By Jean H Charles
Haiti had two unfinished universal and national revolutions. The one of 1804 destroyed for itself and for humanity the gangrene of slavery of man by man and the revolution of 1986, which brought an end for itself and also for humanity the stronghold of the dictators. After 1986, the non-violent mass movement that forced the departure of Duvalier has educated those in the Philippines, Poland and Nicaragua. It continues to educate today in the Arab world, where Tunisia gave the signal to eradicate almost all Arab dictators, while the Syrian people today continue to fight to unseat their dictator.
Jean Hervé Charles LLB, MSW, JD, former Vice-Dean of Students at City College of the City University of New York, is now responsible for policy and public relations for the political platform in power in Haiti, Répons Peyisan. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol
However, after 1804 and twenty five years after the end of the Duvalier era, Haiti is still a flop, to use the language of a colleague who has nostalgia for a former Port-au-Prince.
"The former Champ de Mars, the place of choice for families to relax and stroll, this place of my youth when I studied every night for years ... is no more. It is handed over to dealers (badly) boucanés, to car scrubbers, to thieves and phone robbers, it is hard not to remember the effective management of the city by the mayor Franck Romain in the early 1980s during the Duvalier era.”
In an essay published recently in Caribbean News Now and reproduced in the Nassau Guardian, “Haiti’s failed 25 years experience with democracy,” I decried the failure of the democratic era in Haiti. The achievements of the Revolution of 1986 were as short-lived as the Revolution of 1804, when the revolutionary experience ended in 1806 after the assassination of its founder, Jean Jacques Dessalines.
The signatories of the Act of Independence of 1804 did not agree to build a nation that would be hospitable to all. Those who had in mind to remove the settlers to settle themselves had the upper hand in 1806. They built a Haiti close to their vision. They used education or the non access to education as a barrier to prevent the masses from getting into the path of civilization.
The mass of slaves who took refuge in the hills of Haiti in 1804 is now, two hundred years later, the peasants, uneducated and without economic support from the state of Haiti. Now they rush to the gates of the capital and the provincial towns, occupying any empty space and compromising any planned organized urban development.
The Revolution of 1986, with the new 1987 Constitution, should have put Haiti on the true course. It was different. The organic institutions of Haiti such as the Catholic Church, the army, the Voodoo and even the press have failed the country.
First of all, the army seized the Revolution, not to bring Haiti to where milk and honey abound but into anarchy and a democratic spree, with people who could neither read nor write and could not understand that with rights also come responsibilities. Neo-liberalism, with its doctrine that growth can happen without personal wealth for all, was installed as the ruler of the economic game. The local economy, under immeasurable international influences, soon collapsed under a blitz from the Americans, the Chinese and now the Dominicans. Most of the local industries were closed, to be relocated in the Dominican Republic. The Haitian rice industry, freshly rebuilt by Taiwan, was destroyed by imported rice from Arkansas.
The Catholic Church, Breton in its origin that had accompanied the young Haiti in 1860 to the table where the bread of education and training was delivered in the towns, is now in the hands of the native clergy. It should have extended to the rural counties the mission of continuing the civilizing action started by the Breton clergy.
Instead it gave a rather poisoned apple, packaged with liberation theology and the venom of the social power of dissension, hatred of one against other and a race to the bottom, where the sense of ethics, lack of patriotism, organized theft of state assets are now the rule of the game. From the kingdom of meritocracy we went to the realm of the mediocrity of meritocracy. The government, which includes the executive, the judiciary, the legislature and the public service, confuses the brazen search of self-interest to service to the public good.
Voodoo, still underground, has not yet found its St Patrick to transform this rich cultural heritage into a national and universal mythology to enrich the imagination of young Haitians, as would be the world's youth, and as the Iliad and the Odyssey did by transforming those seeking great human values that are called courage, resilience, friendliness and brotherhood and joie de vivre.
And the people who believe in voodoo as an act of faith would be endowed with true antidotes that are called education, health, and training and economic development, freeing the devotees from the opium of the pseudo-religious constraints.
Finally, the press has become the country's image, a press bidonvillisée, rising one above the other, not to help each other to go higher but following the experience of Rwanda, where violence has led an entire nation to tear each other apart without even asking the question why?
This essay is not part of a series to lament once more about the troubles and the misfortunes of Haiti. It is rather a call to action for Haiti to return to its civilizing mission of yesteryear. It seeks men and women who want to add value in building a Haiti fit for Toussaint Louverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe. A Haiti that cares first for those most in need of relief and support: the peasant masses confused and uneducated.
They are now at the door of the cities in rags and tatters, under-capitalized by neo-liberalism, recklessness national governments, and the revenge of nature that was not protected by a benevolent hand. Uneducated and untrained, they doubt even their own humanity as they seek shelter anywhere in defiance of the human sense of self-preservation.
I propose that:
• The ONI (the Office of National Identification) should be found in all communal sections providing to each farmer a Haitian national identification.
• the Haitian government, through the Department of Agriculture, Planning, Interior, the Ministry for the Status of peasant and the Ministry of Extreme Poverty, the Ministry of Environment and Social Affairs and Fayes accompanies the myriad of NGOs to initiate a massive operation of jobs, literacy and training in all areas and all communal sections directed mainly to agriculture, reforestation, livestock and crafts.
• The program of literacy, basic education and continuing civics becomes not only a responsibility for the state but also of the elite. Man and women must become Haitian citizens, aware of their rights but also aware of their civic duty to pay their taxes and provide for the common good.
• The government should engage in its kingly responsibility to transform the state into a nation where Haiti would provide sound institutions and good infrastructure throughout the republic from the city to the countryside.
• The elite, those who have succeeded in spite of the unfavorable national conditions, reach out to those who are left behind to create a nation where living together is an experience shared and supported by all.
• The Haitian Diaspora must stop or rather amplify its vocation of monthly subsistence to commit to a partnership of nation-building and sustainable endogenous industries.
• The NGOs in general and MINUSTHA cease their particular industry that exists for itself, not for those under their mission, and funds to serve.
As such the Revolution of 1804 and the one closest to us in 1986 will be no more vain conquests, an incomplete rupture; Haiti will experience its golden age -- the one it has been tackling for over five hundred years!