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8767: From misery to simple poverty: Aristide's consistency
>From Bob Corbett
Jean Succar expresses surprise and disappointment in Aristide's
recent claim in Cuba that:
"HAVANA -- The hope of Haiti, the most impoverished country in the Western
Hemisphere, is to advance from misery to simple poverty, Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide told Cuban university students Thursday."
First of all I want to point out that at least Aristide is consistent.
That exact aim was one of his major campaign pledges in 1990 when he
was first running for the presidence some 11 years ago.
I was quite unsure of him at that time (obviously one of the few),
but THAT particular aim impressed me greatly. Politicans generally
disgust me with their public stances which have so little to do
with the reality of their own real aims or the situation in which they
live. They promise the sky without batting an eye.
But Aristide's stated aim in 1990 just astonished me. Part of it
may well be the connotations of words. We live in a period where
in much of the advanced world upward mobility is something to ashamed
of and virtually no one wants less. Yet in fact, even in the
richest nation of earth many live in abject misery, stuggling for
I grew up in what today would be called, or might be called,
"simple poverty." We never wanted for food or the very basic
necessities, but we didn't have much more. No automobile, no
vacations, no eating out and so on. My father worked and mother
didn't and we lived paycheck to paycheck, no savings either.
I thought it was a good life. I would think that the masses of
Haitian people would find such a life nearly a dream come true.
A job, the basics of life secured, so security around their
neighborhood, a chance to live in harmony and peace with those
who lived close by, and daily life need not be the basic hunt
for the food for the day, with little possibility for health care, schools
for the children and the most simple low-level things.
For a (then in 1990) presidential candidate to say THAT was what he
hoped for his term of president; well, that truly excited me.
In 1990 I believed him and I honestly believe he believed this himself and
was sincerely going to work in that direction. I think he was moving in
that direction when he was overthrown and driven into exile.
A lot has happened since that time and perhaps the Aristide who uttered
that goal for Haiti in Cuba a few days ago is the same Aristide who
promised it as a presidential candidate in 1990. I can't be sure. I
don't believe that however. Today I see a much more typical politician,
saying phrases without meaning, looking for the sound bite, the quotable
line. He may not have changed; I have, I've become cynical in relation to
him. For me he's now much more just "another
politician" uttering his meaningless crap in a game of words and power
which have little to do with the people of Haiti.
I would love to be wrong about that.
I still believe that the most realistic and hopeful MATERIAL claim for
Haiti for a president of good will would be to elevate Haiti from a state
of misery, in which it is obviously deeply mired, to a more tolerable
state of simple poverty as I understand that term, a term and way of life
from which I don't shy away or seriously regret for anyone. Misery, as I
see it in Haiti, is just a profound inhuman level of life and suffering.
I guess it has a lot to do with what the words mean to a person and,
perhaps, what one's own life experience and what meanings for life are
are worth pursuing.