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#4001: From Zenglendo to Chime: Each Wave of Violence Brings its Own Lexicon (fwd)
From: Rosann Clements <email@example.com>
>From Zenglendo to Chime: Each Wave of Violence Brings its Own Lexicon
By Chris Chapman
Haitian Times Staff
Members of Ary Bordes family attended the funeral of the slain physician at
the Sacred Heart Church . Dr. Bordes was shot down in broad daylight as he
sat in his car.
PORT-AU-PRINCE - Chime, zenglendo, dechoukaj, atoufe, kraze brize. Many of
these words are familiar. A few are from the recent past and some are new or
have been given a new meaning. If Creole is a living language which has
always spawned a wealth of new words to describe new developments, one could
be forgiven for thinking that the present-day reality for Haitians is
characterized by violence. Often, one word or phrase seems to seize the
popular imagination and reflect a particular trend or perception.
In the mid-1990's, the phrase was gran manje (big eaters). It was used to
describe anyone who 'the people' perceive to have got rich at their expense,
whether it be the bourgeois business class or fat cat politicians.
Now, the word that catches the zeitgeist is chime. The origin of the word
chime is disputed. Some look back to a Creole expression, 'm nan chime',
meaning I'm angry. Others link it to the French chimere, meaning an illusion
or fanciful idea. In any case, the consensus is that the chime are people
who use violence to create destruction and confusion.
A sign of changing times - a shift in people's concerns from the economy to
security. "Society creates a series of language elements that are
appropriate to a particular situation," said Jacques Juvigny, a trainer in
the non-violent resolution of conflicts. "Now society is attaching
importance to violence, it is obligated to create a number of words for it."
Violence has seeped into many aspects of public discourse, even - or
especially - the language of politicians. Violence does not have to be
physical. For instance, to falsely accuse someone of a criminal act - or
accuse them without proof - is an act of violence. And while many
accusations have been made during the present election campaign, little
proof has been presented. Some don't hesitate to incite to physical
violence. Former Port-au-Prince Mayor Evans Paul, may now regret his
outburst against the chime, when he urged car drivers to "drive your cars
into the chime", if they saw one of their number being attacked.
The Lavalas Family party, accused many times over of fomenting violence to
further its political aims - again with little in the way of proof being
presented - has fought back, denouncing "verbal violence" which it believes
leads all to easily to physical violence. Independent senate candidate and
former deputy Alix Fils Aim? recently resumed the problems and conflicts
marring the run-up to elections in an interview on national television and
came to a pessimistic conclusion. "If we see that this is how things are,
maybe it would be better for us to stop now, wage war with each other, and
then see how things are afterwards," Fils-Aim? said. If it is true that
language reflects society, then maybe Haiti is not ready for democracy, and,
as Fils Aim? seems to suggest, should live out a violent phase that may be
Former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, William B. Jones, in an article in the L.A.
Times, pointed out that, after years of U.S. policy aimed at "restoring
democracy", "the government is paralyzed and the country is closed to
anarchy". Jones suggests leaving Haitians to find their own solutions to
their problems, "arrived at in the context of their culture", solutions
which "may not resemble democracy as we know it." Anyone familiar with rural
life in Haiti knows that there are specific methods for resolving conflicts,
which was developed in response to a situation where the state has turned
its back on the 'peyi andey?' (the country outside). The system of referring
a conflict to a well-respected figure in the community, or a notable, is an
The system, which is inherited from Africa, is some way from democracy
because the notable is not elected. But it is also far from being violent.
Indeed it is much less so than the judicial system, enforced by armed
officers, with its threat of force to impose sentences including the
privation of liberty. This is one of the reasons that the judicial system is
referred to only in the last resort in Haiti. In the city, conflicts are
often resolved in other ways.
A thief, caught by an angry crowd, is often lynched on the spot. Haitians
will often report that violence, including murder, may be used to gain
revenge or simply express jealousy. In recent years, murders of prominent
citizens and people working ostensibly for the common good such as police
officers, have created a feeling that an uncontrollable wave of violence -
which has often seemed random and motiveless - is engulfing the country,
particularly in Port-au-Prince. In three consecutive days a priest, Lagneau
Belot; a police officer from the riot control unit, Alexandre Michelange,
and the renowned doctor Ary Bordes met violent deaths in the capital.
All of these deaths caused great consternation. Dr Bordes, who was 74 when
he was killed, was a former Minister of Health who gained renown and respect
for authoring several books on medicine, including teaching manuals and for
his work in introducing family planning in Haiti. The news of his death was
met with shock and incredulity, in particular because the motive seemed
unclear. The police announced that the killers had intended to steal his car
but that raised the question as to whom would try to steal a car in the
middle of a traffic jam. Dr. Bordes' age and the fact that he was suffering
from cancer seem to rule out the possibility of his being involved in
So what are the reasons behind this increasing bloodshed? "Education has
become weakened, especially within the family," said Juvigny. "Before,
parents were strict with their children, but now, children can be
disrespectful towards their parents and teachers, or even hit them. That
used to be unthinkable." "But there are many factors which come into play,"
Juvigny continued. "Globalisation, improvements in communications, and
television all play a role. There are zenglendo (armed criminals) who have
film characters as models, like Chuck Norris." Juvigny points to cycles of
violence which seem to suggest that there is a guiding force at play. "Every
time the UN missions were due to leave the country, violence increased. Now,
we have elections, and again violence is increasing.
You have to ask yourself if it isn't intentional." But in many cases it is
difficult to identify the sector responsible. "The state may have a hand in
it, or it may be sectors from the international community." However Juvigny
points to certain elements, inherent to the state apparatus or political
parties linked to the state, which favor a situation of impunity and
confusion in which crime and random violence can flourish. Complicating the
situation even more is the existence of a mafia-like network in which people
recognize and protect each other and the appearance of a class of
influential people who are above the police and carry guns. But they are not
members of a clearly identified body or security force. Today they are
called chime. What will they be called tomorrow? No one knows.