If you are like me you’re glad you are an atheist today. Who, after all, would want to live in a universe where God can unleash what has been wrought on Haiti these last centuries. And now this? A shocking day, frightful day to be a member of the human family. If this is “God’s Plan” then to hell with God. If not God, then who to blame for this catastrophe? Blaming nature makes no sense. It is in the nature of nature to be unforgiving, but only from our, mortal, standpoint. From the standpoint of nature there is no point.
Nature, like shit, happens, but it is the inequality in our society that ensures shit rolls downhill. And Haiti has been at the bottom of a mountain of inequality since its inception. The latest reports are that tens of thousands may have died in Haiti– it is impossible at this early date to tell. We hope it is less, but we fear it will be more.
In 1989 San Francisco had an earthquake of the same magnitude as that which hit Haiti yesterday. The San Francisco Bay area has a population somewhat lower than Haiti, but not enough to account for the disparity of casualties. 56 people died there in 1989. That the hills of San Francisco aren’t crowded with the shantytowns, now flattened, that encase Port-au-Prince is not a product of luck, nor is the wealth that allows California homes to be built to withstand the shocks of nature while a shack in Haiti falls down on its inhabitants an accident. It is the product of imperialism.
Haiti and the region have been on the receiving end of capitalist accumulation for 500 years now and it’s not the surplus they are receiving. Capitalism is said to have a dynamic of creative destruction. The wealth that created earthquake-resistant homes in California just as surely led to the tin shacks of Haiti yesterday destroyed. As with Katrina five years ago, where the Lower Ninth still lies in ruin, what we are witnessing is not a disaster of nature, but a crime of capitalism.