All human interactions are not forms of exchange. Only some are. Exchange encourages a particular way of conceiving human relations. This is because exchange implies equality, but it also implies separation. It’s precisely when the money changes hands, when the debt is cancelled, that equality is restored and both parties can walk away and have nothing further to do with each other.
Debt is what happens in between: when the two parties cannot yet walk away from each other, because they are not yet equal. But it is carried out in the shadow of eventual equality. Because achieving that equality, however, destroys the very reason for having a relationship, just about everything interesting happens in between. In fact, just about everything human happens in between—even if this means that all such human relations bear with them at least a tiny element of criminality, guilt, or shame.
Haiti, an already very poor country, was shattered by the earthquake of January 2010 centred on the capital, Port-au-Prince. In the aftermath, a rigorous economic programme was imposed by rich-world agencies and governments that took no account of Haitians’ true needs. A forensic investigation of how this blueprint has overridden the hopes of a new generation of Haitians, by Matt Kennard.