Haitians Shaped By Years Of Poverty, Corruption
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Arielle Jean-Baptiste was born in Haiti. She works with the Haiti Democracy Project in Washington, D.C. And she says she's been thinking a lot in the past few days about what Haitians have lived through: years of natural disaster, political corruption, poverty and violence. All these, she says, has both strengthened and weakened the Haitian national character.
Ms. ARIELLE JEAN-BAPTISTE (Research Associate, Haiti Democracy Project): There's been resilience and resignation. They resign themselves to what they have. They don't demand accountability from their government. There's a saying in Haiti where they say, you know, God is good, and they continue their lives.
It is frustrating to watch because you say to yourself, you know, can they continue to work like that? But they've been doing that for years, for years, and you can't understand it. I've watched it. I've analyzed it myself: Why they accept everything. It's resilience. It's also the fact that we resign - myself, I don't have anything else. They have no other options. And when they don't have any other options, they deal with what they have.
I was in West Africa a couple of times. I was (unintelligible), West Africa when I was a young girl and then I went back about two years ago. The difference is that there's been progress in a lot of the countries in West Africa and Haiti has gone backward. So it is frustrating because there is a certain mindset in Haiti where they get together to get rid of a bad government, but they are unable to get themselves together to build.
But I don't think it's a complicated country to fix. I think that the last 15 years, the Haitians have watched supposedly democracy. Their lives never got better after the election, it got worse, and they've become disillusioned, even more now. And the earthquake gives the opportunity to the international community for the first time to really, really now stop putting a Band-Aid on Haiti. Okay? But it has to be a long-term project and which will make it sustainable.
We should get more involved in agro industry in Haiti and economic growth. The governance is - once people start getting money, putting their kids to school, having a better life, you can have a new generation that will be - they will ask for accountability. Okay? Money in people's pocket is what's important. If not, you have to teach them how to fish. Don't give them things. Anything that's free, people don't take seriously. They do not take seriously.
You can do free now because it's an emergency. After that, pay a dollar. They appreciate it more.
SIEGEL: That's Arielle Jean-Baptiste. She was born in Haiti. She now lives in Washington, D.C.
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