Posts Tagged ‘Congo’

When I first went to Haiti in the early 1970s, American Airlines pilots routinely welcomed visitors to “Haiti, 95% Catholic and 100% Voudou.” In the interim between then and now, I am certain that Catholic percentage has dropped due to Protestant Evangelical work by American and European missionaries. I am just as certain that the Voudou percentage has not changed since even back then, the Protestants I knew feared Voudou and its practitioners. Fear is the surest sign of faith.

In addition, between the time I left and now, some breakthroughs have been made permitting insight into the dark and secret world of zombification – a practice associated with Voudou. A professor of mine, Lamarque Douyon, found and managed to revive a zombie, and just before I left, Wade Davis showed up and began his research into the substances used to zombify people.

All of this is interesting in itself, but I bring it up here for several reasons:
1. Zombification tends to occur in outlying rural areas where there is little governmental representation.
2. It has been found to be used as a social control against those who repeatedly violate social rules (some of them laws).
3. The social rules in rural areas of Haiti can differ broadly from the law as it is written and followed in culturally westernized urban areas.
4. Rural areas of Haiti – even some aspects of urban areas – are recognized to be the closest replication of African culture this side of the Atlantic. (This is due to the early revolution – 1804 – and the closeness of many of the slaves who revolted to their African roots).

For my Master’s thesis, I chose to follow the model provided by Phyllis Chesler in Women and Madness to discover whether in rural culture, which represented at the time 85% of the population, women tended to exhibit a high incidence of the psychopathologies associated with men in the urban culture. (They did not). The reason I was curious was because of the structure of the rural, peasant-class family which is very different from the urban nuclear model.

A rural farmer in Haiti might own several parcels of land that are not necessarily contiguous or even in the same Department (state/province). Since one man cannot occupy all of these parcels at once, it is an accepted practice for the man to have as many wives (and families) as he owns parcels of land and to travel from farm to farm as an itinerant husband/dad. The wives are the ones responsible for raising the families, livestock, and crops, transporting the produce to the market, and selling it – all of this is usually done with the help of the children who might enjoy two or three years of school – if any – tops. In other words, the rural culture in Haiti is essentially matriarchal. When you converse with rural women in Haiti, you are very aware that these women are the ones in charge.

This cultural pattern is likely closely related to rural practices in some parts of Africa, particularly tribal areas closely associated with the origins of the Haitian people. One of these areas would be the Congo. Another, Nigeria. Because of time and distance, the two variables we must take into account when performing research in the human sciences, practices may have evolved differently on both sides of the ocean, but the phenomenon of strong matriarchal tendencies in central west Africa and in Haiti are recognizable.

Matriarchy is not legislated. It is a by-product of the larger culture, but it poses a problem for, and is at odds with the patriarchal tribal structure and with, in Haiti, the authority of the husband in the home. When we see, on the African continent, brutal crimes against women, I believe we are looking at something larger than the damage collateral to wars among men. I believe we are witnessing a larger war against women – against the bossy, creative, enterprising, self-sufficient women who hold the fabric of the family together while men are off fighting their wars. It is a war against women as leaders.

A friend (and Hillary loyalist) sent me this article written by our Homegirl Hillary. I think Hillary knows that these crimes against women will not necessarily abate with a ceasefire among the men. This is a separate war, this war against women. It requires its own separate set of negotiations, and its own separate peace.

Hillary Clinton Pledges to ‘Banish Sexual Violence’

From People.com
Originally posted Friday August 21, 2009 12:30 PM EDT

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be taking some well-earned R&R in Bermuda this week, but last week, the former First Lady and U.S. Senator wrapped up a grueling seven-nation diplomatic mission to Africa.

While much was made back home about her snapping at a Congolese student who asked her about Bill Clinton’s thoughts on a trade issue (“My husband is not the secretary of state, I am,” she retorted), the emotional heart of her tour was also her most dangerous stop – in Goma, inside the war zone in eastern Congo, where she tearfully met rape victims on Aug. 11.

In this exclusive Op-Ed piece for PEOPLE.com, Secretary Clinton shares what she learned on her visit – and what she will do about it.

Read her words.

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CONGO-DEMOCRATIC/CLINTON-OUTBURSTGiven the pitiful coverage Hillary’s trip to Africa is receiving from the MSM, bloggers are on the alert for updates from the Dipnote Travel Diary blog, tweets from Dipnote, and from americagov on Twitter, entries on the State Department Facebook site, and tweets from Shaun Tandon, AFP Correspondent traveling with Hillary (who has been told several times, just by me, that he should appreciate how lucky he is). Yesterday and Sunday were particularly “slow news days” from this African journey. Hillary was in Angola on Sunday, and very little news came out except for some rather disconcerting tweets from Shaun about the amount of camo and ammo he was seeing on the street. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad the soldiers were there protecting our Homegirl, but just how dangerous WAS Angola? Perhaps very. Hillary has insisted on visiting some places she had been advised not to.

Yesterday morning, I knew that Hillary was already out of Angola and on the ground in The DRC. I was hoping that would be a more open visit than the rather shrouded operation in Angola. At some point in the day, Shaun tweeted about Hillary’s now famous but brief (and mild) “outburst” at a mistranslated question from a student at a Town Hall in Kinshasa, DRC. Well, knowing that the very expensive traveling press presence was being represented here only when Hillary danced (so far), I was pretty sure that she would be on the news again last night for her short rant since that, too, was “girly” behavior, and if there’s any message we are getting about how the press likes to portray our Homegirl SOS, it centers around her girliness. Her broken “ladybones,” her dainty dancing, and, now, her temper display (the old “everybody’s ex-wife” meme).

What I did NOT expect to see, and was not covered on the evening news, was the Facebook link to this story by Nicholas Kristof (NYT): Update on Paul Farmer and USAID saying that Paul Farmer would not be heading up USAID. Dr. Farmer, long a practicing physician in rural Haiti, was Hillary’s candidate for the position of Director.

There was not a word about that on the TV news last night, but there was plenty of Hillary erupting. To tell the truth, I have been the object of many explosions so much worse from men: boyfriends, an ex-husband, a former boss and from men who worked for me, that if Hillary wanted to “explode” like that at me on a daily basis and it would relieve some stress, I would gladly volunteer.

Now I am sure that the White House decision had a lot to do with any “touchiness” she displayed yesterday. But there was more to the story, and I am sure that Hillary knew it all. Late this afternoon, at about the same time I saw Kristof’s story yesterday, this story came through on Facebook from the U.N. News Centre: Haiti: UN envoy Bill Clinton appoints prominent US doctor as deputy. Yup! That would be the one and the same Dr. Paul Farmer.

So while today’s NY Post dwelt on the past in looking for reasons why Hillary might have been a bit raw yesterday, they missed the real story which happened in the present right under their noses. The White House subjected Hillary’s candidate to a vetting so frustrating that she mentioned her exasperation when she spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations in mid-July. Hillary, and Bill for that matter, are not strangers to this super-vetting process. USAID operates under the Department of State and also has a heavy presence in Haiti (as I know from having lived there a good long time). Whether Bill’s offer was on the table prior to the White House decision, I do not pretend to know, but I am sure Hillary knew that if the White house said no, Bill planned to bring Farmer aboard with him in the country Farmer knows so well. All three probably conferred about this.

So Hillary’s little display yesterday probably had a lot less to do with the past and with Bill than with the White House super-vetters who lost her the Director she wanted and handed him off to Bill as she knew would happen.

Neither was the “outburst” about Bill “overshadowing” her with his rescue trip to North Korea which she negotiated. If his shadow (there’s that word again, thank you NY Post) bothered her at all it would have been for the Breaking News that Bill stole Paul Farmer from Hillary (he did not). But, of course, like Kristof’s story last night, that story is flying under the radar of the TV news tonight.

Was Hillary a little beaten and wary yesterday? Yes! After many months of trying to fill that position with the best man she could find for the job, the White House smashed her, while she was in the middle of an extended trip on another continent, leaving Bill to pick up Farmer’s option for his (Bill’s) one dollar a year job as U.N. Envoy to Haiti (the envoy position another gift from the White House super-vetters who keep on giving). Since Bill must curtail his work with his Foundation, well, a guy’s got to do SOMETHING!

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