Archive for Haiti

The Other Aristide

So, yesterday was Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s birthday. There was kind of a celebration in Haiti. Aristide has been keeping a low profile since he returned to Haiti, and he didn’t attend. But his wife, Mildred Aristide, made a few remarks at the event.

So that lead me on a bit of a search to see if I could find some good Creative Commons images of Mildred Aristide. I still haven’t found that, but I did stumble upon this interesting quotation which is, I think, from a Democracy Now! interview with the former First Lady. At one point of the interview, she talks about the perception of dwelling on the past:

You know, when we were in Central Africa, someone gave us a book on Barthélemy Boganda, who was the founder of Central Africa, the precursor of their independence, because he ultimately — he died before Central Africa gained its independence from France. And there was a line in the book that made me freeze. When they were criticizing Boganda for being critical still of the relations between colonial France and Central Africa, and they kept telling him, “You’re talking about the past,” and that it was a new set of relations between the colonizer and the colony, and Boganda said, “I would stop talking about the past, if it weren’t so present.”

Later, she talks about the Ugandan economist and lawyer, Dani Nabudere:

And one of things that he said […] is that the people […] were saying, you know, “What’s the next step in terms of organizing this resistance that has been happening in Tunisia and in Egypt, for example?” And he said, for him, what was evolving — and he described it as an evolution in what the people are demanding and are requesting of the state — it’s beyond “We want a democratically elected government.” It’s beyond “We want a transparent government. We want elections every four years.” It’s a demand for a new kind of relationship with the state, a human relationship with the state. And it’s a humification — and I think he even used that — or rendering the state as a human being and saying, “We want a state that understands us, that feels us, that has a heart.” And he used terms that one would use between two people. And he said, “That’s what the people are demanding.” So it goes beyond electoral democracy. It goes beyond notions of transparency, which are on paper. And that’s what the people are demanding.

And I thought—I said, “You know, that’s what Haitians have been asserting for a long time. It’s a changed notion of state.” And so, I think that that’s one of the elements that led to, you know, the repeated elections of Lavalas. So, it’s not—and that falls outside the rubric or the framework of what the U.S. sees as what is electoral democracy and what qualifies as electoral democracy. So I found a lot of resonance in his explanation of this new kind of human relationship with the state.

Pa Senp

Here’s a story that I’ve always rather enjoyed; it comes from Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains. The book recounts Paul Farmer’s attempt to create an alternative treatment regimen for tuberculosis.

So he got some people together to find out why the current treatment wasn’t working. One group of people (perhaps unsurprisingly, the relatively poor villagers that were typical of his patients) put their finger on the real problem: giving people Tuberculosis medicine when they don’t have food to eat isn’t all that great. Using this insight, Farmer went on to develop a treatment programme that ensured that all the Tuberculosis patients received food money and extra attention.

What interests me, though, is the other perspective. The other group of people — typically more affluent doctors — felt that the problem was related to the superstitiousness of the patients. According to them, the patients didn’t really believe that microbes caused Tuberculosis: instead, they believed that Tuberculosis happened because of sorcery, and therefore they didn’t stick to the medication regimen.

After talking to a lot of his patients, Farmer learned that although a lot of his patients actually believed this, the belief didn’t make much difference to their recovery rate.

Read more

The UN Legacy

The Christian Science Monitor is running a story right now titled, “Will the United Nations’ legacy in Haiti be all about scandal?”

My answer: “Yes.”

This has been another installment of “simple answers to simple questions.”