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Why can’t WE, Haitians, get our Sh$t together ?

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In psychology, cognitive dissonance is a theory of human motivation where “an individual holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.”

Here’s an example of cognitive dissonance from excerpt I recently read on the topic:
People who smoke know smoking is a bad habit. Some rationalize their behavior by looking on the bright side: They tell themselves that smoking helps keep the weight down and that there is a greater threat to health from being overweight than from smoking. Others quit smoking. Most of us are clever enough to come up with ad hoc hypotheses1 or rationalizations to save cherished notions. Different people deal with psychological discomfort in different ways. Some ways are clearly more reasonable than others. So, why do some people react to dissonance with cognitive competence, while others respond with cognitive incompetence?”

If you’re truly Haitian, I assume that you’ve used, heard or implied the famous saying “Pito nou lèd nou la” at some point in your life. It’s one of those convenient expressions we use to justify anything that is wrong with ourselves, our country. From that standpoint, one can more or less say that we, as a nation, have suffered from the syndrome (if you allow me to use that term) of cognitive dissonance.

We all know things are bad in Haiti. Heck! Living in Haiti to some extent is wrong. Yet we’re still Haitians and we’re OK with that. Are we so massively incompetent that we can’t logically rationalize at all about our current state? Or, are we so morally and intellectually similar that we come up with the exact same rationalization to just passively accept the way we are?

Let’s get the last question out of the way with a bit of history. Slavery was wrong. That was a fact in 1802, it still is today. We can agree to disagree that Toussaint and Dessalines had two completely different rationalizations (excuses) to sell the idea of revolution to our ancestors. I believe that Toussaint, just like Dessalines, could have brought us freedom, but just in a different way. So the answer the question is 1) No. We are morally and intellectually flexible as people (at least historically), and 2) although the manners might differ from one leader to another, we are capable of breaking away from the status quo, from resignation to misery and suffering.

Almost every single Haitian will tell you that all of Haiti’s problems come down to the mentality of the people. If you really think that’s true, you’re basically saying that “I am Haitian therefore my mentality is wrong”. Even if you use the bad apple analogy here (se li ki pa bon), it still doesn’t erase the fact that you’re implicitly ok with being labeled “mentally inept” collectively. Think about it; that popular opinion is just another excuse to explain or logically mask the simple fact that our country is poor on every level. That idea is as valuable as “ Pito nou lèd nou la”.

Now, are we collectively ill (literally)? Better yet, is there such a thing as a mentally ill nation? I know quite a handful of Haitians who live two completely different lifestyles: one in Haiti and one outside of it. How can one be mentally fit in the U.S. (acts right, pays bills on time, respects the law, becomes successful etc…) yet contributes to the mentality problem of his own native country? One has a conscious mind and an unconscious mind, in other words two parts to one mind. A normal person can’t possibly have two separate units of either parts. So it doesn’t make any sense that our mentality is wrong. It cannot be a mentality thing. It may be a will problem. So to answer the first question, we are competent people if given the proper system. Now wait a minute! If we are competent people why can’t we build a system that works? Why can’t we reason systematically?

Systematic thinking originated from South Africa, a country which, by the way, faced many challenges similar to ours. The Japanese used an older version of the same concept to create Lean manufacturing. I’m no expert on the topic at hand, but I do know it works in many countries, even in Dominican Republic, our neighbor. My point is that, even together as one unit, we can still be competent if we approach our problems the right way.

It is no easy task. I personally don’t know the right way; maybe one of you reading this does. But I do know one thing, we have to stop bulsh&ting our way through everything. It will probably take somebody as big as Toussaint Louverture, a movement as powerful as Marting Luther King’s to get there. U.S.A , The UN won’t save Haiti; they ARE NOT Haitians. Let’s get our sh&t together!!

  1. An ad hoc hypothesis is one created to explain away facts that seem to refute one’s belief or theory.

Marc Evenst Jn Jacques

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Marc Evenst Jn Jacques
Mechanical Engineering, University of Florida

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