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#1156: On the utility of food and education in Ayiti: reply to DeGraff's recent posts (fwd)

From: Jean Poincy <caineve@idt.net>

DeGraff is running out of steam. From his latest posts, I don't know
what direction he is steering his wheel to. However, I do notice that
his arguments take a centripetal twist to one point only: 


	In making too unecessary arguments to show this point, he goes astray
and misses the whole idea being debated. At any rate, his points do show
that he does not know well the "true reality" of Ayiti and this confirms
my point that linguistic studies, not his in particular, of the Ayitian
language are too detached from the Ayitian reality.

	No one seems to disclaim the importance of the native language in the
development of the country and can argue against that. Greg Chamberlain
had to restate this point to him and I had to do it too, earlier.
However, he keeps falling in the same trap by not being able to grasp
the socio-economic reality (although he claims to understand it quite
well as a linguist) which makes Ayitians behave the way they do toward
both languages. This issue is not of an urgent nature now to rid the
people of poverty.  

	In regards to the first aspect, I expanded enough on it on previous
posts to make myself understood and I wish not to touch on it again for
the sake of watching my "lengthy-style". However, the socio-economic
aspect is where I will strecth a bit in order to bring DeGraff back on

	One basic thing to understand about society as a whole: every
undertaking is a process which involves well coordinated sequential
steps to achieve the goal the society is set for. Economic survival,
meaning being able to consume basic things, food in the first rank, to
sustain life is what brought all men together through cooperation in
association and to form society ultimately. Feeding oneself has been the
essence of "work" and is still always. Now, having a better control on
nature to produce food, men have the time to seek for leisure, luxury
and education.

	Early on, they spent most of their time on food searching, they were
basically living for food, they fought, mistreated and killed each other
for only one thing, food. Not too far from us, if we flip back our
contemporary world history book we will see that people, who have been
in dire poverty, have sought for food first. That was one of the main
causes of social frictions leading to internal revolution and wars among
nations. If feeding remains the center of men daily activities, at which
point a society is willing to allocate significant amount of resources
to one need or another? 

	I am sure criteria will be set to determine which one gets the
priority. In a well structured society, passion put aside, the most
urgent one will have a preferred status, regardless the way everyone
feels about it. If for societies, who have gone over the primary stage
of feeding their people, other things like leisure or education are
considered, in matters pertaining to Ayiti, the feeding line is far to
be touched needless to talk about crossing it; hence, food must be
placed first. If we follow the logic of a process, first thing will be

	This is to tell DeGraff that noone is denying the work that must be
done for the language and I am sure that most of us think it's a must.
However, from a pratical vantage point, greater resources should be
devoted to what is of the most urgent. Feeding the people. 

	 Our pediatricians and psychologists keep reminding us of the
importance to feed our children properly in their early age when their
brain is still developing. Most of us can hardly sustain a few days of
fast and those who go a long while in hunger strike have their mental
and physical capabilities severely reduced. Any well nourished
individual who is very alert can suffer serious damages, if in a sudden
diet s/he lacks proteins and vitamins needed to function intellectually
on a daily basis. 

	That is a case probably for people who have a choice; in regards to
Ayiti, Ayitians go on hunger strike for long period by default or
involuntarily. Every other things they engage in depend on the
possibility to feed themselves. Almost the entire population can't spare
a minute to think of other things but food. If they do, food is still in
the background. Can anyone tell me with such a psychological state how
one is up to learnig whatsoever? Learning can be difficult, even if they
try the malnutrition state they are subjected to will prevent them from
absorbing the knowledge being conveyed. What's the point of teaching if
what is taught can't be comprehended, assimilated nor retained? 

	The point being made is what is the most important step to take first
in alleviating the poor malnourished Ayitians. Food vs. Education which
one is first. Considering these two choices on their utility or
preference curve, food would have a much greater utility than education.
A state of thing that would indicate their preference for food over
education. Can't they have both simultaneously? Yes they can, but with
the fact that a greater resource allocation in one would mean a lesser
resource for the other or none at all. The amount of resources to each
will depend on the immediacy of each. The farther the benefits of one
the less it is wanted, the closer the benefit of another the more it is
wanted over the other.

	In the case of Ayiti, since feeding the people is more immediate on the
utility scale, and taking in consideration the lack of resources,
whatever is available should be devoted to feeding the people rather
than education or making the language ready for future education. The
prospect is worst about education because it is for a distant future and
is no where of bringing some satisfaction to what is needed now,
overcoming involuntary hunger strike. In sum, anyone in his/her right
mind would never elect education as the recepient, along with all the
means necessary to make it expedient in developing the society. This is
the point being made by Chamberlain and others and it is a pragmatic
one. I hope I clarify it better this time and it can even be shown

	Let's comme down to earth now and forgime me if I become too long in
evoking this following anectode which depicts the true reality of Ayiti.
If one takes a stroll down the main avenues of Port-au-Prince, s/he will
notice a bunch of kids in the age range of 9 to 16 (not considering
those above 16) lined up as shoe shiners. Most of them if not all come
from Kenskoff. 

	One day one was called on for a job. A not-sober individual would be
able to see that is a very young kid who might not really know how to
shine shoes. He was asked for his age, where he came from and why he was
doing what he was doing. According to his reply, it turns out that he
was 10, from kenskoff, coming to Port-au-Prince to earn at least 25
gourdes so he could go back to school in Kenskoff. Out of pity he was
given 50 gourdes for the job he could not do well and was taught how to
do by the person who was paying him 50 gourdes, whereas a normal shine
costs only 3 gourdes. 

	Happy, he said: "I will work for a couple of days just enough to make
some money and buy some clothes and shoes." When he was pressured by the
person to return to school right away, his explanation that if he did he
would not make enough money to buy these necessities, the lack of which
would subject him to criticism for coming back dressed just the way he
left. To him what was the point to come to Port-au-Prince in the first
place if he could not get all that he set out to get in the first place.
One would say that getting those necessities would be prior to schools.

	The remainder of the story tells us these necessities come second after
ensuring his economic means for food. Within a week, the person met the
same kid, happy with his new outfit and shoes, along with 7 others
around the same age doing shoe shining. He was called and reminded that
he was suppose to be in school in Kenskoff and was aked to explain what
he was still doing in P-au-Pce. His answer was that his mother who came
along with him to walk the streets of Port-au-Prince to sell water,
urged him to buy cattles with the 50 gourdes and go back to
Port-au-Prince to earn more money; for the school thing is not important
now. Hopefully, he will be able to find a better school in

	 He was urged to go and call the mother to justify his story;
otherwise, he would have to payback the money, as a form of pressure of
course. With no resistance, he went and sought for her mother who
explained the situation in the same fashion as the kid did. (end of the

	This is to show that people DeGraff is claming to be adamantly for the
language is in a different world and don't worry at all about anything
else but the means to ensure their economic well-being or that of their
stomach. By becoming too zealous about the creolization of Ayitian,
linguists fail to see the practicality of the language, its economic use
in helping the people get out of poverty and how the people relate to
language or education when considering their abdominal pain. 

	For the past year, I have been begging DeGraff to show me the link of
his linguistic reasoning to the economic means of the people (through
education), he has never dignified it with an answer; of course he went
about all the technicalities of linguistic like they are the links, but
to never touch on the real question. 

	By the way, one can listen to Bell's plea to free himself or herself
from the fear to be killed in Ayiti, go and take a deep look to really
know what's going on; talk to the people, listen to them, observe their
interactions when they are speaking with each other, you will discover
the truth for yourself and will realize that DeGraff's argument is the
echo from the "fantasy of the linguistic world", a world of their own. 

	As you are there folks don't forget to take a stroll nearby the movie
theaters and champs-de-mars to observe the car wash kids. Ask yourself
this question (or ask one of them): would these kids prefer food or a
good education in any language as s/he wishes. 1) they have no idea of
the debates being taken place about the language 2) they don't care and
3) yes the hard truth is they are striving to learn English. And to
repeat Chamberlain the language issue is in fact the "fantasy" of some
in the "upper-class". There is no doubt about it.  

	To end my "scripture", I am refering to the anecdote (a true story as a
matter of fact). Well! I found nothing wrong with the attitude of both
the kid and his mom. It is human nature to think of their survival first
rather than anything else. Where their survival means is scarce,
everything else becomes a luxury so it goes for the perfection of the
Ayitian language and education. They both find a greater utility in
securing their economic means. For no matter how intense or coercive an
education program would be through "Ayitianization", it will never work
as long as the people will have difficulty to find food to eat. 

Ayiti has lived, lives and will live