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Saturday, January 16

Haiti and The Tale of Mr Gurdjieff and the Three Disciples (UPDATED)

One day, while George Gurdjieff was taking a stroll in the company of three disciples, his walking cane slipped from his hand. One disciple was busy with his thoughts and didn't see what happened. Another disciple saw the cane fall and wondered whether he should pick it up or watch for a sign that the dropped cane was a test or teaching. The third disciple saw the cane fall, picked it up, and handed it back to Gurdjieff.

Excluding Haiti there are 192 societies that are widely recognized as sovereign nations; as of this hour 89 of these have mustered a response to Haiti's disaster. Drilling down into the details provided by Wikipedia and other news sources:

-- Ghana sent a letter of condolence to Haiti.
-- Rwanda committed US$100,000 (56 million Rwandan Francs).
-- Morocco released US$1 million in emergency humanitarian aid.
-- Silence from Libya, not even a letter of condolence.

-- Silence from South Africa's govenment, one of the largest recipients of humanitarian aid since the end of apartheid rule -- although a private charity is sending up to three teams of search and rescue specialists to "hopefully save some lives."

-- Silence from Kenya's government, although the Kenyan Red Cross has appealed to Kenyans for donations, to be forwarded to the International Federation of Red Cross.

-- Silence from the rest of Africa's governments; not even letters of condolence, even though the continent has probably been the world's biggest recipient of foreign aid for more than a half century. This to include Egypt, which has raked in I Don't Want To Know how much financial aid from the United States for decades.

-- Israel, which has also been a big recipient of U.S. aid but is on constant war footing, has dispatched a team of 220 doctors and professional rescue workers; two rescue planes loaded with equipment, and a field hospital including operating rooms, intensive care units, and X-ray equipment; a ZAKA team and forensic experts. And search-and-rescue team including emergency medical staff, funded by a private charity, arrived in Haiti yesterday.

-- Silence from Saudi Arabia, not even a letter of condolence.

-- Pakistan, one of the all-time biggest recipients of foreign aid, sent a letter of condolence (with a reminder that Pakistanis are serving in the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti).
-- Poverty-stricken Bangladesh sent a medical team, medicine and clothing -- oh yes, and a letter of condolence.

-- Tiny Malta (122 square miles) is managing to send blankets, canned food and drinking water.
-- Nothing from filthy rich tiny countries Brunei and Monaco; not even a letter of condolence.

-- Silence from Afghanistan and Iraq, which have been big recipients of U.S. aid in recent years. Not even a letter of condolence from either government.

-- Cuba's government, which as we all know doesn't get along with America's, gave permission to the U.S. to fly through restricted air space on medical evacuation flights from Haiti. This cuts 90 minutes from the flight from the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay.

Cuba also set up field hospitals in the 48 hours following the quake and sent a team of 30 doctors to join more than 340 medical and health personnel in Haiti at the time of the quake.

-- PRC China, although it has no official relations with Haiti's government on account of Haiti recognizing ROC (Taiwan) as the legitimate government of China, immediately sent a 60-member search and rescue team to Haiti (okay; that was partly to search for eight missing Chinese members of the U.N. peacekeeping force now presumed dead); the Chinese Red Cross is donating one million dollars in emergency aid, and China's Ministry of National Defense said Friday it would deliver emergency humanitarian aid worth $1.9 million to Haiti as part of a $4.4 million aid package.

-- The Dominican Republic, which has had awful relations with next-door neighbor Haiti since the 19th century, was the first country to give aid to Haiti and rallied the rest of the world to send help to Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. The aid from DR has been in any and every way they can think of with no time to think, and the awareness that every momemt of hestiation was costing many lives.

-- Indonesia's government, which raked in and stole and wasted untold billions in financial aid in response to the 2004 Tsunami, has announced it would send a team of 30 medical personnel including surgeons, a 10-member SAR team, and 10 electrical experts, to Haiti. The remaining 25 are "experts in construction and telecommunications." The government will also send medical supplies "weighting a total of 5 tons, another five tons of food special equipment and tools for children and babies also five tons."

-- In a move that was sure not to thrill his Leftist base and Conservative critics, U.S. President Barack Obama invited Dubya to join Slick Willy at the White House today to discuss ways they could team up to help Haiti. Obama was inspired to ask former presidents George W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton to work together because of the example set by Bush asking Clinton and his father to team up to stump for aid to Indonesia in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami.

All the above is but a sample of the interesting tales the data tell about how governments around the world have responded to one of the greatest human disasters during the past 100 years.

And the above doesn't mention that Canada and America -- the latter so deeply in debt it shouldn't give as much as penny to any country -- are carrying the lion's share of financial aid to Haiti.

Of course the United States would be considerably less in debt had it acted even a quarter century ago to stop corrupt governments from stealing large chunks of its foreign aid money.

But now is not the time for recriminations. Now is the time for new beginnings, which I mark from 1/12, the day Haiti was struck by the earthquake. The other day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised the American people that this time it would be different; she would personally oversee how the aid for Haiti was distributed and she was instituting a new system of aid oversight at USAID.

I seem to recall that an earlier administration in Haiti ripped off USAID to the tune of billions -- bad Pundita! [slapping hand] New beginnings! To return to my point I'm sure Saudi Arabia's check is in the mail; in the meantime I'm wondering if King Abdullah could tell his defense minister to root around at a few military bases? See if he can't unearth a couple boxes of bandages that could be spared? If so, kindly send them to the field hospitals in the Dominican Republic, which are overwhelmed with Haitian patients and sending out a SOS for basic medical supplies -- nothing fancy: gauze, bandages, antibiotics.

And could Prince Phillip hit Monaco's casinos this weekend with a collection plate in hand?

In the "Ask a busy person to get things done" department, I'm not going to go through a box of Kleenex over this, but considering all the aid that was poured into Rwanda and Bangladesh over the decades I'll admit to misty eyes when I read of their donations to Haiti. Both socieites had lived for generations under European colonial rule; both experienced genocide: Rawanda from internal divisions, Bangladesh when its bid for independence enraged Islamabad. Today Rwanda is today Africa's greatest success story. The country has achieved stability, economic growth (average income has tripled in the past ten years) and international integration:
The government is widely seen as one of the more efficient and honest ones in Africa. ... In 2008, Rwanda became the first country in history to elect a national legislature in which a majority of members were women.
As for the perennial hard-luck country of Bangladesh (hit with the world's worst recorded floods in 1998), it's still poor but it's also made great strides:
[...] the poverty rate has fallen by 20% since the early 1990s. [In 2005 the country was listed among the "Next Eleven" economies. Dhaka, the capital, and other urban centers have been the driving force behind this growth.
After Mr Gurdjieff regained his cane he continued walking as if nothing had happened. He didn't thank the disciple who picked up the cane for him. He never made any reference to the incident. So, two of the disciples with him on the walk that day were left to always wonder.

Yet there's really nothing to wonder about, is there? One disciple clearly thought too little about his surroundings; one calculated too much; the third had a spontaneous heart informed by common sense.

Of course it takes all kinds in this world; if the two disciples hadn't wondered, a disciple who wasn't on the walk wouldn't have heard of the incident and recorded it. And so a nifty parable wouldn't have come down to us today. Somewhere in that observation there's perhaps a moral to be applied to stingy governments, but I'd rather not try to find it just now.

Instead I'll mention this news item, in case King Abdullah likes to wait for telethons so he can top the largest donation:
Spurred by actor George Clooney and MTV, 11 broadcast and cable television networks have signed on to air a two-hour telethon Friday that will benefit the earthquake victims in Haiti.

"Hope for Haiti," presented by MTV Networks, will air commercial-free at 8 p.m. on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, BET, the CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT.

The event, which will raise money for five relief organizations working in the ravaged country, will be hosted by Clooney in Los Angeles, singer Wyclef Jean in New York and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper in Haiti.
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UPDATE Sunday January 17
This morning Wikipedia added a few more African nations to the list of governments respoinding to Haiti's crisis. See this morning's post, Haiti crisis: For crying out loud, Africa, will you start acting human?", for the additions and my comments.
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