Examining Haiti’s unique past and troubled present, Fritznel D. Octave takes a proud but concerned look at his native land, proposing a way past the country’s poverty and civil strife.
The author begins by proposing a different way of seeing Haiti. While acknowledging its many problems, he bemoans an image of Haiti as a perpetual victim, unnoticed by the world except when it’s struck by natural disaster or political violence. Octave wants readers to also consider the rich resources of its land and generous character of its people, and to respect the epochal achievement of its founding revolution, which ended colonial rule and slavery.
Nonetheless, today the country is crippled by poverty and torn by strife, even compared to Caribbean neighbors with similar histories. In identifying culprits for the country’s poverty and instability, the author doesn’t neglect U.S. and European imperialism, but places less blame on foreign countries for pursuing their own pragmatic interests than on Haiti’s leaders for accommodating them.
Due to such a long pattern of misrule, Octave believes, the Haitian people have adopted self-defeating attitudes. Politics has become a winner-take-all game, with charismatic leaders favored over stable institutions. To illustrate this state of dysfunction, the author delivers a close look at modern Haitian politics, culminating in President Jovenel Moise’s 2021 assassination.
The book isn’t despairing in tone, however, nor is it entirely given over to politics. Octave sprinkles nuggets of homespun Haitian wisdom throughout, in the form of proverbs like “bad teeth only have strength to eat banana” or “chickens are always right over cockroaches.” Having diagnosed Haiti’s ills, he also offers cures, though perhaps inevitably these are less specific. They include large-scale improvements in education, energy, and transportation. Less concretely, he calls for “unity, responsibility, accountability, and good leadership.”
Although Octave certainly doesn’t have answers to all the questions he raises, his insider’s perspective on a country often seen from the outside deserves consideration from Haitians and concerned non-Haitians alike.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.