For most Haitians, one of the hardest things to come to terms with is the current decrepit state of the Republic of Haiti. The frustration seems to be even sharper for a member of the Diaspora or any Haitian who's had the luxury of visiting countries such as France or the good old U.S of A. I have shared this frustration for what feels like a lifetime although I've never left the island. Why can't we do better? Why is everything run like a circus? Why is mediocrity the norm? Why are we living like animals? Why can't we even realize that? These are the thoughts that countless times put me to sleep, kept me or woke me up at night. During the day, like a farm animal, I was fed the same propaganda my father and my grandfather before him were fed: "the problem? it's the whites! It's the rich! It's the voodooists! It's the poor! It's the Catholics! It's the international community! It's Haitians! But your generation will make a difference and one day Haiti will be among the great nations". And for a long while... I was naive enough to believe that. But it is this false hope that brought us this "n ap gade pou n wè" mentality. Expecting things will get fixed miraculously. We are the first independent black nation, cursed to forever wait for good days to return. We have lost our godlike ability to make days ourselves.
But this regurgitation of manje dòmi isn't the only tool that was used to mislead me. The world, whenever it feels like stroking our ego, which turns out to be quite often, only needs to use one word: Resilience. And again, I fell for it, like all Haitians I felt proud of my ability to take shit, to have shit under my feet, sometimes to have my head under feet smeared with shit and still survive. I was taught it is a sign of strength, that there is glory in it because apparently shit is supposed to kill. This abuse of resilience is what brought us this "pito nou lèd nou la" mentality. We are slaves to these ways of thinking and we have become a people devoid of any sense of self worth. But we are so good at trying to make the shit smell good. Only few Haitians will tell you there’s something wrong with life in Haiti. Despite living in two square meter sheet metal houses, we sleep. Every day we wake up and despite our incredulity, we pray. Despite earning nickels, we spend dimes. Despite being packed like animals in public transport, we enjoy it. Despite our disdain for democracy, we organize elections. Despite our basic needs being unfulfilled, we dance. Despite cries and deaths of our brothers and sisters, we laugh. Yes... We've a special kind of resilience. The kind that turns trash into floral embellishments, malice into a quality and mental disorders into the norm. Everything is perpetually pa pi mal in Haiti.
I am grown now, a man. Fairy tales, unless gorgeously illustrated by Chevelin Illustration, mean nothing to me. I can see through propaganda and recognize when a first world country is patronizing me. I am so demanding that even my closest friends tell me I’m never satisfied. Yes, I’d wear this shoe even if didn't fit. I hate with a passion. I love too much to not hate. Finding this newfound take on life wasn't easy though, I had to basically become smarter and wiser than I ever thought I could. It took me the internet to come across concepts such as "Respect for human dignity" and "freedom of speech" to realize we were living like animals. I had to co found integrAction to learn the word "sustainability" and its value and to realize Haiti as a State has weak or nonexistent institutions. It took Stéphane Hessel for me to learn that outrage needs to be acted upon. It took me the book Anti fragile, to understand that resilience should be a bridge and not a city. Because as the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb states: "Antifragility is beyond resilience. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
I had to grow a lot before I could feel this profound disdain for everything puerile. I had to grow a lot before I could admit to myself that Haiti is not a country, just a land with people on it. She is not a virgin like our power-horny politicians always propose, she is an infant suffering from stunted and crooked growth. The worst part is it's been so long since her birth, that we are convinced of a maturity that unfortunately is nothing but an illusion. Out of roughly 200 years of history, we've only had, and I'm being generous, approximately ten years of sustainable growth. Am I exaggerating? If you take away foreign aid, the involvement of the Church in education and the personal ambitions of a few businessmen what are we left with?
I am so demanding because I see clearly now. If the hibiscus represents Haiti, the image that should be used is that of an immature flower in partial bloom, not a full blown splendid flower because that is not what we are. Until government institutions have formalized structure and job descriptions, until our schools and universities properly educate good citizens to fill these positions, until it's not a matter of who is in charge but instead what needs to be done, we will not be a country. I have swallowed enough sugar coated shit and I'm tired of being resilient.
So do I hate Haiti now? Is it time for me to leave this sinking piece of wood that I once thought was a ship? A man of long term relationships, I always believed truth brings freedom and closeness whereas lies and sugar coating leads to separation and a dysfunctional relationship. I wouldn't wish my contact lenses on everyone because not everybody can or should have to handle how I see things but for everyone who wants to help build Haiti, this reality check is my prescription. I know for instance that my generation will not save Haiti. But the decisions I make for myself and my future family will determine whether or not it will be up to my children or my grandchildren. Can we do that? Replace false hope with realness? Replace wishful thinking with proper planning? Can we respect and love ourselves just enough to feel shame and outrage? Can we renew our vows with values? I will be more demanding with myself than everything else. Can you be demanding with yourself? Because as Jean Max Bellerive, the former president of CIRH (Commission Intérimaire pour la Reconstruction d’Haïti) said before it lamentably failed: "we have no right to fail".
To listen to the audio version (the spoken word), click on the link below:
Haiti: Puer Aeternus?