February 28, 2013

Thanks to Sandra Mignot for posting Jonathan Katz’s editorial about cholera reparations, cited below.  It is a cursory review, and more of the same epitaph-writing that characterizes post-earthquake journalism since the earthquake: it enumerate the nails in coffins but does not see the coffins in the context of the global funeral business.  Basically, civilization has plateaued, i.e. the risks we take, generally at the direction of relatively few managers, tyrants, promoters, prevaricators and people who speak to God in the world, are far beyond their ability to compensate for damages and losses when they inevitably and more frequently occur. It is advisable to protect your property and belongings by Making a Will in prior.

Haiti is but one case among many; I think there are still hurricane victims from New York and New Jersey who are sleeping away from home with barely any possessions or assistance.  These and other environmental refugees are bioindicators of failed civilization, a condition far worse than failed states.  Why is it worse?  Because there are fewer and fewer states and groups of states with the will, resources and know-how to come to anyone’s aid, at least not for free.

For about a century, civilization has been killing the Goose that lays golden eggs.  The Institute for Justice and Democracy lin Haiti [IJDH] could not have realistically expected the United Nations to pay for cholera deaths, even if the U.N. acknowledged responsiblity for the epidemic.  Nor could any of the international organizations, listed below, that have joined the petition.  While there may be a theoretical basis for reparations, the United Nations has long since left theory behind; just ask anyone seeking refugee asylum.  Further, there is no Rainy Day Fund for this kind of snafu, no expeditious grievance and resolution process for accessing money, and no buy-in from the United States that is the U.N.’s largest financial donor.  Not even with a Haitian-American at the President’s side, a bevy of Haitian-people lovers in the State Department, and an ex-President and his wife who honeymooned there ‘way back when.

Therefore, it feels like IJDH made a false promise based on an impracticable premise; in a way, it used its legal wiles and the plight of cholera survivors to grandstand for a payoff that could not realistically be fulfilled.  For effect, IJDH might as well have directly sued MINUSTAH’s private sewage hauler, or the government of Nepal, or Bill Clinton and Paul Farmer as the Secretary General’s personal envoys to Haiti.  Or it might have simply sued everyone for a dollar and an apology.

By taking an aggressive pecuniary position, IJDH has not (yet) brought Haitians either a dollar or an apology from anyone, while its stance is further alienating Haitians from foreign relations and conversely alienating the United Nations from numerous NGOs who have signed on the petition [below], among them NGO’s who historically have and might otherwise in the future provide expertise, teaching and global reach for sanitation, water and health care improvement in Haiti.

In the parlance of disaster soccer, http://www.haitiresiliencesystem.org/node/138 IJDH has now joined the United Nations on the forlorn field, forever kicking the ball around but seldom scoring goals.  The game clock ticks, the stands are full of spectators with question marks on their foreheads.  To the players, it is a well-paid game of dress-up and physical exertion, but to the people in the stands, it’s a matter of life or death.  Reparations?  Really, what would a surviving cholera’d family in Haiti do with a huge lump-sum payment?  What would be the highest use of such money and, if spent in Haiti, how quickly would it sift through thousands of poor black fingers on the way to offshore investments and bank accounts?  Reparations?  I would emigrate immediately…the coyote’s multiplier effect.

Jonathan Katz did not mention that, to its credit, IJDH has other facets in its cholera campaign, not just reparations.  These are clearly stated at http://ijdh.org/cholera  In part, it “demands the instal?la?tion of water and san?i?ta?tion infra?struc?ture that will con?trol the epi?demic and save more than 5,000 lives each year.”  Well and good.  The United Nations and others such as the Organization for American States have similar goals, but I agree with Katz and have previously written that all of them have come across as insincere; they are using a development paradigm and are wasting the political capital and credibility needed to revolutionize Haitian governance that could, in turn, protect the health of its citizens.

I think this is what everyone wants, but the current path is not going to get those results because:

a) Haiti seem to be attracting virtually no money for victims and very little for conventional development,
b) Contrived humanitarian-drama lingo such as “involuntary genocide” [see http://www.laprogressive.com/cholera-epidemic/] is nowhere near comparable in magnitude or malevolence to the intentional genocide occurring elsewhere in the world,
c) The United States, Haiti’s biggest donor and fount of expertise and volunteerism, is poorly-led and -represented in Haitian affairs; this is obvious and embarrassing to every concerned American, and
d) Haitians living abroad are not (yet) united about caring for Haiti, they have not (yet) developed an identity as a significant counterforce to poor governance, and certainly do not (yet) command the resources to leverage significant change.

Because of this, national planning ought to start with the worst-case scenario: a burgeoning population, a widening wealth-gap,

Related to this, thanks to Georgianne Nienbaber for introducing in the same article the Brazilian organization Faculdade de Direito de Santa Maria, Brazil (FADISMA) that has joined the cholera campaign, asking $100,000 for each cholera death and $50,000 for each person made sick.  Quick calculations: 6,700 deaths x $100,000 each = $670 million, plus 500,000 infections x $50,000 each = $25 billion, for a grand total almost $26 billion.  For that, I think they could wait until Jacmel freezes over, but you’ve got to admit it is a deft, manipulative ploy to foment perpetual animosity of Haitians against the world.  More disaster soccer.

But by coincidence, $100,000 for a Haitian life is in line with what I’ve proposed to Haitian support organizations as a metric for calculating the cost-benefit of health, safety and disaster preparedness investments.  At that rate, save a few lives a year and you’ve easily justified the investment in an ambulance.  ‘Strange how that works.

Thank you,

Stuart Leiderman