Friday, March 11, 2011

Death in Haiti

From my sister:
One of my neighbours, Abner, caught cholera a few weeks ago. He is the baker and the father of the girls who fetch my water, do my washing and occasionally cook for me.

Anyway he spent a week or so in hospital, was let out, went to someone we would probably call a witch doctor, and then returned home yesterday on a stretcher, no longer able to speak. He died last night, his daughters and wife started wailing at 2am in the morning - the traditional way of expressing grief and letting everyone know that he passed away. Of course, the worse part is that he leaves behind his family of 4 daughters (one of whom has a 4 month old baby) and 2 sons (one 4 years old, the other a teenager). I have no idea how they are going to survive this. I suspect the girls wont be going to school for much longer.

Cholera has returned to my zone, after a brief reprieve... I just wish they’d wash their bloody hands.
Just one person dead, yet it made me feel a lot more sad than "By late January 2011 some 4,131 people have died and 117,312 are hospitalised." (wikipedia) Of course, I already knew it would, but even as someone who has tried to think/feel in large numbers and concepts, to feel worse about a single case than other 4,130, is really pathetic. Truly pathetic. Even more so because the cholera outbreak is a tiny number of people. As far as deaths go, this has only just surpassed the most over-hyped event of the naughties. (Though, to be fair, millions of people had their lives ruined because of it - 1 & 2) Compared with other events, it's not even worth mentioning (and isn't mentioned). It's an order of magnitude less people than the earthquake in January 2010. Not even worth mentioning.

The second thing that affects me is "I just wish they’d wash their bloody hands." I know exactly what my sister means. It seems utterly absurd. A simple, obvious, easy solution. It's as though Haitians are willing themselves to die. Are they simply stupid brown people? I think a lot of people in the West would answer "yes" to that question. I lot of people I know would answer "yes" to that question. The same people who live their lives drowned in their own absurd beliefs and superstitions. This society functions - its modus operandi - is faith and superstition. Just because our beliefs don't have us dying of easily preventable water-born diseases, doesn't mean that our own absurdity doesn't cripple our existence as obese, angry, faithful, TV watching drones.

It's sad, it's strange, but it's perfectly understandable why someone wouldn't think to wash their hands and go to a witch doctor instead of getting proper treatment.

It's a fucked-up world and all I know is that it doesn't actually have to be like this. The solutions exist already - the solutions to cholera, obesity, faithfulness and irrationality all exist. But finding that path out of madness, that's the only difficult problem left to solve.

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