Tout Moun Se Moun
May 6, 2010
by Joegodson and Paul
The debate regarding the future of Haiti needs to be clarified. Over the last two decades, those who control the world’s riches have targeted the poor of Haiti. Haitians have paid dearly in blood and suffering. But the poor are still there and the spark that illuminates their soul has not been extinguished. But it is badly understood outside of Haiti.
The populations of the rich countries need to understand why the spirit of Lavalas needed to be killed in Haiti. It wasn’t, in fact, killed. It probably cannot be killed. It is the greatest threat to those who continue to coordinate the ruin of the planet.
The spirit of Lavalas grew among the poorest and most exploited peoples in the Americas. It is easier for the most exploited to understand how power operates. There are two groups of people with a good grasp of reality: those who exploit and those exploited. In between, people live in an illusory world. Those who are exploited understand power and oppression. Those who profit know precisely who is suffering that they may accumulate ever more wealth. So we appeal to the majorities in the rich countries that allow the rich to profit from the poor.
From the North, Haiti is seen as a place to pity, to help, to manage, and to control. Northerners go to Haiti to teach, not to learn. We suggest, instead, that Haiti is a model for the global reconstruction that all informed people recognize as necessary for the well being of the planet. We dare to suggest that those who want to lead instead follow the poor of Haiti. This requires much energy and courage. People from countries that profit from the global order are taught to look up the ladder, not down. However, if the rapacious populations of the world continue to climb the ladders of material accumulation, they will only have farther to fall. We can either help each other down to earth now or we will all fall to our destruction later.
Lavalas is simple. While it surrounds us always and everywhere, it is invisible for those taught to dominate, to profit, and to help the poor. Tout moun se moun. Every person is a person. It is the ultimate profession of equality in an unequal world. In John Donne’s incarnation, it read, “… send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.”
It cannot be grasped through the intellect alone. It is a spiritual position. To begin to bring it into focus, we return to the election of 1990, in which the Haitian poor had arrived at a moment of lucidity in relation to the forces of domination, understood as the purveyors of death. In response, and out of the springs of liberation theology sprang an alternative in the idea of the dignity of every human and all creation. But, we believe that Lavalas cannot exist in one country alone. People everywhere must affirm their humanity and, with that affirmation, the dignity of all others. To deny others is deny oneself. There is no human dignity unless all humans care for each other. Lavalas is grounded in a theology unbounded by all divisive or distinguishing categories, such as race, gender, religion, and nationality. Tout moun se moun.
Aristide did not present his candidature for the presidency. The poor chose him in recognition of his identification with them as parish priest in the slum of La Saline. Typical were the signs that the peasants of Maïssade prepared to greet him during the campaign: Ou te deja vote pou nou, jodi a nou vote pou ou, meaning, “You have already voted for us, today we vote for you.”
Aristide wrote of the presidential campaign of 1990 in terms that were equally theological and political.
His first stop was Salomon Market as a way to gather the rising tide of Lavalas supporters together without exposing them to the violence of the macoutes who were not ready to relinquish power (and who, with the help of the USA, would eventually re-impose their terror.) Salomon Market had been burned by the macoutes during the aborted elections of 1987 after the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier. The pastors organized donations so that the street vendors could re-establish their modest commercial activity. Aristide wrote that to be among the women merchants “who transform their lives into sacrifice to give life to their children” tied Lavalas to the God of the poor.
The second visit took Aristide to Saint-Jean-Bosco Church, where he had been pastor and where on September 11, 1988, the macoutes had opened fire on the congregation during mass, in a failed attempt to assassinate him. Crowds of local people remembered and honoured the victims as having given their lives for the rebirth of their country. The danger was even more present, of course, as Lavalas gained strength. But the street children, rescued and cared for by Aristide’s Lafanmi Selavi, hoisted him, now presidential candidate, on top of a car so that everyone could see that they voted for him as he had loved and protected them in the face of the purveyors of death. Many of those children would die soon after when Molotov cocktails were thrown into their lodging as they slept.
Aristide next went to the Sonapi Industrial Park to stand in solidarity with the exploited sweatshop workers. The policy of Lavalas was to oppose the system of exploitation understood in Haiti by the aphorism: Bourik travay chwal galonnen, “the donkey works so that the horse can rest all day.” Lavalas committed itself to resist the system whereby some people work to enrich others. Close by, in Cite Soleil, where many of those workers lived, Aristide understood the huge crowds of youths to be “thirsty for justice, work, and respect.”
On November 29, 1990, a student at the Faculty of Science of Port-au-Prince asked how individuals could change an entire system that did not recognize the value of the individual. In particular, he asked what would be the effect of releasing a drop of salt water in a glass of water. The salt would be diluted and the glass would not change. For Aristide, the response to that important question grounds Lavalas in politics and theology. “I am not a drop of water because we are a multitude of water drops which falls as rain, transforms into a river, and becomes Lavalas.”
What is the point of fighting for justice when the forces of injustice are stronger and established? Why fight for truth when those who diffuse lies and illusions have control of the media and systems of education? Why struggle for dignity when we are exploited and abused by a system that hides in cowardice and kills those who resist it publicly?
Not surprisingly, Lavalas grew out of some of the most exploited and abused communities in the current global system devised to make donkeys work so that horses may rest. But the individual drops that united to quench the land of Haiti have largely evaporated under pressure from the imperial countries. Lavalas is a hopeful and dangerous whirlpool when it is confined to the small space of Haiti. The theological, humanist, buddhist insight that inspires Lavalas – tout moun se moun – must spread beyond Haiti and enter all human communities in whatever cultural forms are at hand.
Dominant populations do not experience the inhumanity of the economic system that they allow in the same way as the exploited. However, allowing others to be abused and exploited diminishes us all. Lavalas resisted the abuse and opened itself to all Haitians, even the horses. “L’union fait la force.” Unity makes strength. The danger inherent in that strategy is that those who have renounced their common humanity in favour of profiting from others – the horses – have demonstrated that they will kill all initiatives that lead to peace and justice. It is the Northern populations that must learn to be willing to share humanity with the exploited of the world. Tout moun se moun.
Those from the wealthy countries, involved in reconstruction and rescue efforts, enter Haiti to teach. That is unfortunate, because they have much to learn.