The Savage Minds blog had a recent post titled “Something to Laugh About: A Few Thoughts on Humor in Post-Earthquake Haiti”. The piece provides some insight on how jokes and humor weave themselves into the coping process, even a year after the catastrophe.
Haitians are very funny. (How’s that for anthropological nuance?) They like to tease. They like jokes—silly, raunchy, or political. The observation that hardship and humor go hand-in-hand is hardly novel or original; it borders on cliché. Yet humor is something that doesn’t come through in most mainstream media and humanitarian depictions of Haiti, which largely focus on those details of life that are deemed most immediate and newsworthy: the earthquake; the spread of cholera; the ongoing plight of people living in the camps, coping with loss and deprivation and faced with eviction; unfolding political upheaval. All those things are important to know and to act upon, to be sad and enraged about. At the same time, collectively these kinds of news have a flattening effect, rendering individual Haitians exemplary victims who can represent the majority of victimized Haitians, but erasing the kinds of details that make them recognizable, relatable and…human.
The first earthquake joke I heard goes like this:
Jesus and Satan run into each other on the street. Satan says to Jesus, “Look at that country there, Haiti. That’s mine. All the evil, the violence, the suffering – Haiti is my country.” Jesus looks at Satan and says, “Oh, really? Let’s see about that.” Then he picks up Haiti and begins to shake it and shake it, and everyone cries out, “Oh, Jezi, Jezi, sove m Jezi! Save me, Jesus!” Jesus puts Haiti down, turns to Satan and says, “You see? Haiti is mine.”
While Haitians find this joke hilarious (doubled-over laughing, gasping for breath), foreigners never do. I tried telling it to my mother, who found it, in her words, “creepy.” This joke shows the country wedged in a game of one-upmanship between cosmic “good” and “evil,” although the role of the “good” seems awfully tenuous. This humor is dark, absurd, and context-specific – but everyone gets it.
The full post (highly recommended) can be found here.