Monday, February 6, 2012


I had the honor of getting a personal note from Bob Corbett this morning. Now of ALL the foreigners who have intervened in Haiti over the years, I think that Bob Corbett has performed the greatest service. That may just be my prejudice as a writer since he has made such an effort throughout his life to keep up a peaceful forum for communication on Haiti.

Through his efforts, he has created a virtual community of people - mostly us blans, us gringos.. but with the GREAT aid of some very advanced Haitians who pop in to whop us upside the head when we get it wrong-- who struggle to find the way to best be of service to Haiti .. to restore her to the jewel that we all know she is and was.

And for 20 years he did service projects in Haiti on the ground as well. I doubt there is anyone who does not hold him in the highest regard.

So it was an honor that he took the time to write me.

About my latest rantings

about.. so "what is wrong with pity"

and here is what I answered.

Dear Bob,

Thanks for the query and I certainly have the same bag of motivations. But there is some thing about the "pity" thing - and it may be just semantics but I think it is deeper. Pity is not just "sharing sorrow".

I am still working on this one as I transit from one world to the this one.

For a while, I worked with a small African American newspaper in North Carolina. I was the only white person.I was also the top ad sales person and top writer (a small business) .. I was always trying to help out by buying lunch,,,etc. My friend Beverly, a very tough bright Chicago black who had NEVER been to school or work with any whites before said to me
"You make us ashamed to be poor". I stopped buying lunch.

I keep a print on my wall from the Dalai Lama which reads
" Compassion-

Usually our concept of compassion or love refers to the closeness we have with our friends and loved ones, sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong. Any love or compassion which entails looking down on the other is not genuine compassion. To be genuine, compassion must be based on respect for the other, and on the realization that others have the right to to be happy and overcome suffering just as much as you. On this basism since you can see that others are suffering, you develop a genuine sense of concern for them."

Here in the DR we have a pretty advanced industry of "volunteers" who pay about $1000 a week to come down here and live in the rural areas and help build schools and churchs and what not. How odd to watch the Episcopalians with the gold crosses in their ears, painting the walls in the church hall -- a job that Dominicans would definitely have HIRED Haitians- to do.

I am sure that all the lives of these people who come here are transformed.. perhaps if only that they have experienced a taste of poverty and feel relieved not to be living in it. But does it help the locals? Well, sure, perhaps it gets a school built. But that is the responsibility of the State and locals, no? Here in the DR, they really do have the money to build the schools, it is a political decision whether or not to educate the people.

The volunteers are not working in their fields - they are working construction.Haven volunteers have to raise 5000 Euros in order to come. And the first project that they built, they gave the houses to the very poorest- and bypassed the ones in town who had struggled up to some sort of comfort. This is sort of an inverse reward system, no?

They had not, at first, even gotten enough cooperation with the local authorities to have a road built to the project.

But money does not buy happiness - you and I know that. Haitians know that as well, At times, I think that there is an inverse relationship!

The mere fact that I get triggered by this stuff means that I have it in me - because I have found that I really do not get so triggered if it is not in my shadow.I got blasted in comments on my blog, which I published, even though they were posted anonymously, since they kept underlying my own arrogance.

But I also know that we do not have it right yet. I do not know what "right" is. But whatever is required of those of us who genuinely wish to help Haiti, we seem to still be lacking it. I get these backlash comments on my blog and postings over on calling me a hero.... so I am pretty sure that I have not got it right.

But we make assumptions about people who are poor, people who are uneducated. I think that we hold them in contempt - or at least Americans do.We do not approach them as if they had any wisdom or knowledge to impart to us. We assume they live in misery. See, it trips off the tounge doesn't it, misery, squalor, poverty... OMG they cannot READ,,,,
But I have found that Haitians I know are telepathic, like the Masai.

That might be something that we could learn.

Anyway.. I am really struggling on how to be effective. What do they need that I have to give? What do I need that they have to give? And mostly I have found that I have some technical skills -- marketing, promotion, language.. and they seem to have wisdom. I love meeting with them because all I have to do is send out a spark - like putting the ball into play.. and watch them bat it around. They are MASTERS of the consensus process,

But most of the WORK in Haiti, by that I mean full top salary work, is with the FOREIGN NGOS,, which are .. for the most part.. heirarchical, patriarchal... non cooperative... and materially oriented.

So perhaps this is just the cowboys and the indians again.

I somehow always wanted to be with the indians..

betcha you did too!

Thanks so much for the chat.

I get very lonely here.



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