By Ilio Durandis
The word change has been used very loosely in recent decades to describe what must take place in Haiti. From the time Pope John Paul II famously uttered that things must change, during his only visit to Haiti in 1983, to the present day, people in positions of power have been trying to sell the Kool-Aid of change to the Haitian masses.
Unfortunately, change has occurred, but, by the look of it, most would agree that it is for the worse.
If we consider all the money that has been spent on Haiti for most of the past half-century in the name of change, time and time again, we are forced to ask ourselves why has it been so difficult to make change for the better happen for most Haitians.
A simple observation would lead us to conclude that the atmosphere of exclusion in the decision-making processes is probably one of the main culprits of this stagnant state of mediocrity that is rapidly destroying the inner core of Haiti’s society.
If we must fast track to today’s reality, it is clear and evident that the exclusion of the masses is still the policy of the top. Haitian politicians and public officials have gotten better at talking the good talk, and even amplifying their illusory plan to make Haiti a better place for all Haitians.
In the name of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, illiteracy, and massive internal displacement, the relativism of change has created a pseudo-imagination that things are indeed changing for good. But is it time to finally buy into the Kool-Aid?
Haiti, a country born from a bloody slave revolt, and one that paid an indemnity to its former oppressor to recognize its glorious victory on the battlefield, has forgotten the path it took to become a nation.
Many developed and powerful countries have done Haiti wrong in the past. From France’s lengthy colonization to the United States’ multiple military occupations and interferences in the nation’s internal affairs, Haiti has remained a protectorate of the international community.
However, despite it all, the people of Haiti continue to hope that better days are ahead.
In order for those days to be better and to become a reality, Haiti must break totally from its traditional past of relying and inviting the same destructive and oppressive players for advice on its every little move.
History has taught us that the Haitian Revolution was fought for independence and not dependence. So why is the Kool-Aid of change still being made with the flavour of the oppressors?
To understand the reasons things have gotten worse for most rather than improving, we must socially analyze the ladder of Haiti’s society. The bottom rungs are used only to fulfill the benefit of a selected few, and, once used, they are completely forgotten. This is what one can refer to as a theory of social exclusion.
Change for the better and social exclusion cannot coexist. Wherever the majority is excluded, it must be expected that the minority cannot be at peace. Stability through force is ephemeral, but the prism of social inclusion and social justice can lead to prosperity.
An atmosphere of deciding for those on the receiving end without their consultation is an insult to democratic values. A nation that was once a model to the world, now found itself scrambling to emulate any country that offered the hope of aid.
Haiti’s national budget and programmes are, for the most part, drafted on the altruism of foreign donors. All the major initiatives in this new reconstruction era bank their hope on the good will of foreign investors and various aid agencies.
One can call it pessimism, but it is arguably unsustainable to expect to inspire a people and uplift a nation when the top refuses to include the bottom. This top-down, trickle-down approach to development will not lead to independence, nor will it lead to social inclusion. Instead, it has all the hallmarks of protecting the status quo.
Maybe, at the end of the day, Haitians will be satisfied with having access to a factory job with limited potential to acquire transferable skills, with living in a neo shanty-town near an industrial park, with sparsely-spaced solar lamps in between homes, and a non-sustainable, renewable potable water system.
For Haiti to become an emergent country by 2030, its people must be trusted to define its destiny. The top must prioritize the inclusion and elevation of those at the bottom. To do so, the leaders need to stop talking at the people, and in place of the people.
A country’s development is not dependent on how often foreign dignitaries visit, or how many trips its leaders take abroad. The most important aspect of any nation’s development resides in its ability to engage and challenge its population on the growth of its national products.
Haiti cannot and will not rebuild better solely on foreign aid or foreign investment. The axiom that those at the bottom must wait until those at the top fill their bellies, in order for them to be fed, cannot continue to be the modus operandi in the reconstruction era.
Governing within a sphere of partisans is like a mouse running in a circle; it means nothing to those outside the circle; the net result is stagnation.
An outsider might see hunger, poverty, misery, or even resiliency, but at the core of it all, the Haitian people want peace, stability, equal access, and, above all, independence. The founders handed the people a free nation with one supreme condition: rather than live under foreign domination, they ought to always choose death. It is evident that this noble stipulation has been breached, in the name of comfort for a few, at the expense of the misery of the many.
Currently, Haitians are patiently waiting to be called and engaged in the reconstruction. Most of them do not want the favour of a trickle-down policy, but rather the dignity of a livable employment.
If Haiti’s sustainable development could be compared to Kool-Aid, social inclusion would be its water. Then, and only then, might it be ready to be marketed.
Let Haiti’s people live in dignity and inclusivity.
Ilio Durandis, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is the founder of Haiti 2015, a social movement for a just and prosperous Haiti. He is also a columnist with The Haitian Times.