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5478: Haiti Progress is a hoot.. (fwd)
From: Joel Dreyfuss <email@example.com>
Who says Haitians don't have a sense of humor when it comes to politics?
Haiti Progres surprises time and again with world-class political parodies.
This is literary achievement as good as any you'd find in British or French
humor magazines. The latest Internet posting (Haiti Progres-This Week
11/8/00) is a classic worthy of Le Canard Enchainee or Punch at its best.
(There really isn't much to American political satire beyond Monica jokes
and George W cocaine references.) It provides a timely and hilarious break
at a time when everyone is tense over the Florida vote count. Maybe Progres
could spin off its own satirical journal: I propose calling it Bouki
The latest Internet posting from Progres sends up the classic lefty paranoia
piece with the kind of humor and subtlety that will long be remembered. The
setting: competing political events last Sunday. There was a rally for
Hilary Clinton at Brooklyn College and a meeting of the Brooklyn chapter of
the Lavalas movement at Erasmus High School. Lavalas supporters turned up at
Erasmus and found the doors closed. The piece immediately assigns blame to
the dreaded Haitian American Association, that dangerously bourgeois
organization populated by middle class Haitian wannabe do-gooders.
The finger is also adroitly pointed at Dr. Jean-Claude Compas, a prominent
member of HAA, who is described as a "rightist leader." What a great smear.
In Progres circles, being a rightist is just about the worst thing you can
be called, except maybe a putschist, but that term is reserved for people
who were actually in Haiti at the time of the coup. What makes Dr. Compas a
rightist isn't clear, especially since he's involved in a rally for Hilary,
hardly a favorite of the American Republican right. It's a classic case of
an unprovable label. A brilliant demonstration of how the old Marxist left
worked here and at such bastions of democracy like Cuba and the former
In this fantastic piece of parody, several unhappy organizers complain that
the Compas cabal, described nastily as "a small clique of aspiring
Haitian-American politicians" took over the Hilary event so they could get
all the credit. But here the author outdoes himself again, positing a
classic propaganda device: a complete contradiction of his previous
statement without so much as a blink of discomfort or disbelief. One of the
disgruntled activists says that Compas et al set up more than 20 media
interviews FOR THE ACTIVISTS! What a strange way to take credit, you send
out other people to do all the media interviews, who will get videoed and
quoted all over the place about the event and be identified with it, but the
guys in the background somehow will get all the credit. That's just
But there's more. Further on, the piece concedes that Local 1199 worked
closely with Haitians to stage and finance the rally. Somehow, 1199, which I
always thought of as a progressive union (but maybe I missed it when they
were moved from the IN to the OUT column in the Little Red Book of Approved
Organizations and People Who Dare to Speak for the Oppressed), didn't find
it so repugnant to work with the rightist cabal known as HAA.
In the meantime, this powerful cabal, according to Progres, is accused of
having deliberately sabotaged the Lavalas rally. Even when the piece finally
quotes the school custodian explaining he hadn't been informed of the event,
Progres leaps to full leftist paranoia with a quote from a Fritznel Benoit,
another Brooklyn Lavalas Family leader. "I told him that, if that is true,
the sabotage may have happened at a higher level over his head," the paper
reports. The idea of a logistical screw-up in the New York public school
system is far less believable than a conspiracy of high city officials in
the Guliani administration with HAA. Man, if this group is that powerful,
maybe more of us should join.
No proper political piece is complete without the Party Line, whatever that
may be, and here, Progres delivers it in fine form. The two events, the
paper declares, reflect a struggle for the hearts and minds of
Haitian-Americans. "The HAA's unspoken agenda," declares Progres, "is to
attack Haiti's nationalist movement surreptitiously and from abroad by
attempting to undermine the community's traditional nationalist interest in
political events in Haiti. It proposes that Haitians should instead focus on
and integrate into U.S. politics and leave Haiti for vacations and
folklore." The key here is the word UNSPOKEN. This is useful when you don't
have any proof but you want to make sure the reader understands these are
bad people. And I especially like the use of FOLKLORE. This suggests trivia,
unimportant stuff, hardly worth anyone's attention. This is of course, a
classic Haitian bourgeois attitude about our culture, but in this piece,
that attitude seeps out from our allegedly politically correct author. See
what I mean about subtle?
The opposition is, of course, faultlessly noble: "But grassroots currents,
like that which organized the Fanmi Lavalas rally, are trying to keep strong
links and solidarity between Haiti and its diaspora, which was dubbed by
Aristide a decade ago Haiti's Tenth Department (Haiti is composed of nine
geographic departments). Ah, grassroots is such a great word; it suggests
deep connection to community, unlike those superficial cabalistic bourgeois
assimilationist anti-nationalists on the other side.
This is really where the piece peaks, exposing that classic absolutist view
of the old doctrinaire left that you can't have two different approaches to
the same issue. The idea that Haitian-Americans could care about events in
Haiti AND want to have more clout in the U.S. is unacceptable to the
"author" of the Haiti Progres piece. Once again the presumed author ignores
clear evidence from Aristide's exile and ineffective return that
Haitian-Americans had far less clout in Washington than they needed.
Instead, it was the old bourgeois left liberals in the House and Senate who
carried the struggle to restore democracy and were willing to settle for
appearances over substance.
By using humor, Haiti Progres exposes the absurdity of what passes for
serious political debate in some segments of the Haitian community. In this
piece, all the old class suspicions of our homeland have been translated
intact to the U.S. and continue to be used to keep Haitians apart. But
without this comedic device, we may have never gotten the message.