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#1223: pale franse pa di lespri: Bellegarde-Smith comments

From: P D Bellegarde-Smith <pbs@csd.uwm.edu>

Subject: pale franse pa di lespri!

Several thoughts about the underlying issues that never do come to the
surface (consciously or subconsciously), when speaking of the Haitian vs.
the French language:
* The peasantry and the urban working class, to the extent that it desires
integration into the Haitian economy and the body politic, will want its
children to learn and know French. (Learn and know are different
processes). If, however, the desire is to create a new body politic and a
new economic system that responds to imperatives other than those of the
Haitian oligarchy and its foreign patrons, the Haitian language increases
in importance. And that is what the oligarchy (and the United States and
France) fear most. After all, Haitian history is about "marronage," so
that the powers-that-be have a "right" to be concerned. 
* In Haiti, as elsewhere in Latin America and the United States, upward
mobility does exist, but is glacial in scope. In the 1880s, in Haiti and
elsewhere, hitherto members of the middle-classes did make it to the
upper-class. Parts of my family are a case in point. That was 110 years
ago, based on economic realities of that moment, and social and
educational transformations taking place as a result of these economic
changes. If, however, one relies on "trickle down" in the economic sector,
one will have to wait a very long time indeed. The upheavals in Haiti that
lead to Dumarsais Estime and Francois Duvalier, in 1946 and 1957, were
precisely the "forcing open" of the body politic to include middle-class
elements hitherto not included. Boy, do I have stories to tell about the
opposition Duvalier faced immediately upon assuming power!!! (My family,
as other upper-class families, was in that maelstrom). There was
resistance. After all, Duvalier was a physician, yes, but middle-class! He
did'nt "look" presidential. This was said of Aristide later, in much
cruder terms: he looked exactly like a "jeran lakou." He does!
* But more importantly, as I travel Haitian provinces, I find the level of
political discourse to be quite sophisticated; the analysis of political
trends, from the part of non-literate populations, is typically better
than what I find with PhD on my university campus or on the <corbettline>.
The morale of the story? pale franse pa di lespri.