In the Parish of the Poor –
Writings from Haiti
By Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Orbis Books – £12.99
‘’Hiding the truth is like trying to bury water. It seeps out everywhere.’’ So wrote former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in what has been described as a ‘’soliloquy at the precipice,’ In the Parish of the Poor: Writings from Haiti
An astonishingly brave and brutal, tender and undeniably truthful account of (relatively modern day) Haiti, this book is an altogether heartbreaking account of the country’s past events, which place its recent events into even more painful perspective.
Originally published in 1990, the book reads as if it might have been written yesterday; such is the relentless cancer of the country’s endemic political corruption and sheer force of the authors words: ‘’Starving men will vote in exchange for a plate of rice or a glass of rum or a can of concentrated milk.’’
Clearly telling it, as it still needs to be told – Aristide’s words read like a simplistic dissertation on the common sense of humanity. A dictum in which the Vatican readily professes to preach – yet by way of silent, subliminal and misanthropic persuasion, is as ever, in cahoots with the contagiousness of the corrupt. El Salvador comes to mind. So too does Nicaragua and Guatemala and the list is unsurprisingly endless.
Writing in the book’s Forward, Amy Wilentz substantiates just some of the reasoning behind why the Catholic Church (still) remains reluctant to infiltrate the killing machine of Haiti’s spurious powerful elite: ‘’As Father Aristide said later about another deposed head of state: ‘The Driver is gone, but the car is still here, loaded down with weapons of Duvalierism.’ Indeed, the structure of the society remained unchanged. The Tontons Macoute, for example, were still abroad, and a brief and violent attempt on the part of the people to bring these men to a swift, street justice was understandably quashed by some well-chosen words from the Haitian bishops. Yet the bishops offered no alternative to the street tribunals and put no serious pressure on the new government to prosecute criminals from the old regime.’’
So what’s new?
Whenever someone comes along, whose words emphatically resonate with the downtrodden and the dispossessed (Jesus Christ, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King) they are irrevocably tarnished and immediately done away with by the powers that unfortunately be. Luckily for Aristide, he wasn’t (quite) done away with. And luckily for the Haitian people, neither were his words: ‘‘to my sisters and brothers who have worked for so long… Alone we are weak. Together we are strong. Together we are the flood…’’
An important thesis on the manifestation of Vatican ordained greed and corruption.