François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), the 18th century French political satirist, writer and philosopher, better known as Voltaire, died too early because Haiti’s situation would provide volumes for his works. He once penned to a friend: “Il y a un autre canaille à laquelle on sacrifie tout, et cette canaille est le peuple (There is another rabble to which one sacrifices all, and this rabble is the people). Looking at the landslide victory of Michel Martelly in March 20th run-off in Haiti, one has reason to mention that quote seeing that the improbable Haitian president will, in all probability, betray the aspirations of the unfortunate mob that elected him. It is to be expected that history will ultimately hold these people responsible for their torments, but will that assessment be the correct one?
Historically, rabble-rousers sometimes manage to bring the excluded into a trance from which there are no other alternatives, except that Michel Martelly, as many wrongly believed, is no rabble-rouser since he does not possess any great oratorical skill that would qualify him as such. The political class and the educated, having forfeited their obligations to the common good, must ultimately be held responsible for what is shaping up to be a depressing chapter in Haitian history given that Martelly’s government is ideologically dedicated to advancing the causes of the elite and international finance. In fairness to Martelly, a political program is a game of dice; whatever he has in store for Haiti may actually work but conventional wisdom holds that the odds are definitely against it. More importantly, I’ve talked to many educated Haitians whose understanding of the basic facts is so deficient that I concluded that may be, yes, may be, the uneducated and emotional masses of Haiti possess better judging abilities.
Discussing Haiti’s Petrocaribe deal with Venezuela in which the former would pay 60% of the cost up front and the rest of the payment deferred for 25 years at 1% interest, a compatriot claiming to work in a managerial position for the UN and had resided in the African nation of Togo came up with the most absurd explanation on the matter one could imagine. Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. The man nonchalantly said that the Petrocaribe oil in question belongs to Haiti and that Venezuela is not doing Haitians any favor. Asked to elaborate, he went on with a pseudo-scientific and mind-boggling explanation of Venezuela sharing the same continental plate with Haiti, a nonsensical comment that nonetheless won a few converts within the group. The truth is: Haiti is located at the northern edge of the Caribbean plate and nowhere near the South American plate upon which sits Venezuela. Being a pastor, the man probably had that revelation from God Himself or as a UN bureaucrat he was prepped into propagating this absurdity while being professorial and dismissive of opposite views.
Not surprisingly, the reverend pastor/UN bureaucrat’s diatribe did not end with the Petrocaribe deal. He vehemently advocated the reconstruction of the defunct Haitian Armed Forces (F.A.d’H) on the ground that it is an integral part of any modern state. When pressed about the financial burden that such course would impose on Haiti, a country in dire need of everything else, he responded that the budget allocated by the UN for the MINUSTAH would fund that army. It is a win-win situation, he further claimed, since we (Haitians) would have an indigenous army instead of foreign troops on our soil. Sadly, the pastor/UN bureaucrat’s view on financing the Haitian army, which the current government had pledged to restore, is insidious among a cross section of the Diaspora, which fancies itself as the white knight that would extricate Haiti from its unenviable situation, leaving one with a foreboding sense that our beloved Haiti is in fact doomed.
It was also Voltaire who wrote “As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.” In Haiti’s situation these absurdities being: Jean Bertrand Aristide wasted a historic opportunity to unite the country; restoring the Haitian army will bring stability, and the mother of them all is the pervasive belief that the international community is there to help. The facts are: Haiti’s privileged classes did not subscribe to a post-Duvalier restructuring of Haitian society; the F.A. d’H was an impediment to Haiti’s economic and political development (it consumed 40% of the country’s budget and was an insurance policy for the elite and international finance against popular uprisings), and the occupation of Haiti has more to do with geopolitics than altruism. The indiscriminate slaughter of thousands of Haitians under successive military regimes (1986-94), the Boniface-Latortue regime (2004-06) and MINUSTAH (2004-?) exemplifies Voltaire’s quote.
“It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong” also wrote Voltaire. Despite the Wikileaks cables, the above-mentioned absurdities endure and have become an integral part of the psyche of many Haitians, particularly the educated. May be, these Haitians have consciously decided that absorbing absurdities goes in hand with self-preservation, which could explain their willful ignorance of the reality. This attitude speaks volumes about what our ancestors had to overcome in dealing with their internal enemies (André Rigaud and his acolytes, 1793-1800) before their epic victory over slavery on November 18th 1803. With these defeatists and collaborators in our midst, Haiti’s struggle to recover its dignity and sovereignty is far more complicated than one thinks.
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