We are civilised in spite of the British and in spite of slavery. Slavery made modern capitalism and civilisation possible. Democracy and the rights of man would never have existed without the Haitian revolution - a consideration of which is an object lesson in understanding the debt the Old World owes to the New. Plantation slavery in the Americas was the expression of an institutionalised racism the inhuman barbarity of which was unprecedented in the history of civilisation. When the Haitians overthrew French rule in Haiti in 1804, the Haitians became the first and only slave society which liberated itself. The Haitians went on to defeat the French colonial forces, then defeated a British expeditionary force and then defeated a French expeditionary army under Napoleon's brother-in-law, killing some 60,000 Frenchmen in the process. That was an unpardonable breach of protocol. Before that the Haitians had fought alongside the American revolutionaries to help them throw the British out of the American colonies. Haitian help was crucial in at least two battles in which British power was broken - at Savannah, Georgia and at Yorktown.
Caribbean: Human Rights and Reparations
By John Maxwell (February 25, 2007)
Your rights end where mine begin. That's what I tell my students. The state - which ostensibly guarantees all our rights - is us. We are the state, and it is we who make the laws, unless, of course, powerful or noisy pressure groups manage to persuade a few people in a parliamentary committee that it would be political suicide to keep the state's nose out of our bedrooms.
It wouldn't be political suicide, but since so many of us, especially politicians are the most abject cowards, it is easy to blackmail parliament into taking rights away from people of whom we disapprove. The attorney general and various others, including sections of the press, are happy to celebrate some of the most backward and pernicious thinking to be found anywhere on the planet.
The Gleaner last week rejoiced in Buggery blocked while on the same day the Observer carried a picture of a hysterical mob, including schoolchildren, baying for the blood of three young men who had been accused of "behaving effeminately" - whatever that means.
The young men seemed to have done something to anger one higgler who began to call down imprecations against them, including the accusation that they were homosexual. In the present atmosphere of moral hysteria which pervades this country, it wasn't long before a slobbering crowd baying for blood assembled, forcing the owners of a pharmacy to close their doors to protect the lives of the young men who had sought shelter there.
Then the police came, and while they performed one part of their jobs well, keeping the crowd from dismembering the young men, they are accused of turning about and abusing the rescued men physically and accusing them of various moral delinquencies.
To the press and the public in general it doesn't seem relevant that the young men had done nothing, except to annoy a sidewalk vendor. They were within a few feet of being lynched, simply because someone did not like their style.
Since no one has yet said it, I will: The problem with most homophobes is that the homosexual they fear most is themselves.
Much of the homophobic plague now disfiguring our society is incited by those I call the Christian Taliban, a gang of prideful know-nothings who come not to call sinners to repentance, but to deliver them into the hands of the vigilantes. Some have acquired their second rate theology for a couple of hundred US dollars from some self-styled bible college. What riles me is that, in the heat of their newly bought holiness, they want to crucify the rest of us, or more accurately, to stretch or cut us to fit their own Procrustean beds of sublime ignorance.
They depend on the Old Testament, a collection of some of the oral history of nomadic tribes wandering about the Middle East four thousand years ago. This accumulated wisdom was life-preserving at that time, surrounded as they were by enemies and eating unreliable food, but as Jesus of Nazareth said, it isn't what a man consumes that defiles him, but what comes out of him. In the same vein he held that the Sabbath was made for man, not vice versa.
Because the Israelites nomads wanted to build up the numerical strength of their tribes they encouraged men to impregnate their sisters-in-law if their brothers died and buggery, then and now the poorest but surest means of birth control, was an abomination as was, for the same reason, 'Onanism' or masturbation.
To their modern-day successors, like the Pharisees and Sadduccees with their phylacteries and other tokens of holiness, what is good is not what one does but what one says, forgetting another apothegm from Jesus - that the Devil can quote scripture to his own purpose. As far as they are concerned the idea that God is Love is nonsense: God is a terrible God, full of wrath, vengefulness and thunderbolts.
These whited sepulchres understand Jesus' advice that we should be our brother's keepers to mean that they should be their brother's jailers. My old friend Peter Walker used to call these hypocrites "God-Botherers" because they seemed to have exclusive hotlines to their divinity. Now they counsel us based on misinterpretations of 4,000-year-old 'science', that abortion is always wrong, that life begins at conception and a host of other nonsense, including the belief that sex education makes children pregnant.
The latest outrage is the idea of raising the age of consent, an idea some would interpret to authorise the jailing of anyone who had sexual intercourse before that age. Just say no, they blather - ignorance is literally bliss. I have news for them: if they really want to protect young people they should promote the raising of the age of consent to 24, because scientists have discovered that the brains of human children do not completely mature until about that age.
As I write this my friend, Canute James, has shown me a story from the Guardian (London) about a Jamaican who has for the last 27 years successfully pretended to be an expert forensic psychologist. This conman even had a motto which must have come straight from Jamaica: 'Exposing Unrighteousness for the Sake of Righteousness".
This man, one Gene Morrison, who didn't even have a 'genuine mail order' degree, duped judges, barristers and their clients for almost three decades. He gave "expert evidence" in cases involving armed robbery, rape, death by dangerous driving, unexplained death and drug offences. Police are now having to re-assess about 700 cases looking for miscarriages of justice. Never underestimate the power of a righteous Jamaican, especially one armed with the Wrath of God.
Reparations and Haiti
It appears to me that most people who are anti-reparations are barking up the wrong tree. One newspaper letter-writer has suggested that Britain bequeathed us all sorts of precious things when she beneficently gave us our freedom.
The fact is that we were never given freedom, it was achieved, to whatever extent it was snatched, by 300 years of intransigence and struggle. The British did not leave us with an excellent educational system. What was left at their departure was the product mainly of a number of missionaries and particularly of a number of dedicated Jamaicans who formed themselves into the Jamaica Union of Teachers more than a century ago. They were the ones who, with ministers of religion, built the schools and trained the teachers who taught such as Marcus Garvey and the people who built the trade unions and the political parties on the foundation of their debating societies and organisations such as the Jamaica Burial Scheme Society.
We are civilised in spite of the British and in spite of slavery. Slavery made modern capitalism and civilisation possible. Democracy and the rights of man would never have existed without the Haitian revolution - a consideration of which is an object lesson in understanding the debt the Old World owes to the New. Plantation slavery in the Americas was the expression of an institutionalised racism the inhuman barbarity of which was unprecedented in the history of civilisation.
When the Haitians overthrew French rule in Haiti in 1804, the Haitians became the first and only slave society which liberated itself. The Haitians went on to defeat the French colonial forces, then defeated a British expeditionary force and then defeated a French expeditionary army under Napoleon's brother-in-law, killing some 60,000 Frenchmen in the process. That was an unpardonable breach of protocol.
Before that the Haitians had fought alongside the American revolutionaries to help them throw the British out of the American colonies. Haitian help was crucial in at least two battles in which British power was broken - at Savannah, Georgia and at Yorktown.
The Haitians then declared and implemented, for the first time anywhere, a society in which every person, man woman and child was free from birth and enjoyed, equally, all the civil rights available to any other human being. The American and the French Revolutions, which preceded the Haitian Revolution by a few years, were fought ostensibly to enshrine the Rights of Man. The Haitians however, were the only people to place human liberty as the actual foundation stone of their revolution.
In the United States, blacks would not - for another century and a half - be entitled to exercise the civil rights for which Crispus Attucks and fellow American blacks and black Haitians described officially as French, had fought and died. Henri Christophe was one of those Haitians who fought for American freedom.
Clearly, the Haitians should be at the centre of any celebrations commemorating the end of the most brutal and unjust human institutions yet devised. Instead, they have been penalised for 200 years for their impertinence and temerity in precipitating the collapse of the institution on which western wealth, power and culture were founded.
They should clearly be at the centre of our concerns for two reasons:
a) Had it not been for the Haitian Revolution, slavery in these parts would have continued until we abolished it ourselves - as Sam Sharpe set out to do in the footsteps of Kojo, Akkompong and Nanny.
b) Haiti, because of its role in destroying slavery, has been punished by blackmail and military oppression for most of the last 200 years. Instead, courtesy of highly civilised Americans, Canadians and Frenchmen the people of Haiti are living in a strange half world where democracy has been made into a zombie, resembling democracy but in a catatonic state from which all volition, all popular will and intelligence has been hijacked by the master surgeons of globalisation.
There is a president, 'popularly elected' but his powers and privileges have been hijacked by the American marines who kidnapped their rightful government two years ago and sent the real president into exile as "cargo" in one of the CIA planes used to 'render' suspected terrorists for torture outsourced to foreigners.
The official story, which the whole world has swallowed, is that the hapless Haitians, being terminally afflicted by pernicious African voudou are entirely incompetent to govern themselves. They must therefore submit to the orders of a mercenary force of foreigners, mainly Brazilian, in the interests of democracy.
The real story is that three denatured blacks, Colin Powell, Kofi Annan and Condoleezza Rice, have been made into the real zombies in this story, becoming the abject servants of the Middle Eastern and mulatto 'elite' which inherited French slave-owning privileges in Haiti after the Americans decided that they could not deal with uppity blacks who insisted on calling themselves free. "Imagine" William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State told his president "Imagine," he said, "Niggers speaking French."
In the 19th century Haiti was demonised by the US as Cuba was in the second half of the 20th. The British, French and Americans were terrified that the Haitians would export the idea of freedom to their slave colonies. They were right to a degree. Haiti provisioned and armed Simon Bolivar and asked of him no repayment but to liberate the slaves wherever his victorious army defeated the Spanish colonial power.
Bolivar's victories allowed the Americans to devise the Monroe Doctrine, warning off all European colonisers from interference in the Western Hemisphere and made it possible for the Americans to summon the Pan American conference of 1824, to which all the now free republics of the Americas were invited. Haiti, which had made their freedom possible, alone was not invited. It was the only republic ruled by blacks.
Slow Motion Genocide
We do not understand that the slave trade not only destroyed the economic and social prospects of many civilised people in Africa and in the West, it devastated whole nations and set back African peoples by generations. The regime of King Leopold in the Congo tells the story more accurately than any reconstruction can do.
The population of the Congo grew twice as fast between 1920 and 1960 as it had in the previous 40 years of Leopold's rule. People suffered not simply slavery, but genocide, which is the brother of slavery and the slave trade.
Genocide means "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The last two may not at this moment apply to Haiti but the rest, a transcription of Article 2 of the UN Convention against Genocide, definitely apply to Haiti today.
They may not be transferring children from the group to another, unless, as in last week's police action in City Soleil, when the United Nations 'peacekeepers' kill two and three year-old infants while they supposedly search for 'bandits'. They are in their wisdom transferring the children to a better place.
For many people in this world, death is better than life in Haiti, 200 years after the Haitians invented human rights.
Originally appeared in Jamaicaobserver.com.