brooklyn. But, he directs little outside the walls of this miserable fort; and even here he often prefers delegation.
Avinadav was directly supported by a Petit Blan named Laura Levi. But since she was on some business in Ethiopia she had been replaced by a temperamental wench, a Quebecois from Montreal named ‘miss lady Catherine’. Her last name was completely unpronounceable except by the haughtiest of Francophone so we said Lady or ‘Madam Catherine’, or ‘Catherine Q’ because there was universal contempt for her amongst the volunteers. She has too well assimilated into the habit of barking orders at the Brown people. And that is, as we say “what it was”.
On 3rd June two members of our unit crossed the rocky road called a National Highway from Santo Domingo to the City of Port-Au-Prince on the Capital Cruiser armored bus service which showed the movie Fast and the Furious part 5, at least five times. At first, it was quite loud but by the third run it was silent as no one on the bus spoke anything besides Spanish, French or Haitian Creole, and the initial plot points of the rock and Vin Diesel the most famous of Mulat action heroes had been grasped. And now it was all tits jiggling and exploding cars. And the road fell apart right after the Jimani checkpoint crossing. They served us a ham sandwich and a bottle of cold water. Sebastian Adon could see the color slowly leave Adelina Blazhennaya’s pretty and petite face as the border was crossed. He could see and via the omnibus rattling feel the road become not road. The structures of the countryside become not structures. The lush foliage becomes ugly barrens. And as the color of his partner’s face fades Sebastian also wonders how she will react to what is to come. Jostling jolts hit the bus and traffic slows to a trickle pace as the driver forms a one lane convoy behind mack trucks built in East Asia to shuttle merchanting goods from Dominican Republic into Haiti. Sneakers and such. Also cocaine or even people sealed a large valise.
In the mind of Sebastian Adon whose hair was brown and heart was neg. He imagines this infiltration as a patriotic duty for there was some Haitian blood in him for once we took an oath. The trappings of normal human development crumble each kilometer the bus rumbles into Haiti and the endless dust. A cloud of whirling particulates swallowing the charmless and desolate environs. At the border, there was nothing to buy except Pringles. In addition, soda of every kind. The customs agent asked Adon in Creole what his business in Haiti was; “tourism”.
Adelina Blazhennaya and Sebastian both crossed the border in black boots and blue uniform pants and black shirts and therefore the customs agent knew that tourism wasn’t really what they were doing in Haiti. But, no one cared. The Brazilians, Chileans, Argentinians, and a poperee of other lesser nations were running the functions of the disbanded military. The Americans were subsidizing the state. The Cubans were running the hospitals and several thousand ONGs perhaps as many as 10,800 were the only economy besides transshipment, allegedly of bulk packaged cocaine. No real cares are given in a meaningful way. Much less an under compensated customs agent. They both had blue American passports. Crisp and newly issued. Who cared what their intention was if they had such blue passports and fifteen USD a piece. The two enormous satchel valise roller bags went completely unexamined. As did their two green voodoo tactical rucksacks. Who ever cared?
The omnibus continued two hours west down the national highway. There was corrugated tin shack after shack. Contrasting anything to D.R. is an exercise in futility. One can simply see that this is the same island and anthropologically speaking that is where it ends. Without a lengthy discourse on history colonialism and superficialities of cultural antagonism well honestly it’s night and day except they both like cock fighting. Three months ago the president of the Dominican Republic signed an executive order denationalizing over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent.
They have the tenor of slightly overfed happy slaves, notes Blazhennaya. Not the Haitians. Neither happy nor well fed. At each juncture she slowed down as she grew more pale seeing the descent into some land before time some utter desolation. Naked children drooling covered in flies. Tents and shanties. Everywhere unfinished construction sites and partially erected edifices. And the cloud of dust hovered over the endless misery.
When they finally reached Port-Au-Prince it was just before tusk and Avinadav DeBuitléir accompanied by Marco Balan the light skinned apparatchik and Colbert the driver loaded them in and shuttled them both away to Croix des Bouquets down the unlit impasses to 808 Rue Double Barrel They were given a choice of three rooms all very dusty and Spartan. Settled a little before midnight. Adelina Blazhennaya sat on their twin bed in a room with no window coverings, just a window space with sheet nailed to cover it. And then she cried heavily but silently voer what a hell she has followed her partner into. Not at the overwhelming poverty; the blight scorched earth of the quarantine. Not for fallen friends and those surely to fall. The quiet tears of Adelina Blazhennaya were for herself. To protect the man she loves and is so devoted she will lose everything and everyone she has ever known. This was a dying place. A ruined pocked and parched Island at or near the bottom of the mountain. Horror has exhausted tears, thinks she. She cries because what hope do they have for humanity in general to win. Their enemies are hunting them. She is so far from Chelyabinsk Tank City. She cries and Sebastian holds her. Darkness seeps in. They take their place in the trenches joining the reality, the tragic ranks of newly freed slaves.
It was one thing to follow a man into hell, it was another thing altogether to fight your way from that hell to the heights of Mt. Olympus if not higher! No part of the stated American dream included any of this.
But before there ever was a “Haitian Emergency Group”. Before there was a resistance pushing back the enemy. Before, a fighting movement was winning on the ground in Haiti, in what was left of Syria and also in the streets of the United American States. There was a mighty quake which took the lives of somewhere between 100,000 to 316,000 men, women and children, which struck the country of Haiti on the morning of 12 January, 2010.
Round large disparate numbers which revealed a great unknowing and uncaring. For when the oligarchy cannot crush, kill or discredit a thing. They quarantine it.
It was a spirit of solidarity that brought us out from Brooklyn to stand beside our Haitian brothers and sisters in their darkest hour. It was the Haitian defiance of empires and the world system itself that made us stay in Hispaniola and continue the battle for freedom beside them.