Monday, January 18, 2010

Maybe I should rethink enjoying this glass of milk and pile of Oreos

At least until the geniuses at the Guardian newspaper let everyone know enough time has passed since the Haitian earthquake for everyone to not have a guilty conscience while living their lives.  See for yourself:

Cruise ships still find a Haitian berth:  Luxury liners are still docking at private beaches near Haiti's devastated earthquake zone for holidaymakers to enjoy the water

Sixty miles from Haiti's devastated earthquake zone, luxury liners dock at private beaches where passengers enjoy jetski rides, parasailing and rum cocktails delivered to their hammocks.

The Florida cruise company leases a picturesque wooded peninsula and its five pristine beaches from the government for passengers to "cut loose" with watersports, barbecues, and shopping for trinkets at a craft market before returning on board before dusk. Safety is guaranteed by armed guards at the gate.  The decision to go ahead with the visit has divided passengers. The ships carry some food aid, and the cruise line has pledged to donate all proceeds from the visit to help stricken Haitians. But many passengers will stay aboard when they dock; one said he was "sickened".

"I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue, and enjoying a cocktail while [in Port-au-Prince] there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water," one passenger wrote on the Cruise Critic internet forum.
"It was hard enough to sit and eat a picnic lunch at Labadee before the quake, knowing how many Haitians were starving," said another. "I can't imagine having to choke down a burger there now.''
So a person enjoying a jetski ride or having a bar-b-que with family and friends 60 miles away from Port-au-prince is sickening to some people, but what of a person 100 miles away, are they "sickening"?  How about 500 miles away?  Where is the line?  Is it "sickening" to attend a professional football game in New Orleans (1300 miles away)?  Or, how about attending an awards ceremony where television and movie stars pat themselves on the back, but wear ribbons while doing so (3000 miles away)?  I wish there were a way to get a hold of the philosopher kings in England and ask them for clarification. 

Well, actually, the editors do provide some clarification as to how some of the people are able to live with themselves after "sunbathing and enjoying the water" during a time of tragedy, but I had to get half-way through the story to find out the details.

The company said the question of whether to "deliver a vacation experience so close to the epicentre of an earthquake" had been subject to considerable internal debate before it decided to include Haiti in its itineraries for the coming weeks.

"In the end, Labadee is critical to Haiti's recovery; hundreds of people rely on Labadee for their livelihood," said John Weis, vice-president. "In our conversations with the UN special envoy of the government of Haiti, Leslie Voltaire, he notes that Haiti will benefit from the revenues that are generated from each call.  "We also have tremendous opportunities to use our ships as transport vessels for relief supplies and personnel to Haiti. Simply put, we cannot abandon Haiti now that they need us most."

Royal Caribbean has also pledged $1m to the relief effort and will spend part of that helping 200 Haitian crew members.  The company recently spent $55m updating Labadee. It employs 230 Haitians and the firm estimates 300 more benefit from the market. The development has been regarded as a beacon of private investment in Haiti; Bill Clinton visited in October. Some Haitians have decried the leasing of the peninsula as effective privatisation of part of the republic's coastline.
Holy crap, did I just have to put up with 8 paragraphs of the Guardian furrowing their brow in disgust at "holidaymakers" and the people who run "luxury liners" to find out that Royal Caribbean is donating $1 million dollars and are helping transport supplies to the area, not to mention continuing to support the local economy and employing hundreds of Hatians?  Seriously? 

Rather than being a bunch of sourpusses, why not flip-flop the layout of the story?  Why not lead with "Luxury liners full of holiday makers donate a million dollars and support local economy during troubled time?"  Why is it necessary to have such a condescending attitude?  What's with all the guilt?

One of the Instapundit's readers may be on to something when he postulates:  "Rich people on cruise ships give Haiti money voluntarily through evil capitalism. What they really need is handout money confiscated by force from the middle class and given through government compassion.”  In other words, this story doesn't fit their template.

But why can't it be both?  Why can't support come from tourists?  Why can't support come from money being funneled into the economy through "holidaymakers"?  Isn't right now the best time of all to vacation there, when the locals need money the most? 

It would seem to me that the tourists should not feel guilt, but rather pride, that they were able to help out in their own small way.  Sure, the cruise lines are going to catch some flack from people who feel that sending a $10 text makes them morally superior.  And sure, some people are going to project their guilt onto others because it makes them feel better.

But I say congrats and kudos to the people of Royal Caribbean and to their customers for helping out Hatians and for supporting them in their time of need.  The next time the wife and I book a cruise, we'll definitely remember Royal Caribbean, and maybe we can visit Port-au-prince, if it's okay with the people at the Guardian. 


  1. How much does it take to put on an award show for Hollywood elite and allow them to get on a pedestal and brow beat individuals into donating money to Haiti? Why not call off the show, accept your award in the privacy of your own home, and donate the cost of the ceremony to Haiti? Stop pointing your fingers at everyone else, Hollywood, and start pointing at yourself. Also, please return me to my regularly scheduled program where people can be shallow and speak of things not related to Haiti. -Rach

  2. I thought it was a dumb article when I saw it. As written, the article provides much more "play," for the publication, but it really, really misses the point.

    Rach's recommendation that the Golden Globes be cancelled with the cost of the ceremony being funneled to Haiti misses the point by as much, though. There was no earthquake in the United States, but the economy sucks here. Cancelling the Golden Globes would have meant cancelling income for hairdressers, chauffers, caterers, lighting technicians, etc. We shouldn't force these folks to miss a chance to participate in capitalism just because we are angry at actors in Hollywood.

    And, if the righteous indignation coming from pampered hollywood elitists happens to raise a few bucks for the cause in Haiti, I think that's a good thing.

  3. Ryan - Come on! It is true that the economy is not in the best shape it has been in the past, but we are definately seeing an upward rise. Additionally, this is one night. Do you honestly believe that these hairdressers, chauffers, caterers, lighting technicians, etc. put all their eggs in this Golden Globes basket? Do you think these people are like Santa Clause and only work once a year? I find that hard to believe. Additionally, if you know anything about how the "business" works, you probably know that many of these people are employed by the stars and make a plentifly amount of cash each year. Cancelling the Globes might not have been the best idea, but it was certainly worth more credit than you gave it. My point was this - stop speaking and start acting. -Rach

  4. I really like this luxury liners dock at private beaches where passengers enjoy jetski rides, parasailing and rum cocktails delivered to their hammocks.All this start again in Haiti!because how much money will you donate for Haiti?If Haiti start to stand up again than we have to help them!we have to encourage from help to start all the economy one by one!