Downside Stays Down

November 28, 2010

 This is a quick addendum to the posting Turning Upside Down where we discussed our decision that Joegodson would pay for the phone calls to Canada to discuss the results of his investigation.

We soon discovered that the calling cards that he had to use cost 100 gourds or about three American dollars.  Each one allowed him to speak to Paul in Canada for a couple of minutes, at best. We had negotiated one hundred American dollars for the research. With that, he solicited the help of a friend who was raised in the mountains near the town he needed to investigate, travelled there, spend a full day researching, and then returned to Port-au-Prince. (Later today, we’ll post a reflection on that very momentous return that lasted Friday night until Saturday midday, with the elections looming.)

The transfer of information to Canada required much discussion. With what remained from the hundred dollars, he could not have discussed half of his findings. He has no landline. The Internet cafés charge by the minute as well. Moreover, there is no functioning postal service, even if we had the time to correspond by mail.

This small detail is part of an underlying theme of our work. It is only when you actually put yourself in the place of the Haitian poor that you understand how their voice is silenced on the world stage. Moreover, there is no simple way out of the poverty that binds them to the bottom of the global hierarchy. They are not alone there, people are bound – in the many senses of that word – in different ways to our present global disorder. Anyone can understand this who has tried to change something, but come up against impenetrable roadblocks in each potential escape route.

That the calls out of Haiti are effectively impossible for poor Haitians is one tiny obstacle that keeps Joegodson and his peers in place; it shuts down one exit route. That would be fine if they were controlling their lives in that place. The great indignity is that their lives are controlled by people who can call anywhere, anytime, and speak as long as they want. Everyone in Haiti who is calling out and who wants to connect with the poverty around them must first confront the fact that he or she is doing what the Haitian poor cannot do. In other words, the reality of the lives of the Haitian poor must be mediated somehow because one aspect of that poverty is the inability to access open channels of communication. We are confronting that by acknowledging the inevitability of our communication between physical and cultural divides.

The fallacy is the belief that there is such a thing as pure knowledge: facts that exist outside of the human beings who are making sense of them.

As an addendum to the addendum, Joegodson’s research was superb, once again. Paul hawked some electronic stuff to pay for the transfer of information.


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