After years of being ruled by governments even more destructive than usual, Haiti was far less prepared for the recent earthquake than it could have been. Not inclined to let a serious crisis go to waste, the United States government and the business interests it works with will combine essential lifesaving work with efforts to gain control of Haiti’s future. The alternative to the deprivation of social control and the disasters it will cause is mutual aid.
A Guardian online article described frustration with the United States military control of relief efforts. US Military planes have been given landing priority while The Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières complained about their flights being redirected to the Dominican Republic. Certainly there is a scarcity in available runway space. However, aid organizations operate for the specific purpose of helping the less fortunate, while government operates primarily for the purpose of control. The character of relief efforts will be colored by this fact.
It goes without saying that Haitians deserve help. Unfortunately the ideas that people connect to “help” are often left unsaid. The thought process of authoritarianism requires the authoritarian to take control of the situation in order to improve it – and therefore improvement becomes conflated with getting the right people in charge. Rather than trying to work with people, authoritarians try to get people to work for them.
Naomi Klein warns that the crisis will be exploited by capitalists who want to rebuild Haiti in ways that benefit them. In her “Haiti Disaster Capitalism Alert” blog post, she links to a Heritage Foundation post called “Things to Remember While Helping Haiti”. Heritage includes the following position:
“While on the ground in Haiti, the U.S. military can also interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola. This U.S. military presence, which should also include a large contingent of U.S. Coast Guard assets, can also prevent any large-scale movement by Haitians to take to the sea in dangerous and rickety watercraft to try to enter the U.S. illegally.”
Authoritarians like Heritage believe that helping people means forcing them to act in ways that benefit certain gangs.
Dominance by United States interests is being challenged by anarchist and anti-authoritarian medical and relief workers. Like Common Ground did for New Orleans, they intend to help Haitians without asking permission.
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief for Haiti, a partnership between the Common Ground Clinic and Herbs For Orphans, is heading to the disaster area to help those who need it most. More information, including donation options, can be found at the website http://herbs4orphans.org.
An inquisitive mind might ask what the difference is between what MADRH and the US government are doing. Are they not both seeking to influence post-disaster Haiti?
The difference is who is in charge – anarchists answer to the people instead of to political leaders.
Working on a consensual and inclusive basis, as anti-authoritarians do, assists people in building their lives. Working on the basis of command and control, as authoritarians do, primarily involves handing victims a future that has been decided for them. By helping people build grassroots mutual aid networks, anarchists protect them from further destruction that authority would cause through enforced dependence and deprivation.
Things that should be done, like keeping people from dying, should be done according to your values – especially when doing so offers people the best chance to have a healthy life of their own.
Mutual aid efforts that provide assistance based on consent are superior to authoritarian efforts to sustain that which is to be exploited. While authoritarians try to claim for their own what others have made, anarchists create grassroots networks of support and resistance.