My esteemed colleague, Gary Victor, penned a most provocative piece the other day in Le Nouvelliste, with the headline “Brains outside… Useless inside.”
The article was referring to the widely held notion that most of Haiti’s brain power reside outside of the country while those remain at home are incapable of doing much.
Of course, being an intellectual who has remained in the country, Victor takes exception to this notion. He uses as prime example to debunk this theory, the reign of Gerald Latortue from 2004 to 2006. Latortue was billed as a highly trained technocrat who would bring his expertise to Haiti and usher in a new era in governance in Haiti. But most Haitians, even Latortue admitted that things didn’t work out that way. I met Latortue recently at a meeting convened by the Southern Command to share its Haiti plans with a group of us and Latortue said that his two years a prime minister were “hell” He then concluded that he had accomplished his task: organizing elections. He was a success, albeit the bar had been moved.
I do not mean to make this about Latortue but Victor raised a good point and it should not be dismissed entirely. There are many of us living outside Haiti who are simply incompetent and there are many in Haiti who are not. Latortue was not new to Haiti, having served in other posts before his selection for the prime minister’s position. He had been working mostly with various UN organizations whose efficiency can be questioned. He was a poor choice for prime minister.
It is a fact that that too many of our best and brightest reside outside of Haiti and that’s something I’m sure Victor knows all too well. How many of his fellow scribes are still in Haiti, I ask rhetorically. For more than 10 years, Canada has been giving residency to entire families, professionals of course. It helps Quebec increases its French speaking population.
Somewhere between the Latortue debacle and the Rene Preval abomination lies a basic truth. Haiti doesn’t have the brainpower inside of the country to take it from a despair state to a decent state where the basic necessities – education, health care and housing – are guaranteed to every citizen.
So as we find us beginning to evaluate our human resources and what we need them to move forward, I believe a good assessment should be made to recruit highly competent Haitians living outside of Haiti to form a strong alliance with those likeminded individuals living in Haiti and are fighting a valiant battle against incompetence and corruption that are too much part of the status quo in Haiti.
There are too many people in Haiti like my niece who have never held a job. There are millions who are underemployed. How many Haitians in Haiti who have taken a company public? How many have run a complex hospital system. How many have managed a university system. Not many on all front, if I may answer my own questions or like a Haitian would say, beat the drum and dance too.
But in North America and across the world, there are many Haitians in almost every area necessary for nation building. They don’t make much ruckus, they simply do their job and go on with their lives.
Too often people in Haiti look at some of the vocal members of Haitian communities and think that those are typical of the Diaspora. They see the brash and arrogant type with little to back it up as proof that Diaspora can’t do much better. There is a point there, too often those who are talking for as self appointed leaders have achieved few tangible things to support their talk.
And sometimes, despite years of working in the community, they are not truly bridge builders. I was deeply disappointed this week to hear that John Alexis – an organizer at SEIU 1199, the health care union with the largest Haitian membership of any syndicate, – “postponed” a conference of Haitian leaders that was to take place this weekend. The idea was to pull together people from all disciplines and hash out an agenda for the community and Haiti was commendable.
Alexis sent a message via his Facebook account saying:
“ It is with both regret and relief I bring you the unfortunate news that the International Haitian Diaspora Conference that you all have worked diligently to make happen, has been postponed until further notice.
Although we were urged to push to have the conference in time for the donor’s conference on March 31st, upon further examination, we realized the real priority is to concentrate wholly on organizing ourselves as an active body. The factors that drove this decision include, the number of other conferences occurring at this time, limited resources, and general time constraints.”
Alexis’ note to some extent support’s Victor’s point that those of us living outside Haiti do not have a monopoly on the gray matter. To not be able to pull together a conference that addresses an agenda for our community is a travesty and exposes our biggest weakness: our ability to organize and rally around a cause. I thought for sure that the destruction of Haiti would be a no brainer for us to bring us together, but it didn’t. Like the general public our attention has faded and we don’t have the stamina to go all the way.
While it’s true the Diaspora does have a disproportionate amount of professionals compared to Haiti, they both sorely lack leaders able
to rise to occasions.