My informant was born and raised in Haiti. She shared with me a few proverbs that she learned from her time growing up there.
When people think of Haiti, they rightly so think of severe poverty, denuded mountains, music, art, and its oral history — including proverbs of its peasants. These peasants have suffered so much over the centuries. Because of all that they have suffered, they have gained a treasure full of wisdom. Haitians seem to hold the mentality that a lot of things are up to them and that they can only depend on themselves. This belief that they hold is understandable; how can they trust a world that has been so cruel and unfair to them? A lot of their proverbs reflect skepticism, relentless hardship of life, universal truths about people, and at times a hopelessness or defeated attitude. Below I have laid out the proverb in Creole, the English translation, and then an explanation behind the proverb as provided by my informant:
Haitian Proverb (Creole)
Se je pa we ke pa tounen
What the eye doesn’t see, doesn’t move the heart
“If you think about it literally, it’s hard for us to relate when it’s not something we experience. It’s hard for us to find empathy unless we’ve been there. So if you can see something, but sometimes unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t really understand or know the experience.”