Friday, October 28, 2005

Kreyòl Pale, [krēōl'] Konprann

Today is International Creole Day. To celebrate this day, a few words in that tongue, shall we?

Jodi a se Jounen Entènasyonal Lang ak Kilti Kreyòl. Sa vle di tout moun ki pale kreyòl sou latè ap fete bèl lang sa a ak moun ki pale li.

[translation: Today is Int'l Creole Language and Culture Day. This means that everyone worldwide who speaks Creole is celebrating this beautiful language and its speakers.]

I was very happy to watch a debate on Guyane's television around this celebration. I was surprised to see how well I understood what the 7 participants were saying, except, of course for the use of "ka" with verbs which always confuses present and future tenses in my head, but that's another debate altogether...

I was also rather discouraged. It seemed their problems with Creole are almost the same : French is considered a 1st-class language, Creole isn't. People think using more Creole in daily life will cut us off from the rest of the world. Creole is still not considered a "real" language by a lot of people.

One guest, the owner of the local television station we were watching, said that 10 years ago, the station was even stoned because he aired the news in Creole. Things have progressed yet he still has to fight with his guests to get them to interview in Creole.

This situation fits in well with my previous post. Most candidates are using Creole and Rasin music to get the vote. Yet walk into any public office and everyone wrestles with French, all the forms are in French. In fact, I sometimes feel things in Creole are ID and the Constitution.

I hate that this language that all Haitians communicate with is so politically charged. You're "smart" when you speak French, and "dumb" when you speak Creole. And yet, if you actually analyze what most people say in French, was comes out and what they mean are two different things. So it's a means of control and, well, oppression. If you say something only in French, you're guaranteed to filter out almost 95% of the population. This is a good way of making sure people only understand what you want them to.

Our former Prezidan, a great actor in his own right, took to making all his speeches in Creole. Smart man to communicate directly with "the masses". Yet, when he was away, I wonder what stories he told in French and in English...

There are several issues that need to be addressed by the candidates. Foremost is Education. School is mostly taught in French with French books. Is it any surprise that we get such poor results in the official exams? An expert said it best on TV the other day : Children here don't go to school to learn, they got to practise memorization skills.

I was taught Creole in school, in 3rd or 4th grade, for all of 6 months. Never again afterwards. In fact, I was forbidden to speak it even during recess. I didn't even have an opinion on Creole in schools until a few years ago I saw a documentary on Hawai'i.

There is a school on the main island there that experimented in teaching class entirely in the Hawai'ian language (I don't know the correct term). The only class they had in English was literally English. Those students ended up with the highest scores of SAT for that state.

Imagine what would happen if every single law, news article, movie, book or textbook was available in Creole. Every single Haitian would not only have equal access to knowledge, he would also be able to question what's going on around him.

The question now becomes : who really wants that ?


The electoral campaign has been in full swing for several weeks now and we are living the boomerang effect. Forrest Gump said it best : "Stupid is was Stupid does". In our case, "Half-baked is what Half-baked does".
One candidate in particular has been the focus of a lot of opposition from the electoral council itself. To the point you would have to be in a coma not to notice this special treatment.
You see, his nationality was contested because the 1987 Constitution and the electoral laws state that you can compete for state office if you renounced your Haitian nationality. After a lot of haggling, debate, vociferous public discussions, he seems to be back in the race.
I am not a fan of this man, I don't belong to his party, I don't even think I'll vote for him. In fact, I'm rather set against him because he's the US White House favorite, apparently. Still, I wasn't against him running.
Why? Why if he's been living in the US for decades? Why if he's made millions, it's said, in the Texan food industry, (which does not do much to impress me anyway)?
Because it's almost unspeakably hypocritical and biased, that's why! I spent 9 mos working in a small institution with 52 employees. From the Director to the gardener, all of them either had 2 passports, were in the process of getting another, had close relatives ie parents, siblings, cousins who either were foreign nationals or citizens.
Worse still, of the 20 some candidates for President, no one is very offended by their allegiances, except for that one guy. I don't know if it was a preemptive strike but another candidate took out 4 pages of a local newspaper to publish his credentials: both his parents birth certificates, his own and his US green card!!!! Do I really care?
The Constitution and the laws are wrong because they weren't made for the long term. It was convenient in 86-87 because a lot of Duvalier's people fled the country. But when you ban them from the elections for only 10 years, what happens next? It's been almost 20 years since Jean-Claude et Cie left the island. Are we even surprised there are three openly pro-Duvalier candidates for presidency?
All this led me to question what makes one a "true" Haitian. I examined myself. I'm not particularly patriotic because I find patriotism to be a posture. One of my ancestors fought in the War of Independance but so what? Look what happened to that ideal. Some days, I curse my parents for birthing me into this chaotic mess. Most days, I wish I could drop everything, empty my bank account, grab my passport and run for the airport.
Speaking of elections, I'm not sure I'll even vote. Will it be a truly free and democratic vote or is the President already picked out, like the rumors say? I don't trust any of the candidates but so are shameless whores. As friend said, there are some unnatural alliances being made for this campaign. And besides, what have those overnight political parties done for the community, anyway? The older ones bring nothing new. The newer ones sprouted out of the blue.
I do have my voter's card. I registered at the voting office closest to my house. My entire family did, by the way. But I was shocked to realize that, of the thirty people there, office staff included, nobody physically looked like me. I'm light-skinned, everyone else wasn't. They were staring at me and talking about me rather openly. Was I a naturalized Dominican? Was I a bourgeois?
I'm getting used to this more and more. When I get on a bus, people seem surprised that "someone like me" even takes public transportation! Beggars on the streets call me blan as if I were a foreigner. Worse still, people who identify with me are all sure I'm living abroad and that I'm just here for a short visit!?!
So where do I belong in this society? Why am I voting for, if I'm such an oddity? And who's my candidate, anyway?