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26647: Leiderman: (comment) who needs reconciliation in Haiti? (fwd)
From: Stuart M Leiderman <email@example.com>
21 November 2005
I thank Joe Thelusca for forwarding the recent article (below) from the office
of the Prime Minister, and Mirlande Butler of Eritaj Foundation for her cogent
response (also below). My own reaction is that the article has virtually no
inspirational or instrumental value for Haiti's transition to a peaceful
Reading it, I was reminded of the speeches of Charles DeGaulle, calling for
some kind of chivalrous French unity, back in the days when students and
workers were marching in the streets for education, bread and jobs because
their national government was retreating from the complexities of 20th century
life. DeGaulle wished to slip back to the rules and aroma of the Old Empire,
where reflections came from gilt-edged mirrors rather than from the mud of
dark, wet streets.
The Prime Minister's address is not inspirational because it seems to be is
filled with cliches and rhetorical expressions. It is a band-aid too small for
the wound. In effect, from what I read, he or his writer is asking "Why can't
we all be friends?" when to me it does not seem that achieving friendship among
Haitians was ever an explicit, practical priority of the transitional
administration. Or, if it was, there was not the talent to make many friends
and not enough effort to attract the talent.
The language of the article also reminds me of the kind of locker-room speech
that a football coach might give during half-time to his battered players. In
Haiti's case, I believe the players are not to blame. Probably, most all 8-10
million of them would risk their lives in strenuous teamwork if they thought
the game could be won. But
unfortunately, the coach has a very thin book of game plans. Locker-room
speeches do not substitute for good game plans.
Finally, the Prime Minister's article talks about the need for reconciliation,
but it never defines reconciliation and there are no details on what needs to
be reconciled. Instead, he dwells on the sad condition of Haiti's poor,
uneducated and diseased. I think poor people have nothing to do with Haiti's
problem of reconciliation. First, they are resigned to a worsening life, year
after year after year. Second, they have little or no freedom of choice about
where to live or what to eat. Third, they don't have access to resources to
help them survive and, in turn, to help their neighbors survive from day to
They are living in captivity.
By contrast, the Prime Minister's article is silent about other Haitians who
have relatively much more freedom of choice, including the choice to save their
country from ruin, but who nevertheless have relatively self-centered,
unsustainable and conflicting lives brought on by the way they accumulate and
use their material goods, land, privilege and celebrity status. I think it is
from within this particular class and complex of lifestyle and competition for
Haiti's wealth and resources that small differences arise among these men and
women -- things they like and things they dislike to a greater or lesser extent
-- that grow in importance among them, then become irreconcilable with national
interest and then become a blow to the whole country. I think it is among them
that reconciliation has to occur, among the minority of Haitians who have
freedom-of-choice, because it is from their irreconcilable differences that the
effects filter down to make everyone's else's life dirty, dangerous and
devalued. When this happens, you don't have a country, you have a camping
Do poor people who flee the countryside need reconciliation? No.
Do HIV/AIDS victims need reconciliation? No.
Do boat people need reconciliation? No.
Do unemployed youths need reconciliation? No.
Do beggars in the street need reconciliation? I think not.
I urge the Prime Minister and the leaders who come after him to clearly
identify those who need reconciling; I think it is not all Haitians.