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#1442: Labling of Haiti: Corbett comments

>From Bob Corbett

I can certainly appreciate the concerns people have with the negative
images caused by referring to Haiti as "poorest in Western hemisphere..."
yet there are a significant number of us non-Haitians on this list who
became interested in Haiti precisely because it was so poor and we hoped
to be of some positive help.

Many of us moved from those early motivations to deeper and longer-termed
relationships with the people and country, and many of us have succeeded
or failed in being of positive help.  But, it was that particular
bit of information which first attracted our attention.  

On a similar note there are many journalists on this list who now have
very broad interests in all aspects of Haitian life, contemporary and
historical, as we see from their writings on this list and in various
articles.  Yet many have admitted in posts here and there, that their
first experiences of Haiti came because of political upheavals and the
poverty connected with those upheavals and the country in general.

Soon, hopefully tonight or tomorrow, I hope to make some comments about
Tony Catanese's wonderful new book HAITIANS: MIGRATION AND DIASPORA.  In
there he has data that suggests in hard terms that indeed, Haiti is
just what that maligned phrase suggests.  Of course Haiti is an infinity 
more than just that, but, whatever the image, the claim itself is quite 
defensible as Tony's data suggests.

Most general claims are exaggerations, or only tell a part of the story,
yet not using generalizations as short cuts seems to me to also miss the
power of focus.  If we only stay in the generalizations and don't go
beyond, then grave distortions occur.  But I worry about some sort of
sanatized language that says all is the same and nothing is different, or
that only positive language is allowed, or says:  I can only talk to you 
if you'll give me 45 minutes to give you the complex version of this 
image and situate these remarks in historical context.....  I just don't 
this such a program is very practical or even desirable.  

The trick is:  how does one attract people to go beyond the
exaggerated generalizations and to care about deeper sperspectives?
That qustion seems more hopeful than holding us to silence about the very
things that drew so many of us into interest in Haiti in the first place.

Oh me, I'll catch it for this post, won't I?  

Best,  Bob Corbett