Thursday, July 11, 2013

My Haitian revolution...

So I just got back after spending three weeks in Haiti. It was an amazing experience. It's actually very hard to put into words exactly how I felt being there or how I feel now that I'm back. I wouldn't necessary say that I feel "changed" in the way you often hear people say who have experienced something so alien to them, but I'm sure I will notice a subtle difference of perspective when looking at the world around me now that I'm back in a consumer-driven, more more more, society.
I think that is what struck me most about Haiti. Not the cliched idea that people there are happier, because I think that something like that is difficult to gauge. But it did seem that the people there were more content with what they had. And I'm sure a lot of that was the fact that they didn't know any different, and outside media (i.e. the internet) is not readily available to everyone so they might not necessarily know what they're missing. Not that they would choose to go after all of the bullshit we focus our lives on even if they did, but I guess what struck me was that the people seemed to be much more focused on living for the moment, living for today. And I liked that. But I think that has also been a double-edged sword for a country that has been through a lot of shit over the course of it's history. And while living for today may make individuals more content with what they have, it makes it hard to build a society around that concept. Lack of planning and savings makes it hard to build infrastructure; sanitation services, sewer systems, water filtration, etc. And it seems that while Haiti's lack of these things is due in large part to a simple lack of financial resources, the other problem that may be in play is a lack of interest on the part of most Haitian people in planning for the future.
I hope that doesn't sound culturally insensitive or relativist. In many ways I envy the perspective that most of the Haitians that I met have on the world. The constant need to improve and acquire more and more leads to a lot of unhappiness in our society and culture. But at the same time I think there are basic services of healthcare and infrastructure that are valuable to a society, and actually free up time and energy to focus on (what I would consider) more valuable activities. Now most of the time savings that we have in the United States are used for activities that actually end up wasting more time, but that is a different topic. I think there can and should be a happy medium. I don't think the people of Haiti would be unhappy with indoor plumbing that piped in clean drinking water so they didn't have to spend so much time gathering and filtering or boiling their water. Or with garbage being centralized in a dump or something of the sort to prevent the streets being piled with debris. Or with sewage services that made flushing toilets possible. Maybe I'm just too used to the society that I grew up in an and find it amazing that people don't bat an eye at these inconveniences.

Have you ever done any travel in developing countries, or even in undeveloped areas in this country. What is your perspective on this?

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