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#5206: Final comment on the intellectual issue and the last cycles of Haiti's politics (fwd)
(PS I am sorry to be a bit long but I just had to say these few things before
I take a break from writing on the list. I will still be reading however with
This is in no way my last comment on this list. It is rather my last take on
some particular issues which I think are necessary for us to focus on.
We should first of all recognize that Haiti has gone through some historical
cycles at least ever since François Duvalier's control of the political
power. Those cycles seem to last roughly 14 years:
1957-- Duvalier becomes president and began implementing what was called by
his associates, a political revolution.
1971-- Duvalier died and is replaced by his son who begins what he calls, an
1986-- Baby Doc leaves the country, under pressure from the population.
2000--Lavalas is in full control of the political power.
The 1957 ('57-70) period was for the Duvalier, as the 1986 period ('87-'99)
was for the Lavalas movement, "The Intense Battle" cycle. This was the time
when both movements fought hard to control the political landscape, the
former (Duvalier) through political murder, the latter (Lavalas) through
organizational strength and effective slogan. 1971 through 1985, and 2000
(May 21) on, represent the time when these two different movements in goals,
began enjoying the fruit of their political battle. The 70's (and even early
80's) were a period when Baby Doc assured in some measure, economic progress
at least in the capital. Should we therefore hope that the 2000 cycle
(perhaps including at least the next 15 years) will represent the time for
Lavalas to implement its policies and bring some measure of economic progress
to Haiti, as well as stability? This is now at the heart of the matter.
If those cycles are not just my own perverted view of Haiti's recent history,
we should at least try to characterize them by way of their political
dimension and their commonality. We'll see that what has become essential in
the political battle is the necessity for a level of trust to coexist between
the political leadership and the country's majority. The Duvaliers have used
it (especially the father), mostly through "folklore politics." I think it is
fair for me to say that so far at least, the Lavalas regime has used it
mostly differently. Well, when you build public schools in disadvantaged
regions of the country, invest in agriculture and road buildings, I think
it's fair to say, no matter what one's political opinion is or may be, that
we're dealing here with more than just folklore politics. For if we wish to
analyze and understand Haiti's political reality, we must first have the
political courage to stick with the facts.
"The poor issue" is important to me for one simple reason. I think that when
we talk about the poor, we Haitian, either use derogatory terms to
characterize them, such as "la plèbe" (plebeian) , or over-romanticise them
(pèp la, the people). What's truly important however, at least to me, is that
you cannot create effective government and a rational and dynamic civil
society unless you create possibilities for the majority to change their
lives and have access or (at least the opportunity) to eventually become
middle class themselves. This is very important because development is not
just about having a few nice buildings and beautiful roads: it is to
positively change people's lives. I in no way, am using the term "poor" as a
code word to "slap" the rich or the middle class element of Haiti's society.
That would once again be "folklore politics." It is to me essential that
opportunities reach them, the same way that opportunity had reached all of
us, members of this list.
The loser in the previous battle ('57-'71) in Haiti's politics is what
Chamberlain and many others here and in Haiti proudly call, "the
intellectual." In Duvalier's time, they were so very unfortunately exiled.
This time however, they are mostly ignored by the Lavalas movement because
they seem to be completely out of touch with reality.
We now live in a world where expertise, specific skills are more important
than just understanding the world in concept and being able to make beautiful
statements. Ideas must be reified, become things, tangibles. They (ideas) are
not just to please one's ears or ego. Reification of ideas necessitates
logistics such as organizational skills, courage and intellectual openness.
Otherwise, it is best to simply teach (no offense to you Bob) as most of them
do in Haiti. A tailor, a shoemaker, a business person, an engineer, a lawyer,
is as much important to society as an "intellectual." An "intellectual" does
not hold the key to the truth. He can just point to it and sometimes, even
misses. An intellectual at best, can be a good and trusted adviser to a
government. That's all.
We all seem to be obsessed or perhaps fascinated, with the recent wave of
Haitian (mostly Port-au-Prince) intellectuals who have been writing letters,
denouncing or predicting the "soon-to-be Lavalas dictatorship". Well, my
argument is that many a times, people seem to think of it as a sin to remind
those intellectuals of the facts, (the tangibles in Haitian society) as
though their statements were words of the Good Lord. Fortunately recently,
more than 300 young men and women at universities responded to them. Those
kids are future professionals mostly. Shouldn't we also read what they have
to say? Perhaps the truth lies in between those two groups, or even in the
argument of those young, future professional minds.
In any case, if Lavalas should enjoy the next fourteen or so years in power
and break that vicious cycle discussed previously, they must encourage and
strengthen the democratic process. They must also open up avenues for the
opposition to become part of our democratic institutions. Some of them do
enjoy even a minimum level of support in the population. There are many ways
the state through the Lavalas regime, can help them become part of our
national institutions. One of them is through funding the most viable
political parties. That would help them take roots in our political culture
and hence help strengthen both our newly democratic system of government and
stability in the nation for years to come. As it seems to me Lavalas does
understand it, you must lose sometimes in order to win. Controlling the whole
state apparatus especially in a democratic system, does not guarantee
strength. It may in fact be signs of weaknesses. What we need is for all
segments of Haiti's society to feel at ease at home. They must feel even when
their party is not in power, that there is a certain level of fairness in the
It is not fun at all for us to every fifteen years or so, start questioning
the validity of a nascent political leadership or its eventual demise. What
any society needs is stability for true development and, the respect of
everyone's civil rights. The potential for such possibility to have finally
emerged in Haiti is right in our face, whether we believe it or not. What is
necessary however is for us to learn to deal with and respect those in power
even when we don't like them, or agree that the other side or sides must also
have a voice in the political system, that has legally guaranteed protection
and support. Only those things I think, can and will provide in the long run,
stability, social and economic development in Haiti.