Thursday, July 26, 2012

Response to Michaelle Jean

From her Ottawan perch, Michaelle Jean recently screamed her desarroi against the “mediocrity” of Haitian politicians in a much discussed article.
She decried three great sins: political gridlock and obstruction, the pursuit of personal interests at the cost of the collective good, and a lack of unity. From this triuvum, a smelly mediocrity arises, justifiably ramming all Haitians into a corner of idiots, and cruel ones at that.
All sound aside, her fury seems out of proportion.
That politicians are self-focused and dishonest cannot shock. Le contraire aurait été anormal.  And such is not only a Haitian phenomenon: it is human. Human beings are selfish; human beings are cowardly; human beings are self-delusional; human beings take more than they give; human beings do whatever is in their perceived interest, regardless of the implications for others.
Of course unity and selflessness are not requisites for development. None other than the great United States of America proves this. Democrats and Republicans are not united. At times, they sound quite hateful towards the other. Read about President Obama in any conservative blog. (A word to the wise: don’t do it right after eating.) The truth is that very, very few people behave selflessly, in any country, or any sector, except perhaps soldiers on a battle field.
In successful democracies, leadership does not operate on the basis of unity or consultation or participation or self-sacrifice, but on raw power: the winner governs; losers sulk, criticize, cry, obstruct, whatever.
Given her audience, Ms. Jean could have done a great service to the country. She could have offered feasible solutions.  She could have also announced concrete steps to reduce politicians’ harmful impulses.

For example, as a high profile member of the vaunted diaspora, she could create a pre-election panel, made of Haitians living abroad—police officers, journalists, accountants, attorneys, psychologists, private investigators—who would probe and report on candidates running for national offices. A “Good Governance Seal” system as it were, to help Haitians make smart voting choices.
Perhaps a most regrettable facet of Ms. Jean’s article is its “me-too-ism.” It regurgitates the worst labels placed on our country by the international community. But Haiti is—even now—much more than the sum of political machinations, mediocrity, and brokenness. Haitians, once again, are proving to be more phlegmatic and practical than experts can understand.
Certainly, Haiti faces daunting challenges, but even if we were to accept Ms. Jean's dire scenario, those of us who love this country and are committed to its success expected more from such a powerful voice.  We hoped that she would light a candle. But instead, she cursed the dark.  

July 2012  
Port-au-Prince, Haiti