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News from Haiti:

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Commentary: A family, like a nation, is a continuous creation
Published on March 6, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

Ernest Renan in his treatise on how to build a good nation could as well preface his essay: how to build a good family. Indeed, Renan implied a nation is like a family where the members are linked by blood and by consent as in the case of the in-laws to worship the past, enjoy the present and build the future for the next generation.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now.  He can be reached at
In this era, where families are dislocated by the pressure of globalization and by rogue political regimes, various members of a family are scattered all over a hemispheric region as was done during slavery times, when the husband, the wife and the children were divided according to the whims of the transatlantic slave traders.

In my particular lens from Haiti, (it could be any island from the Caribbean chain or any nation in Africa and in the Middle East) during the past 60 years, families have been uprooted from the ancestor land to the United States, Canada or Europe, it is quite essential that the principles of building a good family be reminded so the members may coalesce and nourish the roots that will maintain a family together and prepare the future for the generations to come.

Watching my father dying at the age of 102 years old, and wanting to stay a little longer on earth, I realized we all have a very short life span on this earth; our preoccupation should be to enjoy building the future for the children, as a good man takes his best pleasure in sex by giving the most sexual pleasure to his partner; we could also borrow the metaphor of Christ demanding from us to love thy neighbor as thyself as the most secure way of gaining the eternal kingdom.

Transposing Renan language of a good nation: “a family is a daily plebiscite, a perpetual affirmation of life clearly express to continue a common life.” It is a small scale solidarity constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future.

The concept of continuing creation indicates the building of the family is not a finish process that ends with the wedding or the procreation. The mother and the father will bond together for life to nurture the children, and the children will for life cherish each other and their parents in a daily struggle where jealousy and egoistical quarrel can threaten at any time the family cohesion.

1. Who are the members of the family?

Starting with the first principle, a family is made of the mother, the father and the children who worship the same ancestors. It implies knowing who those ancestors are? With the technology of recording through a smart phone, it is today easy to establish an album of the pictures of the loves ones. It was not as such in the past. I am now trying to recollect and garnered with pain the pictures of my great grandfather and my great grandmother as well as the pictures of my beloved aunt who acted as a second mother.

We must take time to pass on the children, the stories, the anecdotes and the tidbits that each generation may have gathered so as to create the family ethos which is different like the family next door is different from mine. The family is made of the mother and father, the children and the grandparents. It can certainly welcome those who are not originally from the same blood: the adopted members, the in-laws and those who belong to only one side of the couple. They must choose to live as a family with shared family values.

As in a nation, the good family shares the sentiment of appurtenance. Within the family there is no illegitimate children; the legacy belongs to each and to everyone with the view to enrich, embellish and multiply that legacy for the future generation. Of course, there is the question of those children born out of wedlock, do they belong or not into the family. It will depend on the vision of the ancestors, have they been brought into the family clan by the mother or father? If not, I would advise to keep them out for peace and tranquility within the family circle.

Are in-laws parts of the family? This is a difficult question to answer since the wife or the husband of a kin can at any time divorce himself or herself from the family roots. The answer to this question lies in the foreigner who asks to become citizen of a given country. Does he or she act like a true citizen or is he or she just a taker? Or does he try to impose her values over and upon the family values? The answer to these questions constitute the very query in Europe and in the United States where the original citizens are demanding whether the large number of immigrants should be admitted into their midst as true citizens with all the rights therein?

It is also the question of multiculturalism versus the original values of a given country. Should the Spanish citizens demand and impose their language on the citizens of the United States or should the English language be imposed upon the newcomers? These are the questions that are being debated today. My answer, whether controversial for the multiculturalists, is the English language should be imposed on the newcomers. You choose to belong. The values of the adopted country must prevail. It is similar with the husband or wife entering into a family. She must accept the family values to become part of the family.

2. The duty to support and to ensure that everyone is provided with an excellent education and incubation to self-development!

The failed nations are those where the rulers did not understand that each citizen of the country is a jewel that needs to be polished to shine for him and for the nation. The analogy is the same for a family. The duty to provide education to the children falls on the state but in failing nations like mine, Haiti, it fall on the parents or on one of the best fortunate sibling. Otherwise, the family will have on hand in the future, a nomad, a beggar, and one who cannot care for himself. Reading Oliver Mills recently I was pleased to discover this thought: 

“The interaction with family fosters deeper meaning, and the transformation of our lives. The family, apart from being genetically connected, fosters meaning through a network of support, love, advice, and caring. We find the real essence of this when faced with challenging issues. Although we tend to take things for granted with the family unit, adversity brings out its true meaning when it is the first to be approached, and respond compassionately, irrespective of the quality of the relationship.”

The family is the lifeline which is always open for support, encouragement and cheers when adversity or glory comes along.

3. The family agrees together without fight or discussion that those in the family who are behind will be incubated to catch up with those who have succeeded

Within the clan there will be no illegitimate children or nieces, nephew or cousins who remain behind. Caucus or conversation will be made that those in the family that remains behind will be push by the clan to keep up with the rest of the group. I have often compared failed countries those where a portion of the nationals have remind in behind and it has not been the concern of the government or the civil society. I have often pointed out how in my own country of Haiti some 85% of the population has been regarded as illegitimate children with no consideration or concern by the authorities. The attention has been only during election time for only a plate of lentils or a disguised care with no attention to true nation building.

The successful family sees each and every member as a jewel that when polished will have positive repercussion for the whole clan.

4. The family seeks and achieves the divine destiny accepted by the ancestors upon that unit

We are all in this world, called upon to achieve a divine destiny. We must help God to perfect the world. As such the family will seek in the values and the dreams of the ancestors to continue those dreams. I have often expressed the thought that Haiti has an emancipatory mission to be the light on the hill for everybody. It has albeit failed its mission but it shall continue to long for this task. The family shall caucus together and come out with the mission set by the grandfathers and grandmothers. It is true we are living in an age where the immediate members are not even known to each other, but building a good family that will lead to a good nation demands this research and this longing to connect.

5. The family tries to perpetuate itself through the children instructed to continuously building the brand

The members of the family must take into account the issue of numbers. We came into this world for the most for one century; we will survive only through our children and our grandchildren. Consequently, the issue of procreation, adoption and inclusion of new members to build the family clan is essential. At the death of both parents, the children must coalesce together to continue the brand, otherwise it will be a family that has been. It is the same story with nations like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Syria, Egypt or even Haiti; it is great nation that has been. It imposes on the citizens to make those nations become the star they were meant to be. That is why, a family like a nation is a continuous creation, as illustrated in today's news.

Will the Gardere family whose great grandfather who came from France in 1862 and built the famed Rum Barbancourt finish with Thierry who died this week at the age of 65? Will his only daughter Delphine Natalie Gardere continue the mission and the vision of the ancestors? This story encapsulates the concept that a family is a continuous creation.

In conclusion, a good family is at the origin of a good nation. They are both fabricated with the same building blocks made of the sentiment of appurtenance for and to each one, the support to excellent education and formation to all the members, the reaching out to those left behind, the consolidation of the divine mission as well as teaching the children that the family is a continuous creation. It must be solidified each and every day so it shall last for generations.
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