Caribbean Project: Review: One Island, Two Peoples, Two Histories

Jared Diamond on the divergence of Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Jared Diamond on the divergence of Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Haiti

In racialist circles, Jared Diamond is known for his bestselling 1999 book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies which attempts to explain the rise of Europe and the stagnation of black Africa through environmental determinism.

Until recently, I had never bothered to crack open Diamond’s 2005 book, Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or SucceedI checked out this book from the library because I wanted to read the chapter about Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Needless to say, it was not what I was expecting in light of my experience with Guns, Germs, and Steel. Instead of making a fresh disingenuous argument that Haiti had failed for environmental reasons, Diamond makes an intelligent argument that Haitians chose to destroy their environment while the Dominican Republic chose a more sustainable course.

Everyone here should be familiar by now with this infamous image of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic:

The border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

The border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

This key passage in Collapse shows that Diamond has read deep into the economic history of Haiti and has arrived at the right conclusion:

“Not surprisingly, French Hispanolia’s former slaves who renamed their country Haiti (the original Taino Indian name for the island), killed many of Haiti’s whites, destroyed the plantations and their infrastructure to make it impossible to rebuild the plantation slave system, and divided the plantations into small family farms. While that was what the former slaves wanted for themselves as individuals, it proved in the long run disastrous for Haiti’s agricultural productivity, exports, and economy when the farmers received little help from subsequent Haitian governments in their efforts to develop cash crops. Haiti also lost human resources with the killing of much of its white population and the emigration of the remainder.” (Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed, p.335)

Freedom triumphed.

The only quibble that I have here is that the plantation complex, or at least a significant part of it, survived the wars of the Haitian Revolution. Haiti’s earliest rulers – Toussaint L’ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe, Alexandre Pétion, and Jean-Pierre Boyer – all tried and failed to revive it.

The death blow didn’t come until Alexandre Pétion’s 1809 land redistribution in the southern Republic of Haiti. In 1809, Haiti was an underpopulated country with an abundance of land. By allowing the former slaves to escape from the plantations and squat or purchase their own small plots, Pétion set in motion the fragmentation of the plantations and the irreversible avalanche that eventually transformed Haiti into a society of peasants engaged in primitive subsistence agriculture.

Ever hear the lament that US blacks never got their 40 acres and a mule after the abolition of slavery? In the early nineteenth century, Haitians could buy so much cheap prime agricultural land that they didn’t know what to do with it.

More than any other event in Haitian history, it was the 1809 land redistribution that set in motion the Malthusian catastrophe. Because of the “legacy of freedom,” the land became more fragmented into small plots and more exhausted by primitive agricultural techniques than anywhere else in the Caribbean or Latin America. It is no exaggeration to say that Haitians were living out the “Haitian Dream.”

Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century (1875 to 1900), Haitians were able to get along tolerably well in their peasant society. Unlike the Dominicans, they abjured export based capital intensive agriculture, and chose to be poor, idle, and happy. As the population grew while the quality and availability of land declined though, this way of life ran into trouble and became unsustainable.

See, Haiti is not like the United States. There was no equivalent of the Mississippi Valley or the American West to serve as a nearly inexhaustible outlet for yeoman farmers. The only place left for Haitian peasants to go to preserve their lifestyle was to expand up the mountains (which cover 3/4ths of the country) where they chopped down their coffee trees to grow food crops on ever more marginal plots of land.

In order to produce energy for cooking and heat, Haitian peasants have traditionally chopped down trees to produce charcoal. Like the United States, the Dominicans solved this problem by joining the 20th century through importing natural gas and building hydroelectric dams to produce electricity:

“Because the Dominican Republic retained much forest cover and began to industrialize, the Trujillo regime initially planned, and the regimes of Balaguer and subsequent presidents constructed, dams to generate electricity. Balaguer launched a crash program to spare forest use for fuel by instead importing propane and liquefied natural gas. But Haiti’s poverty forced its people to remain dependent on forest-derived charcoal from fuel, thereby accelerating the destruction of its last remaining forests.” (Diamond, p.341)

Jared Diamond is careful to denounce Rafael “El Jefe” Trujillo and Joaquín Balaguer as “evil dictators,” but he can’t help but observe that it was their policies, unlike the Duvaliers, especially the aggressive environmentalism of Balaguer, which was responsible for the economic divergence of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In fact, he considers the possibility that Balaguer’s anti-Haitian racism might have inspired his efforts to conserve the environment on the Dominican side of Hispanolia.

In his bestselling book “The Upside Down Island,” President Joaquín Balaguer makes a revealing comment:

“… the negro, abandoned to his instincts, and without the restraint on reproduction that a relatively high level of living imposes on all countries, multiplies himself with a speed similar to that of vegetable species.” (Balaguer. The Upside Down Island, p. 36)

Surely, the mystery of why there are so many Dominican environmentalists has a lot to do with living side by side with the example set by Haitians.

Throughout its history, the Dominican Republic has been reflexively anti-Haitian: Haiti rejected plantation agriculture, the Dominican Republic embraced it; Haiti rejected European capital and immigrants, the Dominican Republic embraced both; Haitians identify with Africa, the Dominicans identify with Europe; the Haitians destroyed their environment, the Dominicans conserved their own.

In Collapse, Jared Diamond unconsciously echoes the observations of nineteenth and early twentieth century racialists like Hesketh Prichard by invoking the “lack of capacity” of Haitians to administer foreign aid effectively:

“If one looks instead to the outside world to help through governmental foreign aid, NGO initiatives, or private efforts, Haiti even lacks the capacity to utilize outside assistance effectively. For instance, the USAID program has put money into Haiti at seven times the rate at which it has put money into the Dominican Republic, but the results in Haiti have still been much more meager, because of the country’s deficiency in people and organizations of its own that could utilize the aid.” (Diamond, p.354)

The phrase “lack of capacity” is the common thread that runs through Haitian history.

In 2014, Haiti “lacks the capacity” to administer foreign aid, respond to natural disasters, repel foreign invaders, govern itself, feed itself, develop its own resources, educate its own citizens, and maintain even a rudimentary public infrastructure – the history of the ‘Black Republic’ since independence is one long retrograde motion from the pinnacle of wealth and civilization into a savage ‘Lord of the Flies’ existence.

Far from the legend of a desire to exploit the fabulous riches of Haiti, US foreign policy toward the ‘Black Republic’ since the time of Theodore Roosevelt has been based on the threat to US interests posed by its chronic poverty, weakness, and instability combined with its geographic proximity to the United States.

Haiti is a failed state. Unlike the Dominican Republic, it collapsed because of the actions of Haitians. Even Jared Diamond agrees.

This entry was posted in Books, Haiti, History, Negroes, Race Realism, Race Relations, Racism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Caribbean Project: Review: One Island, Two Peoples, Two Histories

  1. Bruce says:

    Very good article which strikes fear into anyone living in Africa, we see the same model in Zimbabwe and beginning in South Africa, it will take decades but the result for Africa will be the same, the African renaissance is a pipe dream and the South African rainbow nation is another Liberal, progressive unachievable dream propagated by altruistic Europeans with a massive guilt complex

  2. Thorfinnsson says:

    I believe Jared Diamond is a closeted race realist.

    His original background is in physiology, after which he branched out into environmental science , geography, and anthropology.

    Prior to writing Guns, Germs, and Steel, his most famous popular work was The Third Chimpanzee, a book about how natural selection came to favor mankind as the ultimate animal.

    Most of the environmental determinist arguments in Guns, Germs, and Steel also lend themselves to HBD arguments when taken to their logical solution. Diamond is far too aware of natural selection and how geography influences it not to grasp the obvious truth. His writing about how New Guineans may be intellectually superior to whites is obviously tongue-in-cheek, and currently he is one of the sharpest academic critics of Daren Acemoglu.

    Diamond himself states he wrote Guns, Germs, and Steel to gain sufficient fame and acclaim in order for the book Collapse to receive a popular audience. He stated that he was concerned about the future of the world as a result of becoming a father.

    I would not be surprised if Diamond speaks openly about HBD in the future and sees himself Watsoned as a result.

  3. Captain John Charity Spring MA says:

    Diamond is a Jew. It’s one rule for his own kind, quite another for you pal.

  4. NYYankees says:

    I have this knack for opening a book right to the page that can summarize what would otherwise take 200+ pages of blabbery to communicate. I did this with Guns, Germs…but only remember now that the basic premise was, evolution, particularly cultural, isn’t linear. This assertion formed the foundation of most of the evolution I studied in college. So, native americans, for eg, aren’t all violent or peace and nature-loving; significantly ‘culturally diverse’ tribes co-existed in fairly close proximity to one another. That was Anthropology 101 at the average american university in the ‘post-structuralist’ era.

    Was I right when I read that on the 1-2 pages in Guns? The author contends that the convergence of factors which caused europeans to create guns was perhaps not fully random, but the zeitgeist itself, like a random spark, was?

    Who has a better explanation?

  5. peppermint says:

    In 2014, Haiti “lacks the capacity” to… repel foreign invaders

    …so why hasn’t any enterprising gang of pirates taken over? Not even the Dominican Republic quietly assuming administration?

    Because there’s already a gang of pirates with a decree that things continue to play out exactly as if the modern world did not exist, as a giant open-air anthropology experiment – the International Community.

    The International Community abandons regions to war and poverty everywhere, but at least the people are free, so they have that going for them.

  6. panjoomby says:

    i hope you folks are right about Diamond, b/c in “guns, germs, and steel” (pp 19-21) he
    1) dismisses a century of consistently replicated research as “wrong” & “racist”
    2) disparages the intent of excellent researchers as evil & loathsome
    3) promotes his own subjective opinion over a century’s worth of indisputable psychometrics & intelligence research (tho he is no expert in this area, he holds his opinion as far more correct than consistently reproduceable empirical findings).
    4) without empirical evidence, states “in mental ability new guineans are probably genetically superior to westerners”
    5) “natural selection promoting genes for intelligence has probably been far more ruthless in new guinea…” if this is satire, he is no clever satirist. I will try to read his book again, but as a former psychometric researcher, he makes me want to throw up.

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