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#3917: On democracy and authoritarianism: Antoine offers his final thoughts (fwd)
From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>
Folks, I must regretfully withdraw from this debate on politics
as I feel sorry that I have not been able to convey my thoughts
clearly enough, not to be so easily misrepresented. I would
fearlessly debate anyone, on any topic that I truly care about,
even those who profess or exercise a much higher degree of
technical knowledge than I have. Out of such debates, I learn
a lot, and I know that I will be right some of the time, and I will
be wrong some of the time. This is true of all of us. None
among us is infallible on any topic. So my guiding principle is
always to debate in good faith until a set of ideas emerges as
the superior one, whether mine or someone else's.
However lately, I have noticed a different sort of pattern that
makes me feel too uncomfortable to continue as I have done
in the past. This debate is becoming less about differences of
opinions and more about misrepresentation of the debater's
thoughts. When this happens, no one benefits, and there is a
clear disincentive, not to say "deterrent", to continue to speak
1) I stated my ethical belief that if Aristide were directly responsible
for the pre-electoral violence (which, by most accounts, included
14 politically-motivated murders), then he would not deserve to be
the next President of Haiti and, for that matter, should not even be
in the race. Notice the CONDITIONAL CLAUSE, followed by
a second: if those accusations were groundless or the fruit of an
opposition trying at all costs to annul or invalidate the Haitian
people's rather obvious choice of Aristide, then I wished JBA a
clear and resounding electoral victory over his opponents.
This was interpreted to Poincy as follow: "It is not fair for Antoine
to ask Aristide not to run for the presidency, as he feels Aristide
is not worthy of..." (not Poincy's exact words, but you can read his
post, and judge whether I am not representing HIS thought correctly).
When I pointed to the group Poincy's "colossal, and hopefully not
malicious, misrepresentation", Poincy responded that I had at least
RAISED THE POSSIBILITY that Aristide was behind the violence.
Please note that to me, Aristide is an extraordinary and unique
person, someone who has already achieved a unique place in
Haitian History because of the leadership that he has provided in
helping Haitians rid themselves of the brutalizing Duvalierist and
military regimes that ensued, and for embodying the greatest burst
of HOPE that I have witnessed in any people on this Earth, save
maybe that of the Filipino people when they rid themselves of the
Marcos' authoritarian government, or the hope of South African
Blacks when they overthrew the system of apartheid. I have
talked of that singular moment in Haitian History many times before
on this list. But is Aristide a MAN or is he a GOD? My answer
is really quite simple: EVERYONE IS CAPABLE OF VIOLENCE.
When, as a child, I was taught the Judeo-Christian ideal "Thou
shall not kill" and similar ones about thievery and lust, it was
clearly because the wisdom of my teachers recognized in me
the potential for sin, it was never assumed that I would never
have trouble in my life staying virtuous, and therefore above
being told some basic moral expectations.
My writing lately has been focused on preventing violence to the
Haitian people, regardless of where it would come: from Fanmi
Lavalas, from OPL, from Espace de Concertation, from the former
military, etc, etc. HAITI BADLY NEEDS A BREAK FROM
THE VIOLENCE THAT IS TEARING OUR NATION APART.
ALL HAITIANS (and there is no need to except any political
leader) must be held accountable to do everything they can to
JUST STOP THE VIOLENCE, STOP THE KILLINGS.
I would say it again, and again, and again, regardless of whom
might feel offended by my expectations or my expression of such.
But you may just be successful in shutting me up, by continuing
to distort what I say.
2) On authoritarianism, Poincy writes:
"If Antoine believes that everything boils down to semantics, we are
getting somewhere in understanding the essence of authoritarian
No, Poincy, I do NOT believe that the difference between a strong
democratic form of government is only a matter of semantics. I said
and I quote: "So, judging from Poincy and Mark's replies, it would
seem to all come down to a matter of semantics." I apologize to the
entire group for using an obscure form of rhetoric "judging..."
Obviously, it is not acceptable to use CONDITIONALS on this list,
of the " if " or "judging from" varieties. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea
3) Poincy continues:
"Much to Antoine disappointment making them following the correct
path is not by breaking bones ( "kraze zo yo", "kraze grenn yo" ?) as
he puts it with an authoritarian government, it is by enforcement of the
IT IS TO MY DISAPPOINTMENT????????? Thanks, buddy,
for knowing my feelings much better than I do. To avoid any
ambiguity however, let me state categorically that I would be
OVERJOYED if the sort of authoritarian government that you
champion would enforce the laws without breaking bones
("kraze zo yo", "kraze grenn yo"). But Poincy, given your
oft stated affinity for François Duvalier's style of government,
given that "breaking bones" was the order of the day throughout
the 14 years of his presidency, given that Duvalier prepared his
succession and that we ended up with a long series of repressive
makout or military regimes, why, oh why, should I brush aside
all of this historical knowledge, and be seduced by a kinder,
gentler portrayal of authoritarianism?
I do not disagree with you or Mark Gill on the necessity of law
enforcement, and the necessity of maintaining order and political
stability. But what I have been rejecting is the line of thinking
that says that the future President of Haiti MUST act this way
or that way, because Haitians WILL act this way or that way,
because Haitians CAN ONLY act this way or that way, due to
a set of living conditions of which we are exempt, and that they
supposedly cannot transcend.
This is the time for creativity, for political imagination, for
inspired leadership, for Haitians to embrace each other, and
put a stop to that cycle of hate, self-hate, and violence. This
is a time for political maturity, the sort that was surprisingly
displayed in the Dominican Republic by Joaquim Balaguer,
of all people. This is a time to give to the Haitian people the
freedom to chart their destiny. This is a time, who knows,
for a variant of democracy that the world has never seen
before. This is a time for all Haitians, regardless of political
affiliation, members of Fanmi Lavalas, OPL, and others, to
show a willingness to break away from the patterns that
have not worked in the past and show even less promise
to work in the future. This is the time for positive energy
and national fervor across all segments of Haitian society.
Law enforcement must be one of the highest priorities.
Do remember though that no one inspires respect for the
law by breaking the law. No one inspires respect for life
by killing others. No one inspires political reform by
relying on old destructive patterns. No one inspires
creativity by locking you in a set of predefined answers.
Guy S. Antoine
Windows on Haiti