Saturday, February 10, 2007

Commodifying the slums of Haiti.

The BBC brings news that 700 UN troops have "flooded" into a "Haitian slum" (that's Cite Soleil, site of several massacres perpetrated by the scum in blue helmets), "sparking a major gun battle with suspected gang members." They entered a "stronghold of a gang leader known only as Evans", who is "blamed for kidnappings, killings and rapes in the areas under the control of his gang." The New York Times has a similar tale. UN troops mysteriously "arrived" in Haiti after the agent-less "ouster" of Aristide. This Evans character is evidently one bad bastard. He was even, get this, occupying a school, from where he could shoot upon 'peacekeepers' and demand money from motorists. In fact, from the NYT, we get some attempt at history: Haiti "has a long tradition of politics mixed with thuggery", what with Duvalier and the Ton Ton Macoutes (who, I wonder, supported those guys? Where are the Ton Ton Macoutes leaders today?). We hear from some Haitians, moreover, who are described as "debating" whether the UN's tactic is really the best way forward. Further, we actually get some more details of this one-named bandit, 'Evans'. He is superstitious and accuses cats of bringing him bad luck: and so he decided to "roast" all the cats in his neighbourhood. He runs his clique with "absolute" authority and is "linked" to murders and kidnappings and rapes.

No more of that, thanks fot the diligent efforts of 'peacekeepers'. Minustah's commander insists that he will "cleanse" Haiti's slums of the gangs. Leave aside the fact that UN troops are rapists, murderers and thugs. Not only in Haiti, but practically everywhere they set foot. This mysterious, nebulous, ebondark Evans, who doesn't even have the decency to acquire the proper forename and surname, is the real villain. His gangs are the source of repression and violence in Haiti, not the anti-Lavalas genocidaires that have been brought into the government and exonerated by the occupiers, and not the UN troops.

We might call this production The Man With One Name. On to the next movie. Ah, Blood Diamond, in which a roguish Sith Iffrican arms dealer played by the gorgeous Leonardo Di Caprio becomes a good guy thanks to the affections of a white American reporter, and decides to help a humble African man retrieve his son, who has been kidnapped by - gasp - Marxist revolutionaries. With capital, and imperialism, safely evacuated from the picture, we can enjoy the misery of the diamond trade (and implicitly every other precious commodity trade, whether cobalt, coltan or platinum) as Warner Brothers home entertainment. Now you can have a glimpse of The Interpreter in which Nicole Kidman symbolises African suffering. And then there's Hotel Rwanda, in which you experience the genocide through the central performance of Don Cheadle, with references to Belgian colonialism and a despairing condemnation of the failure of the West to intervene. Ahem. And where's my copy of Black Hawk Down?

So, on this theme, here are a couple of cartoon-essays, by the Monkey Dust team, on culture and imperialism:

There are, of course, other ways to understand UN violence in Haiti.