Something peculiar strikes humanity whenever we are in the face of adversity from which our thousands of years of civilization crumble in its wake, as if we are a school of helpless ants in the middle of an ocean.
In the small Caribbean island nation of Haiti, about the same size as Rwanda, Tuesday was not one of the days on this earth. An earthquake of magnitude 7.0 on the famous Richter scale visited hell on Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince and by the time it was down, scores of people would have lost their lives, others maimed, the rest very traumatized.
Architectural wonders and slum dwellings would have been pulverized into mountains of rubble and nothingness. Homes become nature’s weapons of death against those who defied nature to construct them.
The rich and the poor alike have suffered the same fate, even the spacious presidential palace or the five storied United Nations headquarters did not deserve nature’s respect, crumbling like a child’s toy in the wake of the child’s fury.
Nature, as good as it is perhaps the worst things that happen to us, the creatures of the same nature. Why a huge earthquake had to wait for two hundred years and strike at a time when Haiti has been at the receiving end of hurricanes, riots, economic downturn, dictatorship, coups and the rest of the tiny country’s woes, is but a puzzle best left to divinity.
Haiti may be on the other side of the world, but until recently it has been said to be the poorest nation in Americas.
Haitians are black people, descendants of Africans slaves so their story misery is not just a few decades old. You would think its story would be a typical example of how a people can suffer and endure untold suffering of different kinds mostly because of no causing of their own.
Haiti’s has a rich history of national pride and hunger for human advancement. It was the first independent nation in Latin America, the first post-colonial independent Black-led nation in the world, and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion.
In the next weeks, the world will galvanize around an effort to bring hope and salvation from the ravages of nature on Haiti. In itself, the worst of nature will bring the best of human nature out of humans.
It is ironical that humans empathize with each other in hard times but in good times forget about humanity and engage in bitter conflict over material things, power and other things which should be below them in hardship.
Most of all, even the powerful and mighty in the early sages of the devastation when humans were powerless to do a thing, all that was said was, ‘lets pray for Haiti.”
It is a tacit reminder that humans, even with technology and science, and the benefits of 21st century civilization, in moments of adversity, we can only sit and pray. It is the powerlessness that we feel in the wake of nature, of who and what we are, powerlessness against a force of our own nature.
This Sunday, think about Haiti.