Sunday, 4 April 2010

thinking it through

this weekend has been pretty weird. i was hoping to be able to get more photos up from haiti but my hard drive is full and i think i have to buy a new external hard drive. and i just haven't gone to the store yet. so i am just going to share some thoughts . . .

the weekend has been so starkly different. the flowers are in bloom in dc, it smells good, everyone is happy and celebrating, it is pretty, fairly organized, and working. there is space. it is calm and peaceful.

it is a shockingly stark contrast from haiti where everything is destroyed, everyone has been traumatized and is suffering all sorts of loss (loved ones, limbs, homes, jobs, schools, toilets, paper, water, etc); it smells like sewage, garbage, and death; it is crammed and crowded. it looks horrible. it is intense.

it is hard to feel okay about leaving. it was weird to go from haiti to spa world. i was in the spa thinking about how bourgeois am i for leaving such suffering and then bathing like that? but then i realized, just like "rolling around in the muck doesn't make you clean", neither does being dirty improve anyone else's cleanliness. i wonder if part of being zen is really about letting your self be your best and truest, which also means clean. and being that best self is the gift you give to the world. you being your best gives the planet that goodness, and as a result their is a positive way sent out.

it works like this in a metaphysical sense, right? your letting go of your dissonance doesn't have any impact on anyone else dissonance. your soul may be set free, but mine (unless i too have let go) is still trapped by the lies i tell myself. your letting go of your dirt or washing your dirt off, doesn't impact the state of my soul. though it may touch my soul to remind me that change is possible.

this is complicated stuff that i am not sure how to verbalize. this ethical 'dilemma of having' is tricky. i want to be sure that i have shared and worked enough for equality, but how do you know?

i have also been thinking about micro-change a lot. in yoga the slightest movement can really change a posture. for instance, if you are in downward dog and you rotate your hips/femurs internally and your elbows externally, the whole posture feels different. it isn't much movement but it makes a HUGE difference.

when you compare scale, the amount of movement between the earth's plates that cause the haitian earthquake are pretty similar to that type of movement. minor!

haiti sits on the small caribbean plate is sandwiched between the larger north american and south american plates. according to the internets, the "Caribbean side shifts eastward at a rate of approximately 20mm/year relative to the North American". 20 mm/year. apparently what happens is that the plates start pushing on each other and that builds up pressure. the pressure hadn't been "released" for about 40 years. "The rupture of the fault zone was approximately 65 km (40 miles) in length with an average slip of 1.8 m (5.9 ft)" the earth's circumference at the equator: 24901.55 miles (40075.16 km). that means the amount of movement to scale, if miles are the unit of measurement, is .16% of full 360° is less than a .5° angle . . . it isn't much movement.

but look at what such little movement does! it destroyed and killed tons of people, homes, business, etc. but what if we all made little movement towards good. what would that do? all of our combined micro-change could change the ethos of the place. though so much destruction and pain was wrought, it does make room for so much improvement. there is this weird angle of hope in all of this. that somehow haiti can rise up from this tragedy stronger, better, more productive. restored to its once undeniable glory.

did you know that haiti was the second free country in the western hemisphere? (US was 1). and that it was the first autonomous black republic? it was the bread basket of the caribbean. but through corruption and selfishness, it had become the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

i hope that people will allow for haiti to change. that will only happen by engaging the haitian people, and the NGO's that they run. currently, all the money is being poured into large international NGOs that work to help, but really work to have work. they take large overheads and are not able to have the impact that a local haitian NGO has because:

1. don't understand the culture
2. pay large overheads
3. don't work in the hardest hit areas

i don't think haiti will rise triumphant if haitan NGOs aren't part of the rebuilding process. and not just tangential optics type involvement, i mean, tapping these NGOs until they are bursting and can't provide more. then the international NGOs (i-NGOs) should work to train and build their capacity so that they can learn all of the good governance processes that take place in well oiled NGOs (boards, transparency, accounting, accountability, compromise, etc). if we were to really utilize all the haitian NGOs i think we could then see some seismic shifts in the trajectory of haiti. without, it will remain where it is.

the micro-change needed is that the i-NGOs need to realize that they should not being doing all that they do. that they should step back and ensure that haitians are able to do, help them along if they aren't there yet, but eventually get out of the way so haiti can rebuild itself. not the americans or any other entity that wants to take that credit.

and we have to let the haitians own the oil that was uncovered via the quake. we have to let them determine which neighborhoods are "red zone" and which aren't. we have to really let them lead. this is not a time for neo-colonialism where we cause haiti to be indebted to us because we rescued them . . . we have to help there because it is the right thing to do, but we have to let them be in charge.

a german (whose photo you will see later) was really hating on everyone at the PAHO health cluster in leogane. we were at the epicenter of the quake. nothing was standing. and this guy choose to take issue withe everything. including, during the meeting, trying to engage in a fight with us about the apropriateness of the US government helping to build a database and trying to get all conspiratorial about us spying.

later he tried to engage in a more directed argument with nadine and i. i had to walk away when he was opposed to our idea of handing the management of the databases over to the ministry of health. he said that "they are a dissolved government, there is no government." i almost asked him if he thought we should just colonize them . . . he was obviously bitter and a wee bit nuts. nadine try to reason with him, but i left.

it is his mentality that is so distructive. just completely disregard everything. barge into a space and do what you want to do with no orientation to where you are in relationship to the other. you know best. this is not a place were john galt is going to be of any service (not that he ever wanted to be in the first place). that thinking will destroy more than it already has if it is employeed again in haiti.

that is the micro-change i guess that is needed. there needs to be trust of the haitian people and a check to insure that all who are helping are doing so to help, not just to line their pockets.

and also not just to make people believe a certain philosophy. on the way home i shared a plane with a bunch of "missionaries" from the "rock of christ". they wore yellow shirts with red writing. they spoke no kreole or french. and i overheard some of them laughing over culturally insensitive statements about haitians . . . i finally asked them what they had been doing in haiti. a your 20-something said "preachin' the gospel". i said, what do you mean? she explained that they would go into chrisitan churches and host a revival . . . they would play music and preach. there were about 20 of them.

i just couldn't really wrap my head around going to these blasted out places and deciding that the best thing i could do to help would be to play some music and insure that everyone was thinking and praying the way i do . . . i seriously don't get it. at least build a toilet or two while you are there. get someone some water, etc. SERIOUSLY!!!!

i think that is some disgusting disaster tourism. congrats, you have seen the disaster and can for the rest of your life refer to the devestation in your sermons. but by the way you are talking and the way you are acting, it doesn't seem like you have taken much time to actually mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. i don't know, seems so selfish to go and convince people of your ideas when they don't have a place to poop.

photos coming soon.


christine said...


It was so great to see you this afternoon at the picnic in the park. I want to hear more of your experiences in Haiti, so I was glad to read this post.

There is so much here I can relate to from when I returned home from Afghanistan. The destruction and life I saw in Afghanistan is nothing compared to what you saw in Haiti, but the experiences are with me every day. It was really hard when I first came home to see everything we have here. I remember driving through a shopping area on my first weekend in the U.S. and just bursting into tears. The contrast was so great and overwhelming.

I still find it hard sometimes to have so much while others are scrambling for their very lives, and struggle to put it in perspective. The contrast still gets me at times. I'm glad of that though, because I don't want to take my life here for granted. My heart just aches at times at the injustice of life.

I liked your thoughts on being zen, and that it's putting our best self out for the world. I think too, that zen means being a good steward of all that we are given, and like you said part of this is sharing and working for equality. It is hard to know what is enough, but I think that as long as there is inequality we can never do enough and for some of us enough is that we do try.

I wrote a post on this while in Afghanistan, called A Drop In the Bucket: Your post today reminded me of this.
I know our experiences were very different, but I really can relate to so much of what you expressed here.

Your post today and comments earlier really got me thinking about all of this again. Thanks for the thought provoking moments. I hope you can sort out everything you are feeling and reach some bit of resolution and peace in yourself with all of this.

Tyler Lyman Family said...

I liked your thoughts, KimBURly; zen and best self and self-honesty/integrity as I will call it at this moment. Perhaps the thing for you to do would be to begin a NGO about supportying local NGOs.