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8500: Re: Francophonie - francofolly? (fwd)
From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>
I am happy that you've decided to challenge what I wrote in terms of
Haitians' preference for "folie de la francophonie" in lieu of embracing
their own literature. This will allow me to add some precision to my
expression on the matter because, in the previous message, I was focussing
with apparent frustration on the false claim that there are not standards
for writing in Kreyol. As I cautioned everyone, there are. Seek them.
The language of 8 to 10 million Haitians deserves a modicum of respect
(though a number of "otherwise educated" Haitians are its greatest butchers,
preferring instead to conform themselves to the "folie de la francophonie").
My thought was not to imply that genuine Haitian Literature consists only
of works written in Kreyol. Perhaps 99% of our literature is still rooted in
the French language. Yet 90% of our people are monolingual. The ONE
language we speak universally is Kreyol. Do you not see in this profound
If the literature of a nation is supposed to be the written expression of a
people's experience, its history and hopes, its vision and wisdom, then I
must ask this very basic question: Can Haiti's French speaking elite be
trusted or expected to faithfully render the truths about our Haitian identity?
Certainly Jacques Roumain, Jacques Stephen Alexis, Oswald Durand,
Franketienne and others have produced much valuable work in that
respect. But you can also observe how much more interesting their
work becomes when they borrow directly from the Kreyol background,
and reinvent the French language so to speak. How much more creative
Haitians could be if they consented to use their national language as a
tool of expression of their national identity?
As I said many times before on this forum, I am not against the French
language per se. The ability to speak French is a big PLUS. But let us
recognize the francopholie of Haitians for what it is: A social, cultural,
political, weapon utilized consciously and unconscionably to keep 90%
of a people in their place. It has been a tool of apartheid in Haiti's
social history. In South Africa, even the Bible was used as a tool for
maintaining their brand of apartheid in a rigid and "rational" manner. One
does not have to reject the Bible necessarily to understand how it served
the purposes of the white minority who swore by it, declaring preordained
the inferiority of the black people there. Even well-known American
evangelists vigorously supported and defended the South African system
of apartheid. Any parallel to franco-evangelism?
I do not blame the French people one bit for advancing their brand of
francophony in the world. By the well-established rules of conquest
and civilization, they are simply promoting their interests and expanding
their markets. They are competing with the United States, not with Haiti.
I have wondered sometimes how our History might have been different
if for the diverse periods Haitians ruled the island, they had cared to
institutionalize Kreyol everywhere, made it an academic and administrative
requirement from coast to coast, and placed the Spanish language on a tier
at least the equal of French, in the post-primary levels of education in the
Western part of the island, giving the former Dominicans an essential role
to play in the process. Would we have been able to secure a more
meaningful role for our country in Latin America? Would the "perejil"
massacre have happened? Would we have ended up as the poorer and
much maligned neighboor. Please forgive my musings. I have no designs
on our neighbor's territory. Only I wish we stood more like equals. And
had we established Kreyolofoli as smartly as the French promote their
Foliephonie, we might have achieved just that. Indeed, language has
always been a tool for carving markets and social privileges, whether
through inclusion or exclusion. Check neo-colonialism. Check Haiti.
Mrs. Smith, my quarrel is not with Haitians who speak or study French.
I would be a fool to attempt to minimize the language's artistic expression,
its worldly importance, or the many advantages it confers to its speakers
in many fields. My quarrel is with the cynical and neglectful attitude of
Haitians who despise their natural language, and resolutely use a colonial
heritage to maintain a system of apartheid against their own. I urge you
and your students not to feel like traitors in your academic pursuit of the
French language, but to focus as well on the linguistic realities of Haiti.
The tide will turn.
Guy S. Antoine
Windows on Haiti