Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Mon Amour

The human ability to adapt is both a blessing and a curse, as Dostevsky so aptly put it.  To survive is remarkable but soon turns tragic when you get used to a situation that is worse than animal. 


Similarly Haiti, the horror and the heartbreak lead to incredible moments of poignancy.  But the squalor and the absurdity of the situation are nothing to celebrate. 


On top of it, the place is over-run by Aid workers who slowly fill up the restaurants and bars.  I was in one yesterday filled with internationals laughing and drinking in revelry while just meters away the homeless and the sick wait out their fate in makeshift homes in camps.  I supposed it's trite to write about these usual scenarios and I was there too.  Though everyone wants a piece of this action for whatever reason, a travesty attracts the businessman, the do-gooder, the preacher, the poet and the prophet. 


There are daily strange encounters with different people and the varied reasons of why they are here.  It feels like a big party.  Who knew disasters were such fun.  And so many young white women; intelligent, well meaning, photographers, free lance journalists, students.  They are not the only ones but the ones that most stick out to me.  If anyone single handedly has benefited from female empowerment; it's me.  Wonderful for my love life, so I don't mock them, I just find it funny that's all.  I don't know why.    


My seductive powers tend to fall flat on cheerleaders.  But if they've read Milan Kundera – watch out.    


Everyone trying to make a mark, sincere, but adding in their special way to the circus of disaster relief.       


There is a deep desperate need to see real suffering and to do something about it.  The need to sacrifice, to be heroic is just as important as food and shelter.  In this way a fair trade is taking place, between us and them.    


We are both spirit and flesh, and forever the two shall joust.  It is what makes us human.     


And now normalcy sets in.  For those who have and have not both, with the usual hierarchy; the cruelty and injustice.


Communism, socialism, imperialism, colonialism all gave us someone to blame, some direction to the anger the human condition provokes.  Now, no longer.  All problems are technical and a due to a lack of proper coordination, management.  Or it's the fault of those who suffer, of governance and corruption.  And when that fails there is always bad luck to blame.  The Gods.  Fate.  Destiny.  This makes things a lot less emotionally charged.  Hard to get riled up over faulty bureaucracy.


Some countries export cars, others terror.  Haiti will export the threat of chaos, and constantly seduce with its limitless potential.  1 hour away from Miami, so close, so far.    


Success will require a strong response, though already the aid industry works under many contradictions and disconcerted efforts.  Would you want the tower of Babel to rebuild your country?


I'm a bit dismayed and confused by all this.  And the ways forward all lead to the same dead end.  If ever there was an argument for authoritarianism, this is turning out to be a splendid one.


Though I get down by the impossibility and absurdity, there is something intensely exciting about the atmosphere and work.  I am developing a lustful relation to the energy.  It enfuses every aspect of my life with deep meaning.   Boundless opportunities arise to make things move.   


It is also hard not to be struck by the images of the people in the camps and streets.  It's not the misery I speak of, though there is plenty of that to go around, but the joy, smiles, a form of solidarity that emanates in the strangest of times.  I see it on the women selling their goods in wheel barrows and in the children as we patrol the camps at night.  Little hands come out of the darkness to hold mine.  All this endless cordiality and laughter in such despair.   


And you look up and see a whirl of kites soaring above.     


There is hardship, so much is lost, the future uncertain and a hard rain is going to fall.  But humanity and love burst forth.  Dare I say happiness?  Not the kind of happiness we seek in America, or anywhere in the modern world.  No.  We don't really know what happiness is, so we go searching for it.        


Real happiness is a survival mechanism.  When you ain't got nothing, it's the only thing that saves you.  What keeps you going, and it comes to you when you hit so low, touching that space where you end and God begins.  The poor and destitute are religious not because of ignorance.  It's because they feel the presence of the divine directly because they have nothing to distract them from it.


They feel the elements and thus fear them and pray.  They know hunger and eat joyously, and share what little they have.  They die suddenly and live and dance like no tomorrow.  I don't envy them, but am humbled by their natural spirit that takes this situation and makes it theirs.  With their distinct heartfelt mark.           


Haiti mon amour. 


Sarah said...

Gabo - I read this and it took me back to our humaid class. The idea of exporting suffering. Keep writing. xo

Anonymous said...

Beautifully worded, expresses just beautifully what I personally and perhaps many more felt here. Very well thought through and written.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am checking this blog using the phone and this appears to be kind of odd. Thought you'd wish to know. This is a great write-up nevertheless, did not mess that up.

- David

Anonymous said...

What were you doing in the bar in Haiti Gabo? Drinking water and eating crusts If you're going to criticize Junot Diaz, be of his stature.

Anonymous said...

I also arrived at your blog via the plug from Diaz's essay.

I think what you did versus what he was trying to do are two different things.

And while his prose and style might've been aesthetically off, I think he fulfilled his purpose.

Yours, I am sorry to say, did not. It is overly sentimental, generic, kitschy, and highly dramatized.