Dr Jean S Renouf
I completed my PhD ten years ago, and Afghanistan and Haiti were my two case studies.
I have travelled to and worked many times in these countries, mostly as a researcher in Afghanistan, and as an aid worker in Haiti, notably after the 2010 earthquake. I have made friends in both countries and Afghanistan remains one of the most beautiful countries I have been to.
Twenty years after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and ten years after the massive earthquake that killed approximately 200,000 Haitians, the situation in both countries is dire.
Afghanistan is now in the hands of the Taliban after a string of major strategic blunders by the US government at a time when the country’s recovery was still very fragile.
Haiti has plunged back into deep trauma and uncertainty after the president, who got too cosy with some gang leaders, was assassinated a few weeks ago and the island got struck by an earthquake this week. Now Haiti is just about to get hit by a tropical storm.
I feel pain and sorrow seeing these events unfold, and powerless about it. What is happening in Afghanistan is catastrophic and could have been avoided. The same applies to Haiti, where the post-2010 earthquake reconstruction was never completed.
I inevitably make the parallel with life in Australia too, I feel pain and sorrow – and anger – owing to the fragmentation of our communities and the incompetence of our leaders. We are going through many challenges, but still live an extraordinarily privileged life compared to the rest of the world.
How can we possibly fuck it up so badly that we in Australia feel on our knees already? Judging by the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the future spells many disasters for us (https://bit.ly/383U42i ) given that Australia is on the frontline of climate change. Will COVID-19 and petty politics really bring us down before that?
Where do we want to be in ten or 20 years? What will we look like if we don’t change course? Whether we are pro-vax or anti-vax, pro-mask or anti-mask, it is our own responsibility to not turn on each other. Let’s stop the blame-game and focus on our respective needs and gifts. Our future is written in the choices we make now.
We have so much capacity to turn the odds into opportunities. This is history unfolding. We’re living through times that our children will study in history books. They will look at our behaviour and ask; If they knew, why didn’t they act? We’d better have good answers.