Misery, yes. Miserable people, no. Might Port au Prince be a happy city?


funny-houses-happy-city-19675564Happy city. I thought about the title of Charles Montgomery’s book this carnival week, when everyone in Port au Prince shouts bon kanaval at each other and life is meant to be given over to merriment and good cheer.

And I wondered if Port au Prince could be called a happy city? At all? There is misery, but the people are not necessarily miserable, offered a wise being, with enough insight and experience to be a lifeguru.

“Can you find happiness in Haiti?” asked David Isaksson in his remarkable, eponymous ‘global happiness’ project. And offered an unexpected answer. “It was more difficult than expected to talk about happiness in Haiti” because people generally responded with a list of their needs and poverty. He visited less than two years after the 2010 earthquake, so he rationalised why  this might be the case. Was it Haitians’ default response to white people? In the hope of getting aid?

Eventually, though, he found some answers. Many Haitians, he reported, were happy they were alive, that their family (or most of it) had survived and that God was there.

Bear in mind that these were the results of a straw poll in August 2011. What might they be 29 months on?

Pretty much the same perhaps, and a bit more. This is not a constitutionally mournful people.

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac