Tomorrow, I’m headed back to RI. Back to Grad School. Back to my room, my bed. Back to my family and friends. But I’m going to miss Haiti. A lot. There is something about it.
I’ve practiced the language, I’ve soaked up some of the culture. I’ve learned so much since I’ve been here. There is so much that numbers don’t capture, as with any abstraction. Judging from the numbers, you’d think that Haiti was a barren desert. It is not. Yes, the hillsides are mostly barren, but there are many lush green areas too. There is also rubble, trash, plastics, pollution. Nonetheless, there is a beauty.
I’ll admit it, I was scared to come here alone. I’d read too much, I’d had too many family members react jarringly when I told them I planed to come by myself. I’m glad I did though. I don’t think I would have had the same experience. I don’t think I would have been as challenged as I was. I don’t think I would have soaked in as much as I have. I’ve grown from this experience.
I leave Haiti humbled and filled with gratitude. I’ve been extremely fortunate in this life. The Haitians I’ve met, the lives I’ve encountered even if only for a split second while passing them on the streets, have inspired me to keep pressing forward. Many of them fight to survive every single day, while I fight to read and write another privileged sentence.
One of the biggest take aways from this trip is how complicated it all is. I’ve sometimes felt like this academic thing is a joke, and that what I should really be doing is helping people directly. Here in Haiti, from what I’ve seen, this isn’t really the solution. I’ve heard Haitians tell me this themselves. Haiti is full of Aid workers of all sorts, from non-governmental organizations like Save the Children to the United Nations Development Program. As a Haitian informant asked, “they’ve been doing this for 50 years, and what do they have to show for it?” Could bringing more jobs to Haiti help? Of course, but only with the right intentions. We’ve got to call it like it is. Capitalism is a system of socio-ecological relations that benefits a minority of people, at the expense the majority of humans, other species, and the landscape. Bringing huge corporations to Haiti won’t help anyone if people continue to be exploited for their labor! $2 a day? Come on, it is ridiculous.
So what is there to do? The best that I can do is rouse the passion that stirred in me as a young person (and still does) in others, in my students. Some of us are born with a stronger sense that something is not right than others, and it is our job to point this out to people. This is true especially of sociologists, whose job it is to decipher the complexities of social life, past and present. It isn’t enough to simply show people that this inequality exists, as evinced by a recent study that shows that showing people the numbers on the disproportionate number of blacks in the prison system actually leads them to support the types of policies that produce these inequalities. We’ve got to make the moral appeal, that the inequality we’ve observed and the ways that it is produced are WRONG. If that doesn’t work, God help us.