It’s an old adage that Haiti is a land of contrasts. Well, it’s a trite statement that holds true for any country, society, or person. Nonetheless, the fact that it’s an overtly vague statement doesn’t make it any less true.
Over the Christmas holidays I went back to the Rosa Mina Orphanage with some colleagues to celebrate Christmas. Was pleasantly surprised to see Pere Noel (Santa Claus) make a guest appearance and hand out gifts to the kids. Was even more surprised to hear “Jingle Bells” in kreyol. It kind of sounds better that way.
A few days later, went to a performance of the St. Trinity Philharmonic Orchestra. If you didn’t know there was classical music in Haiti, well, stop watching the news and just come visit. The performance was undoubtedly beautiful, if not long (I used to play the violin, and it takes substantial effort to sit through a 4 hour performance).
And herein lies the aforementioned contrast. Here in Haiti you can have an orphanage in one part of the city keeping afloat through bare wit and sheer force of will, and on the other end you can enjoy a beautiful classical concert. Actually, this contrast shouldn’t be all that unfamiliar; these same highs and lows exist just about everywhere. The rich and the poor. The haves and the have nots. The ridiculously affluent and the unwashed masses.
So what does all this mean? The fact that inequality is a worldwide phenomenon doesn’t excuse its existence. It does, however, tell us that Haiti is not a lost cause, as quite often seems to be the unspoken tagline when one considers the country’s possible futures. The fact that Haiti is composed of complex social layers the same as in any other modern society should indicate to Haiti-watchers that one doesn’t have to be completely disparaged when analyzing the situation.
If a single violinist, much less an entire philharmonic orchestra can thrive in a country, then there is absolutely a reasonable solution to alleviate the type of poverty the nearby orphanage faces. It is along those lines one must start analyzing the situation, rather than one of absolute hopelessness. It is only then, when one predetermines that the existence of poverty predetermines the future of an entire country, that it doesn’t matter if there are one or ten thousand violinists.