Letters to the Editor

Did we really win?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

In early January we have two celebrations to take note of. One is the treaty that the Maroons signed with the British, and the other is the independence of Haiti. Both are seen as victories for us. However, did we really win in those cases?

The treaty that the Maroons celebrate every year was supposed to be for the "victory" that they gained over the British. I am still puzzled as to how anyone can call this a victory for us.

Realising that they could not defeat the Maroons militarily, the British did the next best thing in pursuit of their objectives. They arranged to give the Maroons Indian-like reservations with some autonomy. The British had three primary objectives: stability for Jamaica, the Maroons to be subdued and, most importantly, the island to be kept in the empire.

The British achieved all of these objectives with the treaty. Further, they got more. In exchange for peace, the Maroons agreed to help maintain the slave system on the island.

Then there is the Haitian Revolution. This is celebrated by us black people as the military defeat that our ancestors inflicted on France over 200 years ago. However, this isn't really so.

The Haitians were determined to have a country that was free of French and European control — and slavery. They wanted a prosperous Haiti. The French, on the other hand, were determined to have what the Haitians got — if not Haiti, then their wealth.

Having failed to get what they wanted by military means, the French (and their European allies) did the next best thing — they "obliged" Haiti to pay all they had.

I am not sure how the revolution can be seen as a Haitian victory. The French gave the Haitians a choice — either they didn't hand over their wealth and be locked out of the world economy, keeping their freedom, dignity and perhaps remaining poor; or hand over their wealth and dignity and thus become poor. Of course, the Haitians chose the later. Some victory.

We celebrate the "victory" of the Maroons, but this is a great sham. The British succeeded in keeping the island in the empire and the Maroons subservient. All they got was a few hundred acres of land. We celebrate the victory of the Haitians. However, as I see it, the French succeeded in taking what the Haitians had. Who were the true victors and the true vanquished in these cases?

We fail to understand history when we continue to fool ourselves and celebrate these "victories". The Europeans knew that wars don't have to be won by force of arms alone. Sometimes brains work better than bullets.

Michael A Dingwall






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