Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Hell on Earth

Not too far away from our golden shores is place where the Four Horsemen--War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death--have been reaping a bitter harvest: Haiti. Once known as the Pearl of the Caribbean, and the wealthiest colony in the New World, Haiti has been theoretically independent since 1804. But since then, for a variety of reasons, many but not all of them self-imposed, they are now the poorest country in this hemisphere, and also the most corrupt.

Their population is now over 8 million. The average life span is around 40 years. Half the people are illiterate. AIDS and tuberculosis are rampant. Less than 2% of the once lush forest remains. Of what little wealth they have, 40% comes from foreign aid. The poor eat "cakes" made out of cooking oil and clay to ease their hunger. The country is a conduit for illegal drugs, with the assent of what little civil authority remains. Gangs of armed thugs kidnap innocent people for ransom. It’s not safe to travel, even within one’s own neighborhood. The elite remain behind high walls in their own compounds or retreat to Paris or Miami. Haiti is a "closed system." Is there any hope for Haiti?

Imagine the plight of an intelligent, relatively educated young person in that country. He or she can only secure a decent future by attaching himself to a powerful patron in a position of relative servitude, by allying himself with a criminal enterprise which preys on the weak, or by finding a way to get out. They live in a country whose population has so far outstripped its resources that it is literally devouring itself. And all this is happening within a one-day cruise ship ride from Miami.

Some people hope that the current generation of Haitian-Americans will take an interest in returning home with money and learned American values, and improving the situation. Others will tell you that until the prophecies of Revelation come to pass and Jesus returns to set things right, the Four Horsemen will continue to exact their own measures of population control. Still others, like the French engineer I met there thirty years ago, will tell you simply, "They need a Castro."

Whatever the answer may be, Haiti is an example of what can and will happen to the rest of the world if we don’t get serious about population control, conservation of our remaining resources, and stewardship of the earth.

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