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#1829: Sunday Observer article on Haiti : Durran replies to critics

From: Mary Durran <mdurran@colba.net>

Some list members have asked what I find offensive about presenting the
unpalatable truth about Haiti in this article.  Actually, I have no problem
with the author's analysis of non-functional institutions, drugs, economic
decay and ongoing poverty.   

My reaction to the piece was a personal one, in response to some very
powerful images and metaphors Vulliamy used, which gave the piece strong
powers of suggestion.  Although I don't dispute most of the facts the
author sets out in the article,  I don't believe these images accurately
tell the whole story of Haiti.  

For example, Vulliamy chooses to present an image of  Cité Soleil: "where
children sick with boils play in the excreta that flows along open sewers".
 A revolting, sensational image insulting to the inhabitants of Cité
Soleil, presenting only one facet of the reality of living in a slum. What
about the kids who despite living in a shack on a pile of mud and garbage,
somehow manage  to be immaculately turned out for school or church ?  An
image one is more likely to see in a slum that the one offered in the

And the quote about Lavalas being like a "chopped worm crawling about
itself in pieces".  While not wishing to defend the corruption and
power-seeking of  some of the "grand mangeurs"   the image is again,  an
inaccurate and sensationalistic one  of the complexities of the Lavalas

"The nightmare of being Haitian": is just being Haitian really a nightmare?
 Perhaps life is a nightmare if one is poor and lives in a slum or an
impoverished tenement but many Haitians I know, in Haiti, are proud and
happy to be Haitian, even if they do live in "the poorest country in the
western hemisphere".  This statement encourages the victim mentality.  

Finally, why does Vulliamy go into such graphic detail over the corpse
lying in the mud with the bamboo stick up its backside?  Given the
insistence on this image, repeated at beginning and end of story, I assume
it's a metaphor for something. What is the author trying to say presenting
this disturbing image, which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the
reader?  If it's supposed to be a metaphor for the Haitian justice system,
sodomised by whoever (Haitians?  USAID?  International community?),
granted, it's dysfunctional, but I believe such crowd killings have little
to do with the functioning or non-functioning of the judicial system.   Or
is the corpse a metaphor for Haiti?  the Haitian people?  the
attachés/macoutes/thieves waiting in the wings to pillage her? 

Haiti may be in dire straits but it is not the filthy cesspit that the
author portrayed - it is a country where there is still a chink of gleaming
hope, and many Haitians are still trying to churn through the mud towards
that light at the end of the tunnel.     

Mary Durran