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Commentary: The two lost generations
Published on June 28, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

The past 50 years have been horrific for the entire planet earth, except for a few countries that have established the right template for nation building to help their citizens reach their full potential, enriching them and enriching their nation, the state of state of the world is cloudy.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti
In spite of prodigious scientific discoveries and application for man’s welfare, it seems we have been regressing annually in creating a canvas for a critical mass of people to be satisfied in their status of life.

Things were better before, is the sentiment felt by those who have reached the critical age of 50 years old and beyond. Indeed, it was so much better that one of my cherished wishes was to have my children enjoy the idyllic life that I knew when I was a child.

Starting with myself in my own country of Haiti, my father of 102 years old recalled how as a lad, people were excited when there was an electrical blackout because it was an event so unusual. We now have uninterrupted electricity only for the World Cup. It happens every four years.

His course of study included Greek and Latin for an eight hours length of instruction. Today, Greek and Latin, the roots of our modern language, have been eliminated and the length of instruction is only four hours per day.

I was 11 years old when the so called Duvalier revolution took place. The people of Haiti, including myself, languished in the homeland at the beginning of the regime and later exiled for 33 years before we could get rid of the nefarious dictatorial government. It created so much havoc in the country and in the Haitian family that lost years can never be recovered.

Hordes of citizens became nomads in their own country, compromising any planned urban development. Family dislocation abroad caused familial links to be lost, similar to the time of slavery, when husband, wife and children were sold to different masters.

When democracy arrived in 1987, it brought with it so many false promises that citizens found themselves in the strange situation of wishing for the good old days of the dictatorial regime, when at least law and order was the rule of the game to build an effective nation.

In the United States, the legend of a promised land offered by Dr Martin Luther King and supported by President Lyndon Johnson had been interrupted by the death of the former and the imbroglio of the Vietnam War by the latter. The exuberance of the movement has never again reached the level of the 60s, even when Barack Obama, the beneficiary par excellence of the affirmative action initiative, is the supreme commander of the land.

In the Caribbean, decolonization did not bring the milk and the honey of the liberation. Hordes of citizens followed the metropolitan colonizers to London, Toronto or New York, depriving their land of the human resources that could build their nation from the ground up. Sustained development has been diverted to a fictitious nirvana based on touristic goals and dreams that run amok with the basic needs of the population.

In Latin America, the revolutionary wars of the 70s have given place to drug wars today, where democratic governments still do not have the magic formula to root their people at home with good institutions and excellent infrastructure. Palliative welfare programs cannot sustain the drive for millions to migrate up north to the United States, seeking a better life for themselves and for their children.

The Africa of the 60s that was liberated from the yoke of the colonial empire, be it British or French, was recolonized without the master through mafia deals controlling the mineral resources by freedom fighters turned into Cain/brother’s keeper of a predatory state that has no vision and no will to practice hospitality for all.

Extremist Muslims, profiting from the state of despair of the people and the lack of good governance, are creating havoc amongst the population. Raids, abductions and kidnapping are common practice, where the army and the police find themselves impotent to rein in the insurgents.

The Middle East, in havoc since the creation of the state of Israel on May 4, 1948, has not found relief, in spite of the recent Arab Spring revolution. Autocrat Arab leaders have used the Muslim shield to discriminate against women, neglect public education and divert their rich natural patrimony into tools of war and luxury living for them and their families.

The Israeli analyst Orit Perlov has painted the Middle East with the broad canvas of ISIS, the Islamic state, and SISI, the military state. Both models failed to provide the vision for education, jobs and freedom to the young Arabs. The extremist ISIS vision of a caliphate for the Arab world is as corrosive for the creation of a nation as the vision of SISI, which sees a terrorist in each and every member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Arab Spring is not for tomorrow. Singapore, Malaysia and Turkey represent bright Muslim lights to follow.

The Europe of the 50s that was rebuilt through the Marshall Plan funded by the United States is developed on a two-track formula. Northern Europe, which includes Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Britain and France, is enjoying a reasonable growth, while Southern Europe -- Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal -- are cicadas that sing when they should have laboured with the support of the European Community.

Asia, in particular South East Asia, which includes China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia, constitute the best hope of gain in the last two generations. China and India in particular were basket cases filled with a large population that could have declined into a Malthusian pandemonium. Instead, through state capitalism in China and through excellent education in India, a critical mass of the population has migrated into the bliss of a middle class status, enriching themselves and their nations.

Oceania, with Australia and New Zealand, constitutes a haven of growth and development -- a rare oasis in the world of the two lost generations. They have profited in leading the good fight for inclusion, development and good governance. They are rewarded with few horror stories that make up the template for rich and poor countries alike.

This template is made of a culture of greed that replaces hard work; nudity that makes up for originality and crass exploitation by the world media of artists that promote the lower denominator in value and in standard of excellence. The Aretha Franklin of yesterday has surrendered the stage to the Rihanna of today; the Johnny Holliday of yesterday has been replaced by Curtis Brown in concert between bouts in prison.

The United Nations, born in 1946, was the light placed on a lamp stand to brighten this world, using the language from Matthew 5:14-16. It has done none such. With a mandate that has now lasted 20 years in Haiti, the country has descended into hell on its watch, while the UN is pleading not guilty because it was not part of its responsibility to help Haiti become a better nation.

The hordes of NGOs that descend into failed countries act like vultures on a carcass made of live human beings. They are there for themselves, not to help the resuscitation of the wretched and the meek of this earth. I remember a program like 4C in the 60s, sponsored by the United States in Haiti. It was of short life but its outcome is still being felt in the region 60 years later. Using the lowest standard of evaluation, the prognosis for today’s USAID program is very bleak compared to the performance of 4C.

The youth of today may not believe it, and I will have my own critics to prove me wrong, but with all their apps, and their Instagram and their instant communication through Facebook or LinkedIn, life was better in the 60s. It was safe, convivial and collegial. Shouldn’t we all work to give a better legacy to our grandchildren, having failed to pass on the baton to our children!
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