Haiti – It’s All About Us

CANADA RIDES TO THE RESCUE That was the headline on yesterday’s Toronto Star.  This morning’s on-line edition features more front-page news about the efforts of Canadian rescue teams. Trust The Star to look for the Metro angle anywhere, all the time.

Readers in the Greater Toronto Area are not alone. Flipping the dial through the Am-nets for the last week, I see repeated images of various Clintons, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric and other stars of American news/entertainment/politics.  I see, or hear precious little from the mouths of ordinary Haitians, let alone the surviving political, military or intellectual leadership of the country. The wise heads of English language television in many parts of North America clearly feel their audience is incapable of hearing lengthy translations from Creole or French. It’s classic, pervasive pandering that underestimates the intelligence and humanity of those audiences.

At home, we are besieged  for requests to help by non-governmental organizations of all kinds. Believe me I hope the world combined gives the Haitians all the assistance they need, but like some of the media content, I often find the tone of some appeals unsettling. Frankly, a lot of it would make Rudyard Kipling blush. It’s ‘the white man’s burden’ all over again; classic ‘underdeveloped world’ as home to permanent victims stuff. As some academic wag noted: there is nothing “post” in “post-colonial”.

I appeal to the media to continue covering the relief effort even when the news agenda is temporarily bushwhacked by items such as the Democrats’ own Massachusetts disaster. It’s wonderful that relief teams and soldiers from Canada, the United States and elsewhere are getting through, but please – they are not the centre of the story! The BBC is one of the few news organizations that seems committed to seeing the disaster and the recovery through the eyes of those who experienced it directly – the people of Haiti.

Finally in a domestic political aside: Team Harper is drawing deserved praise for its quick response. The early pictures of Steve alongside the understandably grieving Haitian born GG Michaelle Jean humanized him.  Next Monday’s quick international conference, held appropriately enough in Montreal, home to a 100,000 strong Haitian expatriate contingent, could reflect well on the Harper government and perhaps help it recover somewhat from his self-inflicted wound of that ill-advised early prorogation of Parliament.

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