Friday, June 03, 2011

the system in which we live

Recently Jen became aware that someone we love and work closely with learned her only supportive and close family member has tested positive for HIV and could possibly have TB as well.  When every piece of life hangs so precariously in the balance these hits hurt the loved ones so much. The family left supporting the sick carry a huge burden.  Their options are limited. Our friend was devastated to learn of her sister's illness. We are devastated for her. Having seen her strength, we know she'll be okay.

"Although the world is full of suffering,
it is full also of the overcoming of it"
 Helen Keller

Beth shared her observations about the situation here.

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I've long wanted to try to explain some of the way gender roles and power work in Haiti. I don't think I can even begin to relay some of it. It is on the list of "topics to avoid while blogging." There is so much that is repulsive about it. I don't want to make generalizations, but men hold the power and there is no real balance. Seeing that imbalance change seems unlikely to us for a variety of reasons. We've recently been front-row to watch a situation where a man absolutely thinks it is his right to coerce a woman to do what he wants when he wants.  The woman is not his girlfriend, wife, or friend. They know each other because they both have worked with us. The man waits till we're not around and calls the woman (knowing she is less protected) and tells her she needs to submit to his desire.  When she refuses he berates her and asks her who she thinks she is telling him "no"?

This is especially sad to us because this is a guy that we've worked with a ton over the years and we are just naive stupid enough to think he is different.  He's not different.  It discourages us. The unjust systems and cultural norms that keep people (women especially) trapped in poverty and misery are complicated and depressing.  This reality that many men in this culture grow up feeling entitled to whatever they want from a woman regardless of her feelings and desires is horrible, heartbreaking, and seemingly not very easy to fix. 

A priest from Peru says that "the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order."   We sure wish we had a clue how to accomplish such a task. 

Until such a time that a massive shift in culture and power occurs, we only know to love those in front of us, protect and advocate for those we can, and pray unceasingly for the thousands more that need love & protection too.  Jesus commands it. It's all any of us can do.


"But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity. Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order." 
~Gustavo Gutierrez~

Post Script Note :
Yes the woman with HIV will have access to drugs and treatment. The larger part of the grief that goes with this diagnosis for her and for her sister is that the stigma attached to HIV in Haiti is similar to what we saw in the late 80's  ... people are afraid and uninformed. Those with the disease experience huge discrimination, therefore they usually choose to carry it as a secret.  These two sisters names are not being shared because they prefer it this way.