On Turning a Good Leader to a Bad one
A Look at Duvalier's Philosophy
In turning the page folks, you will see that there is something poisonous about Ayitian social mentality, which tends to turn leaders who mean well to begin with, into a ruthless one. By default, he would exhibit strong sign of dictatorship. The unwillingness to cooperate is the malignant tumor that is eating up the society. The willingness to cooperate is even absent among the citizenry in their dealing with each other. I guess a century and a half of such is deeply rooted in the nation's psyche: what an impact!
Most of the leaders who are willing to do something good find roadblocks. Since doing good mostly concerns the masses, it is understood that the group o
f people that wants nothing to do with the masses out of contempt automatically turns their back on such a leader. Any leader that falls on the masses' side, s/he will see hell with such a group.
If such a leader perseveres in his ideal, he definitely needs to find ways to circumvent his impediments. Normally, his proponents are powerful both economically and politically. Depending on the kind of political atmosphere prevailing in the country, he will consequently turn into something that can be very destructive for the society as a whole. During the era of Dr. Francois Duvalier, coup d'etat was prevalent and the army decided at will who should be in power. How would Duvalier counteract this incisive entity, if it were not the use of their language?
He was facing a moral imperative issue. While he wanted to lift up his country, no one in the able group wanted to give him a hand. Rather they were disposed to overthrow him. What was he suppose to do? Let them act against him, hence against the
masses, as they please or blocking them from doing so. Deciding for the former would make him a coward and the country would still be what it used to be. The only viable option to at least save his dream was to undertake a clean up. Nonetheless, one had a choice to cooperate. Why hadn't they done so?
How he went about doing the clean up was a moral issue and he knew it. Hoping with time that history would vindicate him, he went about it in a ruthless fashion. When time was running on his life, he felt the only way to save his dream is to pass on the power to his son knowing that he left a strong base to guide him behind. His mistake, however, was that he did not tutor or mentor his son regarding the Ayitian politics. This is to tell you he was not thinking of establishing a dynasty; he did not know how things were going to be. If his intent were to establish a dynasty for his own interest and his family, I am sure, he would take proper measure to mentor his son properly on Ayitian history while ins
tilling in him his ideal of a good society for Ayiti.
Hadn't he put his son in his place, he knew that anyone coming from the other group would reinstate the old order which he vowed to eradicate in the country. Unfortunately, people surrounding him did not understand where he was coming from. They did not understand him pure and simple. Everything that he had as a dream went astray once Jean-Claude began to assert himself. His strategy for his son was to continue what he did not even begin.
He spent his entire period in power to create stability the country lacked. That cleared the way for Jean-Claude to do all the greats the people were waiting for. But how could he, if he never read, among others, Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman Consul in 65 BC whose political philosophy Duvalier cherished (By the way, if you read his little red book, you would notice that he gave credit to Cicero and many others). Reading Cicero on Moral Obligation can help understand Dr. Francois Duvalier a great deal. I
am sure that reading Cicero had helped me reconsider my position toward Duvalier, and sent me to question my position and reevaluate his politics.
It is clear that a man with great ideals to do good for the people and was blocked by others with different interest would definitely embrace his enemies' evil way of doing politics to make sure that his dream comes true. (...)
Duvalier did not make them come to support him and show to the world that he had the people's support. As a dictator with absolute power he did not have to give a public speech and he did not care much about what the rest of the world had to think of him. (He did not have any diplomatic protocol in dealing with the rest of the world. He went in the Dominican Republic Embassy to capture those who attempted to murder his son and subsequently broke diplomatic relationship with this country. He let foreign dignitaries wait for him for hours before accepting to see them. He just wanted to humiliate them. That shows he had nothi
ng to prove to the rest of the world.)
Duvalier did not need them to listen to his speeches given in French a language they probably never heard before considering that they came from the rural pit holes. He made them come for two reasons: 1) to see things they were prevented from seeing before (remember Boyer's rural code). He knew by having them in P-a-P some would stay and did stay in fact. 2) To embarrass the elite. Giving speeches in French before the illiterate masses was a direct address to the elites, because only them could understand the contents. Simultaneously, the purpose was to show to them that they did not do their job when they had been in control for a century and a half. They have an illiterate audience poorly dressed, bare feet clapping their hand for something they don't understand. That can be quite an embarrassment! But did they care? I don't think so.
Very few were those around Duvalier that understood this. The macoutes themselves whom were forcing people to come to P
-a-P and force them to clap their hands did not understand what was going on. What's amazing is the fact we still don't quite understand the man. Let go emotions and delve into why he did what he did with openness, things will be clearer. Don't just flush the guy's effort, which failed because people are victimized. Ask yourself, what was more important, the individual libertinage, family political fiesta or the well being of the country? As a Cicero's student, he chose the country like Toussaint, Dessalines and Christophe did. Yes, he is not one of
them, but they share the same philosophy and you can't dissociate them otherwise comparative analysis would be impossible and separating is unhealthy intellectually.
A look at the Present
Hadn't some of us bogged down to the wrongs that Dr. Francois Duvalier did, much light would have been shed on the current political situation. They are seeking the truth for which every o
ne of us holds a different view. In this light, seeking the truth deviates them from a scientific inquiry, which concerns itself solely with the understanding of a reality. There is no truth to be found in the behavior of Dr. Francois Duvalier, but the understanding of the reasons underlining his behaviors. That would help us see clearer in the intricate political reality of Ayiti today and stop accusing one leader or another left and right...
If history seems to repeat itself it is due to the authoritarian mentality that most Ayitians have in dealing with collective matters. I have pointed out such a mentality before in my arguments for a benevolent authoritarian needed to save Ayiti from chaos. However, history will not repeat itself because the democratic political atmosphere and the awkward involvement of the masses in politics that prevail today are major impediments for such a rerun. If we are comfortable with the thought that a Duvalier like era is improbable and considering the thoughts given
to what made Duvalier a ruthless dictator, we will focus on the pertinent causes that can metamorphose a good leader into a bad one. Subsequently, we would struggle for finding appropriate measures to prevent such a recurrence.
To some degree, I assume, we all agree that the bonding with the masses is a determinant factor of non-political cooperation among various factions in the society. One's intense desire to improve the living conditions of the "century long forgotten lots" creates considerable frictions between the person in power and the economically and politically powerful group? So far, we have not seen an inclination of willingness to cooperate. The masses trapped in the quagmire engage in self-destructive activities unconsciously. They are left alone without structural, philosophical, moral and organizational guidance.
At this point let's take Aristide's case for instance. No matter what one says about him that is or is not true, there is an undeniable fact that he shows great co
ncerns and does things, little or demagogical they might be, that ring true and good to the ears of the deprived masses, hence his unshakable popularity which freaks out everyone. Put aside his mistakes in dealing with other groups or whether he had the administrative and political skills to turn things around, the man had good intention when he was overwhelmingly chosen to lead the country. He was a dreamer in the sense that I described [earlier].
We all know that the powerful groups in the society did not want to work with him. They did not want to cooperate with him. Yes! He was giving the cold shoulders to some when he began his presidency; so what! He would not be able to keep it on for his entire term. At some point, he would realize he would terribly fail, if he wanted his dream to become concrete, or himself to become an achiever. They vehemently gave him hell, not because he was alienating some groups, but specifically because he was defending the cause of the "century forgotten lots". It is
that simple. It was shown before, during the election process, after he was elected and before he assumed the presidency. Due to his soft manner then and his belief in the goodness of democracy, he was catapulted from the presidency. The trust that the international community, the Diaspora, and the masses (despite their cowardice then) placed in the guy, earned him a return in power. He had great credits for his ideal.
Upon his return from exile, how do we expect him to be the same as he was before the coup that endangered his life? His tail was burned; he learned his lesson the hard way. If presently, he is making sure that he does not repeat his mistake again, he is in his full right to do so. Yes, the man was poor and that played against him. His lack of resources had undermined his power base to take effective actions against those that were determined to outdo him. His lack of resources made him unable to create his intelligentsia, which if it were existed would have helped him dodge the coup d'
etat. Do we know of a powerful nation that does not have one? Dr. Francois Duvalier had built his not when he got into power, but while he was running up and down the rural areas, that's what made his clean-up so effective in such a short while.
Today he (Aristide) is under heavy criticism for his wealth. No matter how he got it, at least it is with him in the country and we can point out some tangible things that he is doing with it as a private citizen. Whether it is demagogical or not, the point is, he is making good use of it in caring for the deprived masses. Rather than making the whole hoopla and accusing him of this and that, if every single leader were trying to be demagogical and do the same as he, imagine how different things would be for the people. Those who used to believe in the guy now are saying he was in it just for himself, his love for the people was an upfront and that was calculated long before he became president. To that I say: so what! They dismiss a critical element: what ha
s made him become the way he is. They are the same people shooting at Dr. Francois Duvalier. They dismissed the fact that something had turned him into what he has become.
They turn their back on Aristide just as they turned their back on Dr. Francois Duvalier. Most of these groups opted for political desertion and coup d'etat plots. It was the case for Duvalier as it was for Aristide. They never wanted to work with both, give him them assistance they needed to make changes while they had the masses' support. Are you getting the idea folks? Today, they are still after Aristide to destabilize his stronghold, strip him of his popularity by doing things and associating them with him to prevent him from regaining power. They have been spending so much energy to outdo Aristide while he was in power and while he is not even in power. It's like they are fighting a ghost. You guys should thank God for making these days democratic days. Otherwise, their way of doing things would turn Aristide with the good
intention to alleviate the masses' misery into a ruthless dictator like they've done to Duvalier. Can't we see that's a pattern? Can't we understand that's an imperfection to correct in order to make things work in Ayiti?
They are accusing him of being a dictator and attributing to him all kind of tags. If it were during the dictatorship days, in being in power, I think that Aristide would behave like Dr. Francois Duvalier did. The way he has been treated is just a replica of the way Duvalier father was being treated. You see how he has changed coming from exile. He would have to be total wimp to stay like before and not adjusting his ways to the reality. After all, who wants to be a wimp? Allow ourselves to see what the man in power is going through and understand; why he is going through changes. Don't just accuse him of thief and wanting it all for himself. Let's be objective.
Aristide is being accused of any wrong that popular groups are doing in the country. Everything that one re
ads now: Aristide' supporters did this and did that. How do they really know that's Aristide's supporters? Don't they think it could be his opponents' supporters disguised or present themselves as Aristide's supporters just for the purpose to denigrate him? I don't know, but we could stop and think about that possibility. As desperate the opposing parties are, they would go to any length to destabilize Aristide's popularity. Rather than thinking about what's possible to bring changes, they are all concentrating on strategies to prevent Aristide from becoming president again. They don't realize that Aristide continues on courting the deprived masses that are in majority and have the votes. Why can't they do like Aristide, why can't they embrace the politics that seems to work for him? Political myopia is what I call their inability to do so.
The strategy to provoke disobedience and make it seem that's from Aristide's camp is a democratic one, but a real dirty one, provided that is true. A
t any rate I don't know if it is a skim to denigrate Aristide or if Aristide's supporters are truly behind all that. Let's suppose that Aristide's supporters are the authors of all these wrongs, I think it is a legit democratic way for Aristide to manifest his authoritarianism. Nothing is wrong with that since most Ayitians are authoritarians. Leaders of opposing parties would do the same if not worse. We've seen them in action as they were occupying leadership positions by taking a ride on Aristide's roller coaster.
To come back and finish on Dr. Francois Duvalier, his ideal dream to elevate people from the rural pit holes to the level of decency sentenced him to death. He knew that he had to fight against a powerful century current. In all aspects he was going against the tides and to prevail, he had to be ruthless against those who were ruthless to him and his family. Had he not done so, he would have not lasted one year or two through coup d'etat as it was the country's political usage. He
knew that only by holding the grip on power for a while, he could turn things around. That was the political culture then and it was legit.
It took him time to establish such a grip, time he would probably devote to other things, if the old same clique was not trying to outdo him from the start and decided to work with him instead. When they kept failing, they preferred to leave and made believe that Duvalier force them to leave. Yes, he would if they were subversive; if they complied things would work out great. The whole thing was a struggle for power and still is. Folks, if your claims were regarding goods that he was undoing, I would shut it up, but that is not the case. Duvalier was shutting the valves of wrongs.
How much Duvalier is there in Aristide? I don't know. But if there is any he is manifesting it through popular groups, provided that they are really the authors of the disobedience. Groups' manifestation is today's political culture in Ayiti. If an authoritarian can use it to
impose himself and counter those who are dedicated to outdo him, I'd say more power to him. Maybe we do need such kind of chaos to show us the paths of doing good politics. For in chaos was born order. Maybe Aristide will redirect the popular groups energy, if he returns to power. In case that he does, I wish that he does not get rid of his authoritarianism and I am sure he will be able to be the benevolent authoritarian that Ayiti needs. Maybe he will be the father of order in chaos. Why don't we let time tell and let things speak for themselves? Let's just wait.
It seems that Aristide understands the necessity to have a strong grip on power while being in office for a long time. If it is so, he is a realist and his strategy to make one election so he can have the full parliament under his umbrella is a clever one. That way the constitution can be amended not only to extend the term of a president to 7 to 10 years, but also with the possibility to be reelected many times. This provision can be en
acted for a period of two generations the time span necessary to make Ayiti a decent place.
Afterwards it can be revised to shorten the term and limit the number of times one can be reelected. If he is genuine in wanting to improve the lots of the masses, he will make things happen. If he makes things happen, he will be reelected over and over until he is tired. That's the only substitute for a full fledge ruling by force as I advocated earlier. That would be perfect, as he would have the time to achieve things.
As a private citizen his actions speak very loud. His foundation, tutoring centers, academic subsidies to needy students, his loans to small entrepreneurs etc. outweigh whatever wrongs he is doing now. With a long-term presidency and with due power, maybe he will do more than that. The beauty of it is that Ayiti would still be in the realm of democracy.
These posts originally appeared on an email list with which Win
dows on Haiti shares a special relationship, that allows us to post (infrequently) a few items of particular interest. This is done on a reciprocal basis. Please do not reproduce the above or any Ann Pale forum post without prior and formal authorization.
1 post • Page 1 of 1