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Hank in Miami:

In which Hank attempts (and more or less fails) to answer an old question about why Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere while its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, is fairly affluent.


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A Bunny
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Good morning, John. So, I am headed off to Miami tomorrow morning at six o'-freakin'-clock in the morning. I will be there in Miami; I will do a show first. There's only 50 tickets left and we're not selling 'em at the door, so you have to buy them online in the next 24 hours or you're done. And then, the morning after that concert I will be getting up at... really early — like, 4:00 my time — to go to Haiti. Which reminds me, because it is now two days before my trip, I need to go take my malaria medication. [package snaps open] Hopefully this will not cause, uh, dizziness or nausea or hallucinations like they say they could, 'cause that would suck. I got these things at the "travel doctor," and she said to me, "I have good news: the malaria that they have in Haiti is — is the killer strain." And of course, I'm like, "I agree with you that that is... news." But apparently that is a good thing, because the kind of malaria that kills you is also the kind of malaria that these always work against. So that's good. So John, a long, long time ago, you and I went to the Dominican Republic, and we took a tour with a microfinance organization. And you can watch that video; it's deep in the archives of Brotherhood 2.0. I will link to it at the end of this video. But the thing about it is that the Dominican Republic is, like, ten times better off than Haiti. But this is strange, because Haiti and the Dominican Republic are on the same small island, Hispaniola. People do, of course, have opinions, thoughts, ideas about this. There are three schools of thought. First, I'm gonna tell you about the one that is probably the least, uh, obvious... and that's the environment. So let's pretend like this camera battery is Hispaniola. So one-third of it would be Haiti, this third over here; and the rest of it would be the Dominican Republic. And then right here, on the border of the two, is a giant mountain range. All of the warm, wet air hits, and it lands in the Dominican Republic, and then it all falls before it gets to the top of the mountains. So it falls in the mountains and then it rolls right back down off the edge of the D.R. So what we have is a wet side and a dry side. And water is a very important ingredient for making most things... particularly for agriculture; also for other industries. This was all exacerbated by the second thing, which was colonialism. Haiti was pretty much France's biggest investment in the Western Hemisphere. They really pushed it. Whereas the Dominican Republic had about 20,000 slaves, Haiti — a third the size with less water — had 300,000. The Dominican Republic was... was owned by Spain, by the way. The agricultural policies that they put in place were really exploitative, ended in a lot of deforestation, which of course ends in more runoff, less soil, and less water retention — all bad things for agriculture. Haiti shucked its colonialism a lot sooner than most of the rest of the world. And while there was, for some time, stability in Haiti, the story of Haiti in the 20th century is one of the third problem: Really, really bad government. Military coups, civil war, war with the Dominican Republic, military occupation by the United States, dictators, military rule — every bad government situation that you could think of. The longest period of stability was under the Duvaliers, uh, first François and then his son, Jean-Claude who were, as Shakespeare would say, gigantic partially-digested lumps. Aside from their military forces killing people for political reasons, raping people for fun; they, themselves, uh, took foreign aid and, uh, all tax money and put it in their pockets. The Duvalier reign finally ended in 1986 for the same reason that all tyrannical dictatorships end: the people got too hungry. Since 1986 when the Duvalier reign ended, there have been attempts at democracy, followed by more military coups. And at this point, Haiti is still trying to figure out its democratic process and, of course, as you would expect, the people of Haiti have very little faith in that process. It is not a good situation, and I dare you to come up with a solution, because no one can. But that, of course, does not mean that we can't help people, at least in small ways. And I'm excited to be a part of that and hopefully allow you, uh, to help as well in the future. John, I'll see you on Wednesday... except that I won't. Because there's no Internet in Haiti. So I'll see you whenever I get back to the Internet. Goodbye. I won't have time to make a video on Friday, so I filmed one yesterday. It's about superhero superpowers. And John, I'm gonna need you to upload that video because clearly, not a lot of Internet in Haiti.