The global breakdown and dislocation of the family unit

The family unit since prehistoric times or since Eve and Adam has been the building block, the cornerstone of the nation building project. It is disintegrating at great speed all over the world. That should be a cause for concern for policymakers worldwide with the same intensity as the environment, inequality, ISIS or zika. Whether we are focusing on Africa, where masses are leaving hastily to brave the Mediterranean in search of a better place in Europe; whether we are putting the lens on South America, where children are sent by their parents unaccompanied in the hope they will be saved from violence due to ill governance or drug wars. Whether we are zeroing on the Caribbean, where for years the males who cannot find a job at home have left for Ottawa, New York or London; whether we focus on the Middle East, where bad public policy combined with ill designed international interference has produced a mass exodus towards Germany, Italy and Greece, the situation is the same. The family unit has broken down into pieces as it was during slavery time, when husband, wife and children were sold to different masters into different countries.

I have not seen even the Catholic Church, one of the guardians on earth of the mission to keep the family bonded together, ring the big alarm bell to awake the faithful as well as hors les murs (beyond the walls) to bring forth a solution. The United States used to have in its immigration policy a component of favoring the reunification of the family by giving preference to immigrants who have already a foot in the country in bringing the rest of their family members. Because of the sheer number of applicants, this policy is now a hollow one since the waiting time can now take a decade to become effective. In my own personal perspective from Haiti, I remembered enjoying that warm and cozy family unit only up to 11 years old; 59 years ago. Under the patriarchal umbrella of the grandfather and the grandmother, my mother and my father were happily building up a family of six children. It was an idyllic setting painted with love and flowers and good admonition. It started to break down on September 22, 1958, when Francois Duvalier came to power with the motto that better things will come for most. It has been a nightmare that lasted first 28 years of dictatorship followed by another 30 years of faux democracy. The family dislocation for me and for most Haitian people has continued unabated until today.

In the Caribbean, the decolonization process did not bring with it sound policies of nation building based on the settling of the family project by ensuring sane institutions and excellent infrastructure nationwide designed to keep the family as close together as possible. The Caribbean business policy of resting primarily on tourism as the best vehicle for wealth creation might have produced enclave of wealth similar to the gated communities in Florida or elsewhere but not sustainable income and sane institutions for most in the whole village. Decolonized Africa has reversed into a war prize for the freedom fighters that refuse to leave the seat of power while paying scant attention to the needs of their citizens. Zimbabwe is the extreme case that exemplifies the model of a predatory state designed to enrich only the clan close to the regime in power. It has resulted in producing a critical mass of disaffected people prone to the ISIS ideology, bringing internal warfare and displaced citizens from countries to countries in Africa all way up to Libya and Italy or Greece.  The strong regimes in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and the concurrent American and combined European ill conceived interventions in those countries did not bring expected beneficial results.

On the contrary, it has exposed the fragile composition of the different ethnic groups that were not forged into a nation into infighting, leading to social explosion. The victims are children and women looking for an escape anywhere it can be found. If in the South (undeveloped and emerging nations) the assault on the family unit is made by bad governance; in the developed countries such as the United States and most nations in Europe the culprit in the destruction of the family unit is the mass media. The children find almost compulsory signal to leave the family compound under the pretext they are too old to remain at home. The profit making industry uses immoral instruction, sex and violence to lure the children in the culture of disrespecting and devaluing the reverence to their parents and to family bondage. The solution is the same one that gave us the culture of eating whole food today. Sane policymakers must launch an assault similar to the one engaged by Michael Bloomberg as former mayor of New York on salt, sugar, and soda for healthy living.  Saving the family unit as well as rebuilding the environment or the so called consequences of zika on human reproduction necessitates also the building of nations out of the countries of the world. Brazil, the nation most affected by zika, reflects the fragility of the societal structure of the largest country in Latin America. Some five years ago in my essay, Brazil, Haiti and the Minustha, I have pointed the finger at the weak spot of Brazil as an emerging country. The inequality was too crying not to erupt into a calamity of biblical proportion sometime in the future.

In fact the largest problems of the world, environment, ISIS, inequality, breakdown of the family unit are all related. The culprit is the lack of state policy strengthening the family unit through decent institutions and excellent infrastructure at proximity in most nations. It sounds simple, but how far away we are from the implementation of that policy in spite of the billions of dollars spent in foreign aid abroad and in social welfare at home. I am watching the transformation of my own country Haiti from an inhospitable nation to family reunion to maybe a hospitable one this month. Will the Force, internal and external let it happen? The next few weeks should be indicators of the end of the tunnel that lasted 60 years into full darkness of family dislocation and state collapse here at home!

Published on February 20, 2016 By Jean H Charles

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, was a candidate in the last Haitian presidential election. He can be reached and followed at Caribbean News Now/Haiti