Friday, December 11, 2015

People only appreciate things if they pay for them

In Haiti, I am sitting somewhere and the topic of fees for services comes up.  In general the philosophy of the NGO is that:

1. People do not appreciate things they do not pay for.

2. It is the culture of Haiti to make people pay for school and healthcare.

3. The priest who is working with them, says they must charge.

4. Everyone can pay something.

5. Developed countries have taxes so in fact the people in our countries are paying for education and healthcare.

So, it follows, that if, the now deceased Rose, appreciated healthcare and her children's education more, she would have paid for it.   But given that she is dead, she must not have appreciated these things and thus did not pay for them and thus her children are without a mother.   It was not for a lack of resources but rather a lack of appreciation.

In my country; even in the poorest of neighborhoods, school is free for the children who walk in the door.  The children can never be expelled for lack of fees, books or improper clothing.   Their parents may or may not pay taxes, but the child walks in the school free of that burden.   There is no proof that children with expensive private school education, appreciate their education more than a dedicated public school student.

In my country, people all can get health care.  They are subsidized if they have less resources.  If they are considered disabled they get healthcare at no cost.   We give elderly people some form of subsidized healthcare.   Countries with far better health statistics than ours, have government sponsored healthcare.  No one in those countries says that they don't appreciate their healthcare.  It is simply considered a human right.  One does not have to appreciate it to obtain it.

In the United States, if you enter the emergency room, you must be treated.  Things go wrong. It doesn't always work but it is the law.   You can call 911 and someone will come and get you.  It is true you might get a huge bill, but you will be less likely to die.

Most all schools and clinics, in Haiti, are subsidized by foreign donors.  People like you and me who have it in our DNA to help others.   The donors can not possibly imagine Rose, dead, in a small house, her children stunned while the rain beats on the roof.  

Each year millions of dollars are collected for schools, books and healthcare in Haiti.   People say, "Where does the money go?"  

Rose could have gotten on a moto and gone to a hospital and they would  have seen her for free.  Someone would have taken her, I believe and I know the hospital would have seen her.  But she did not go because of a culture that has rejected the peasant woman as stupid and unclean and undeserving.  She lived in a culture of class distinction that did not allow her to believe that she would be welcomed and that they would really have seen her.

Rose and her community lacked faith and hope and a belief in charity beyond their own lakou.  The bad spirits of class distinction are rooted in her death.   It was better to stay home, with people who loved her, than risk the humiliation and rejection, that past experiences told them all, might await her.  

The problem with the fees, is that there is too much room for corruption and the true purpose is, not to fund anything, but to maintain a class division that is deeply rooted in Hatien culture. ( And US culture)  It sorts out the better off from the have nothing at all.

So today, as you go about your day, how many things are available to you and the people in your community regardless of their ability to pay for them or pay taxes?   Would you have it any other way?  Do you believe in a social system that guarantees people certain things such as education and healthcare.  If you or someone you love, gets these things for free, do they appreciate them less?

In my experience, people appreciate things when they are given a voice and are invited to contribute, in whatever way they can.  Parents can help with cleaning, repairs, and painting.  Children can learn to grow their own food for a school canteen.  Councils and democratic process can bring people into the community.   People appreciate things when they are valued and listened to.  We give children free school and healthcare, because they are children and what their parents do or have is not their responsibility.    

Rose died because she was, in our big world, a person of little value.   I did not really know her and Rose is not even her name.  I know that her family and her community, believe she died of bad spirits and so, in writing this, I am perhaps trying to do my own ceremony of driving these bad spirits from the world.
People from Haiti, risk their lives to seek work in other places.  A person who makes it to Florida may find work that will help pay school fees and fund medical emergencies.
In my world, the mountains collapse from over logging and the destruction of wetlands.  Homes are destroyed and people trapped in landslides.  They want to take farm land and forest to run oil lines through our state.  They demand this even as the world around us crumbles from too much destruction of the environment.  The poorest people of the world, ask us to use less so they can simply live.

Rose and her people did not know how to ask. They were denied an education.  The graveyard is full of their friends and family.  In the past, any decent, was met with death and the loss of land.   The bad spirits which came with a lack of voice and empowerment, took her away.

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