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9156: Re: 9145: On an iron fist government with good will: Antoine replies to Poincy (fwd)

From: GUY S ANTOINE <guyantoine@windowsonhaiti.com>

Dear Poincy:

I have to say that I found myself in general agreement with what
you outlined (better than you have ever done before, in my opinion) .
We should all will ourselves to think harder on what would be a
more appropriate response than "an iron fist with good will".  What
you propose conceptually works on the surface, but it's difficult to
see how this could happen in today's global and interdependent
network of people and policies.

It might work if Haiti could retreat in total isolation, that is do away
with all human rights organizations, and do away with the meddling
of the United States government, do away with the meddling of the
"European Union", do away with all internal and external dissent,
do away with the possibility if not likelihood of an American invasion
to protect their national interests (not those of Haitians), do away
with the pressures of our external debt (due to three MAJOR factors:
1) France's imposition, under Boyer, of a debt equivalent to
150,000,000 francs or five times her national budget for reparations
related to her losses during our war of independence, 2) the National
City Bank of New York's takeover of Haiti's finances including all of
her gold reserves just prior and during the American Occupation of
1915, 3) the hundreds of millions of dollars stolen by U.S. backed
Haitian dictators) and  the extreme urgency to get in even greater
debt to satisfy the needs of our debt-soaked citizenry as well as the
needs of our donors.  It all works on a computer-controlled political
chessboard as in a game of Diplomacy, but what of Haiti in the real

And don't forget that people with "an iron fist with good will" should
be impervious to the formidable weight of our collective administrative
malpractice and the surrounding all-pervasive corruption.  Such people
may be harder to find than a needle in a haystack, and an oligarchy of
those is just a pie in the sky.

Strong institutions make all the difference, and the Haitian people have
got to come to terms with the notion. The United States are no heaven,
serious wrongs are committed against its people, such as the theft of
the recent Presidential elections by the unconstitutional nullification of
thousands of minority votes, but I do believe that most everyone was
relieved not to see burning tires on the streets or highways of U.S. cities.
What made the difference? The U.S. Supreme Court (as wrong headed
it may have been). In spite of this historical wrong, there was no talk
of civil war.  The Organization of the American States had nothing to
say. Most Human Rights organizations that home in on Haiti had nothing
to say, and world leaders raced to send in their congratulations to the
selected president.  In Haiti, by contrast, there is a leak of a judge's
intention to serve an indictment against a senator in a criminal matter
prior to his election, and what do we see in the streets?  Burning tires.
Is this because Haitians are "savage rebels"?  That may be anyone's
interpretation, but I foresee the burning of tires, the assassinations,
the senseless destruction of public and private properties abating with
the advent of civic education for everyone.

The United States is a great democracy today, because it has this
huge democratic cover.  What happens below this cover does not
seem to be most people's business.  What you seem to argue for
is an undemocratic cover with excellent intentions below.  Upside
down pineapple cake, but are you ready to be the cook?  If not
you, who will, and just how will this happen?

I argue for patience and a learned respect of our laws, and civic
activism to change the laws and our constitution, and a decentralization
of power, a shift of focus away from Port-au-Prince and our morbid
preoccupation with politicking, regional development, and a renewed
and overwhelming emphasis on practical education dealing with
trades, farming, and health.  Port-au-Prince has never been the answer,
Port-au-Prince can never be the answer, except in dismantling itself
in significant bits and pieces.  (If the Democratic Convergence had
any imagination, they would find a small corner of the country where
they are wanted, make it without claim their own Republic, develop
it to the point where they would simply embarrass the central
government in deeds, not in words, and in so doing attract more
people to them from inside the country rather than more intellectuals
from abroad.)  We have to break the back of our administrative
history of corruption and selfishness, but how will we do that?
Through civic education or through the reinvention of one man,
one good dictator who will think for the rest of us, simply because
we have been conditioned not to think (really not to dialogue in a
respectful and absolutely civic manner)?  Let us think of how to
implement civic education for a change, on a wide scale, to form
ever more progressive leaders; take a shower, so to speak, rather
than simply change our shirt.

Contrary to what you affirm, Poincy, Haitian people do have political
character.  Our very existence is testimony to its strength and resiliency.
As you always sign "Ayiti has lived, lives and will live." How is that so,
Poincy?  That our character needs to be shaped, no question.  But
language does and will have value as well as tremendous power in
intereducating ourselves.  When you say "I think the French were right
at the time of Ayiti's independence when saying that those guys were
savage rebels who will never be able to administer themselves. Both
the fathers of the country and their descendants confirm this prediction,"
I cannot think of any wording more insulting, more belittling, more
self-defeating, and more wrong-headed.  I think that the esclavagists
were the savages, the only thing that I ever worry about is that they
were human too.  But I absolutely refuse to wear the mantle of "savage
rebels who will never be able to administer themselves".  It's not
only profoundly racist, but it is very painful to see an intelligent
man as yourself accepting such a vicious and emasculating remark.

I agree for the most part with your response concerning Christophe's
legacy. Note that I was not suggesting that you "wait" for our historians
to bring their perspective of Henri Christophe's reign in this debate
(we could seriously wait forever!)  I was simply inviting them to take
part in it, as I always do in hope of getting our intellectuals in a true
dialogue with regular folks, outside of academic conferences.  But I
do agree with your assessment that I should be much more cautious
when speaking of Henri Christophe's legacy ("failed," I wrote, "for
not having any permanence"). You've made some solid points on this
score.  However, the main point of my argument remains the same.
I think that our illustrious monarch was doomed one way or another.
If it were not for the external influence of Pétion, it would be for the
internal friction caused by the growing resentment of the people he
wished to advance.

People are not robots, people are not chess pawns. They have not
been programmed by nature like social bees and ants.  They have
their own sense of mortality and well-being.  They simply need to
get educated.  Haitian people are capable of incomparable sacrifices
on behalf of ther immediate and, at times, even extended families.
The problem is in extending the notion of family to that of an entire
community or even a nation. Can this be accomplished by brute
force even if well-intentioned?  I seriously doubt it.

There will be no great sorcerer for the Haitian people, Poincy,
and that is what you are proposing.  We'll have to do it together,
and think for ourselves together, and unleash our internal creativity
to solve our community problems rather than trust a benevolent
oligarchy or "Papa Fix-It" to think for the entire collectivity.  I
greatly believe in the capacity of the Haitian people to do just that,
provided a chance for them to determine their own future.

That being said, let's continue the dialogue, because we need your
insights at this still critical juncture of our political development.

Ak onè e respè,
Guy S. Antoine
http://www.CreoleTalk.com (to come)

And yes, Haiti has lived, lives, and will live!