An energetic defense of Haitian culture coupled with an indictment of alleged Western attempts to destroy it under the pretense of international assistance.
Haiti has become a cause célèbre in recent years as both a lightning rod of controversy and as a recipient of sustained attention from nongovernmental organizations looking to save the beleaguered nation from perceived mismanagement. In her debut, Chery argues, however, that Haiti has always been capable of self-governance and that it’s precisely the aid—often inspired, she says, by nefarious interests—that has hobbled it. According to the author, Haiti was a shining example of revolutionary self-assertion, especially among tyrannized South American countries, ever since it won its independence in 1804. Haiti sustained itself with a robust agricultural economy and a vibrant culture, centered on its voodoo faith. Western imperialist countries opportunistically took an interest in Haiti, the author says, partly to exploit its resources and partly to tarnish its potentially dangerous example of freedom from enslavement. The heart of Chery’s argument, which reaches its crescendo in a chapter entitled “Humanitarian Imperialism,” is that soi-disant peacekeepers have created much of Haiti’s trouble not only through incompetent meddling, but also through an active desire to destroy its culture: “The current war against Haiti is an economic and propaganda war that requires a liberal use of aid money to undermine Haitian culture and agriculture.” The author presents a wide-ranging case to support her contention that the United States supports tyranny, helps to rig elections under the guise of supervision, and forcefully exports a rapacious capitalism; she also addresses the Western world’s contributions to climate change, of which Haiti disproportionately bears the harmful consequences. Chery also presents a thoughtful account of voodoo as being almost universally misinterpreted; she asserts that it is, in many ways, superior to other major Western religions, as it’s organized around ancestor worship instead of submission to a single deity. The author’s case is powerfully argued, always provocative, and especially strong when detailing the many ways in which Western aid has only worsened Haiti’s challenges. Sometimes, her prose turns incendiary, and she has a tendency to make sweeping claims that aren’t always clearly supported by available evidence. However, this book provides an important counterpoint to the view that Haiti’s recovery must be brokered by a coalition of charitable nations rather than by Haiti itself.
A book that offers an important perspective on Haiti’s redevelopment, despite its inclination toward rhetorical stridency.