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These rules of conduct mold a person’s mind, yielding what can be understood as "Soul Power". This expression refers to a particular sort of power or force that seems to be specific to each person and that allows the individual to fully affirm his or her own participation to humanity. When applied to a group of people who thinks and acts in a relatively coherent manner, one may safely refer to it as the group’s or the community’s "Soul Power".
In fact, Soul Power is indicative of a total affirmation of one’s personality and at the same time of a relentless quest for what could be interpreted as the self’s or the group’s "real usefulness". This search does not necessarily imply looking for the greatest amount of material comfort nor the longest life expectancy. Rather, it is the search for a non-affected or non-hypocritical kind of life that brings about the greatest amount of freedom and happiness. This truest sort of life has nothing to do with living forever, which nobody can do, but instead with living better and well, given natural limitations and contingencies.
In other words, Soul Power embodies the sum of efforts one necessarily has to exert upon oneself to live well, behave correctly and be recognized by others as an honest human being. "Being poor but honest" seems to be the most valid answer most Haitian persons would offer when questioned about his or her economic condition.
That sum of efforts makes the difference between human beings’ lives and those of all other animals. It defines what may be meant by "living a reasonable kind of life". So, Soul Power makes the difference between what is understood as hominisation, which is a biological fact, and humanization which is a cultural one. It is thus the capacity every human being has to live humanly, that is to think more clearly and in a more just manner, and to act better. Without this Soul Power, people would simply be inhuman and even cruel.
These principles are real in most African societies that live in Africa or in the New World. Though unwritten, these laws prescribe the use of proper manners as the consequence of a particular frame of mind. What is termed here "proper manners" is the desire to think and act in conformity with virtuous morale, character and with the admitted usage and customs.
To expose just a few of these precepts – some of them being quite different from Judeo-Christian teachings and values and sometimes even antithetic to them -, I will freely translate some of the ideas generally regarded as wise by the people of Haiti. Most of them are included in Vodun, this country’s popular religion:

"For a human being, the body which is also called ‘Ko Kadav’ or cadaver is just a stepping stone upon which individuals should elevate themselves toward the development of the mind and then to spirituality."

"Prudence is an excellent disposition of the Soul that should never remain idle in a normal human being. It allows one to judge correctly what is good or what is bad in all occasions."

"Good and evil are not creations of God, but rather of the human being. So they should not be considered as absolute in value. A glance at everything the human mind might have conceived reveals nothing which may be viewed as absolutely Good or absolutely Evil, except one’s good will and the goodness of one’s heart. Intelligence, sharpness of the mind, ability to judge and the capacity to think … all the many talents, whatever their name might be, such as courage, power of decision, intuition, perseverance … are certainly desirable qualities for one to have. But, they may also be very Evil if and when the Will of the person using them (his or her character) is not a good one."

"Respect, politeness and gratefulness are basic qualities that everyone should always make use of. One starts learning them when one learns to say hello, please, thank you and pardon me."

"A dancer unwillingly steps on your foot, that is not wickedness but clumsiness. When you accept his or her apologies, that is not a pardon. It is simple politeness."

"Faithfulness is an obligation among friends, lovers and spouses. One must always remain faithful to oneself, to one’s word, to the Tradition of the ancestors and to the Lwa. The point is that one should never betray one’s self, one’s community, one’s country and what humanity has made of one as a human being."

"We regard virtue as acquired through self-discipline and predicate it of human beings only. Morality involves conformity to an accepted code of right conduct. It is less elevated but more concrete than virtue. Rectitude also implies conformity to a moral code, but stresses intention or disposition. Hence, a human being’s morality may arise from fear of punishment or of censure, but that person’s rectitude can only come from a love of the right and a conscious desire to follow it. The opposite of any kind of virtue are vices, evil and despicability, all the many forms of ignobleness."

"Lying is never a virtue, but neither are stupidity or putting oneself in a suicidal position".


"In life, it would be pure stupidity to put forward the other cheek when someone hits you in the face. Against violence, pull your machete. But make sure you had previously learned how to hit well and how to ward off."

"Those who behave like earthworms should never be surprised when people walk over them."

"Justice is the respect one shows for the equality of the other person’s rights, not for his/her might or strength."

"It is never good enough to live and not suffer, one must also live happily. Happiness is not just a question of luck, it has to be built on a daily basis by a constant practice of politeness and good morales. It is never given and should never be taken for granted." etc… etc…

These principles or rules of conduct are many and they take into account the many different relationships which may exist between the human being and the Universe, these include relationships with the entirety of celestial bodies, the cosmos, and in a more restricted sense, the earth, sun, moon, humanity, plant and animal kingdoms. Consequently, they determine a definite and specific personality.
By using the freedom of will that everyone disposes of, one may "willingly" decide to ignore some, or even all, of these precepts, particularly when migrating toward foreign lands. But, generally, in choosing to disregard any single one of them, one automatically becomes conscious of doing wrong. Therefore, and at the same time, in choosing not to behave properly, one also chooses to endure the negative consequences of that decision.

©Max Beauvoir 1998, 1999
all  reproduction is strictly forbidden without express authorization

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