Turning Upside Down

November 26, 2010

Joegodson and Paul

Spoiler: we announce the winner of the Haitian election in this piece.

This week, Joegodson and Paul met – from opposite directions – in the middle of the turbulent rapids that seem to rush to some inevitable destination. But the waters calmed all around us.

For once, Joegodson the Haitian had money and Paul the white Canadian had none.

“I’ll send you some money,” Joegodson said, quite determined.

“Look what’s happened,” Paul replied. “I’m the Haitian now. You’re white. Congratulations.”

Joegodson laughed for a good while.

The global hierarchy is bred into our bones. No relationship is not built upon the interplay of ideas and realities of class, race, gender, sexuality and so on. Our friendship has been able to undo some of the knots that bind us to the world disorder.

Specifically, this is what happened: Paul is working in Montreal long hours on a contract that will not pay until it is completed. No chance to do anything else. The work is great. The finances a disaster. Meanwhile, Joegodson had arrived, as readers are aware, at a desperate place in relation to all the people depending upon him for their survival in Port-au-Prince.

At the nadir of Joegodson’s despair, Paul received requests from some very accomplished investigative journalists outside of Haiti who had been studying our research into the working conditions of Haitians. They asked for some information that might inform them about the possibility of a more sustained project.

Joegodson can investigate these specific issues, Paul replied. However, he must be paid decently for his time and skills. It was soon apparent that we were (for once) speaking with people who were unwilling to exploit the exploited in order to uncover information about how the exploited are exploited. Paul negotiated a decent payment for Joegodson to investigate a tricky issue – not without putting himself at risk. No truth is going to come out of Haiti without someone taking a chance.

Joegodson did a fabulous job of the work. He received 80$US that slipped right through his fingers. Immediately he spread it around so that his little sisters and his cousin, all new mothers, could buy food and water. He went to Bon Repos and gave his cousin money to help care for his convalescing father. He returned home to make sure that his wife Antonia, in her eighth month of pregnancy, was also cared for. All of that bought Joegodson a more settled soul. However, he still has a number of people looking to him for help, like Rodrig and Reynald, for instance. But, there was progress.

The journalists, impressed of course with Joegodson’s report, called with a request for an even more challenging assignment. As Paul related the undertaking to Joegodson, the latter leapt ahead, explaining how he was going to accomplish it. This one will take a little longer and cost a little more, so we negotiated 100$US for Joegodson.

Up until now, Paul the Canadian absorbs the costs of the exchange of information by telephone. (In truth, Paul’s friends and family have also shouldered that burden.) So, we decided that, this time, Joegodson would pay for the calls that keep our work alive. And so, the Haitian is now holding the money. We both thought there was something excellent and just in that.

Already, this morning, Joegodson has begun the assignment that came to him just last night. It requires that he visit a town in the countryside. Any travel out of Port-au-Prince is difficult at the best of times. At the moment, it is complicated by the growing protests in the capital. The people are rioting in the face of Sunday’s elections. So, Joegodson needed to be on a taptap out of Port-au-Prince before the protesters closed down the roads.

The Haitian electorate has, once again, managed to take over the elections that foreign powers and the Haitian oligarchy have tried to take from them. This game goes on and on in Haitian history. It is fascinating to watch how the masses always manage to outsmart those whose control is based on money backed up with arms.

The actual elections are in two days, but they are already over. The extent of the protests means that the people have refused the elections. They have set the stage so that whoever ‘wins’ will be ashamed to ‘celebrate.’ If the victor dares to claim victory, he or she will only demonstrate his or her contempt for the people, law, and democracy.

Our congratulations go out to the winners of the Haitian elections. Once again, the people have already won.

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