tv Charlie Rose PBS July 19, 2010 11:00pm-12:00am PST
there's no blood there. so the trauma hospitals, for example, university of miami medishare, dr. bart green's outfit down there, they've got the only trauma center, functional trauma center in all of port-au-prince. they've got no blood. so they were losing as many as three patients a week there. simply because they were sending volunteers down. >> rose: haiti through the eyes of sean penn and sean penn through the eyes of haiti next.
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: sean penn is here, the actor, director, humanitarian and two-time academy award winner is in new york having just returned from haiti. he rushed to that country days after the devastating earthquake in january killed nearly
300,000 people and left 1.pa 5 5-million homeless. formed an n.g.o. called j.p. haiti relief organization, so far it's battalion school, a women's center and a trauma center for children. today sean penn is running one of haiti's largest and most efficient camps. >> the work began just hours after the earthquake hit on january 12. founder sean penn immediately reached out to a large network of emergency management and government contacts and they quickly mobilized to take action in haiti. less than a week after the disaster, they were on the ground treating patients.
at the same time, other j.p. h.r.o. team members delivered food and medical supplies to numerous camps and orphanages in need. >> rose: six months after the disaster, the recovery effort has slowed. some say it may have stalled. sean penn says he can't leave his adopted country before there is more life than death. i'm pleased to have him back at this table. welcome. >> thank you. >> rose: tell me in your own words about what you see and what you know about where this is six months after this quake struck. >> i think the best thing to begin is on a practical sense. the earthquake was devastating size in a devastated country. so the government was already fractured and increasingly fractured. one of the things i call on in driping this is that at 5:00 in the afternoon, the government offices-- they close at 4:00--
those in those buildings were among the most committed, most were lost. leaving behind strong leaders but without the administrative capacity and the manpower to have a functional government. the international aid organizations come in, serve scrambling for their... just to find their place. the only legitimate leadership? the circumstance initially is the government of haiti which fractured in that way. there was, i felt, quite a void of leadership, central leadership in the u.n. agencies at that point. the n.g.o.s, which had an enormous history in haiti, by and large are in the job security business. in other words, n.g.o.s want to stay in the n.g.o. business, which is antithetical to what the effort should be, which is to create ultimately a sustainable independent place and a recovered place.
so what then happens, the united states millitear as well as some other militaries-- canadians and venezuelans-- those jobs were strictly life saving. and so with that very clear mandate, there was a lot of momentum at that point. but the parallel thinking of reconstruction comes in very quickly and with that comes in profiteering and all of the things that have always made it complicated all over the world and in particular, i think, in haiti. so then you had various agendas and definitions of what was sustainable, what was the creation of dependence versus independence and so you had basically a city full of meetings and theory and talk. and very little action. once the united states military in particular was recalled with deployments in afghanistan and other places there was a very
static period. n.g.o.s might complain that without city planning there was that legitimate way to put temporary shelters that were hurricane resistant into areas that, for example the governments c.n.e. had cleared the rubble from. proof of ownership became, i felt, very much more an excuse than an issue, but an excuse not to take action in some of those areas. and still today, six months later, with the exception of main throughways, many of the streets are triple-head high in 300 to 500 meters long rubble. where home has that maybe were not damaged in the earthquake are unlivable, so people are living in spontaneous camp. there's 1.million displaced and to date the only relocations that have happened into at least planned or safer camps than the ones they were in-- meaning energy relief camps if not
ultimately model communities doctor-assisted suicide total of 7,000 people have been relocated in six months. >> rose: so what needs to be done from this day forward? >> it starts with donors. i would recommend for anyone who has interest in helping the haitian people-- who deserve their help and much more of it than all the generous donations to date so far-- that they could read timothy schwartz' book "travesty of haiti" which describes the dilemma. and through that, if they could read that, understand the dynamics of international aid work, the way it gets politicized, the way that religious organizations blindly support orphanages of... full of children who have families and are in many case what is would be the equivalent of the middle-class families of haiti and to cut through all of that, there are organizations, there are actions that are... where you don't do harm by doing good. food is a major area where we
have done more harm than good and you can track this where c-130s full of race bags come in. and i don't mean in the case of immediate disaster relief. but as it goes on, there's still not a voucher system which would actually give people who need the leg up after the earthquake the opportunity to get some kind of an assistance. the tradeoff would be with the... both the grass-roots vendors and the store front vendors so that the money would actually be there. but what happens is that because for example, u.s.a.i.d.-- again an organization that has a lot of good will in it-- it also moves with the political agendas of the united states government and so project... projects or assignments or those that are applied for by n.g.o.s become limited to those things which go straight along with the u.s. agenda. so these are the kind of things that have to be thought out very
very clearly. one of the kind of no-brainers in things where i would encourage people to put money is in rubble clearing. >> this is jean baptist and this was one of the main streets. this is the area we're working on clearing now. >> this corner, people stay here like late at night. they're having fun here, there was a t.v. here, there was water here, but most of the people used to hang out here. >> so this was like the town square. >> exactly. >> rose: time after time when ski people about haiti, that's what they say, you need to get rid of the rubble. >> you'll do no harm by clearing the streets to let the haitian people make their own country. >> rose: could they have cleared it much better? and if they didn't, why not? and going forward how do you get it done? >> yeah, i think... you know, there's been a lot of tug-of-wars between the government of haiti and the international aid organizations. >> rose: included the united
nations. >> included the united nations. i think that... you know, one of the things that the level of historic mistrust... you know, we never stop hearing about corruption as an issue and i think it's given the n.g.o.s quite a big excuse not to go forward. the preval government was by any conventional measure moving forward in a progressive agenda when the earthquake happened. >> rose: bill clinton and others have... long experienced there have said that very fact. that the government... at the time the earthquake struck this government was getting better. >> there's no question. this is the country with the worst luck in history. but meanwhile when they speak of corruption today, my question is with what? the haitian government... president preval... >> rose: needs to corrupt? is that what you're saying? >> you can't corrupt through deficit financing and that's all the financing he can right
now. they don't control of the money. the world bank, the clinton foundation, they have the first say over the reconstruction money. in the government of haiti, moving into the reconstruction phase, which is almost a morale mandate that makes sense in context of haiti, that those of us in relief work know that there is still an emergency phase. and that emergency phase is the most difficult one to sell to people, which is preventative. and it's preventative in terms of disease, mud slide, flooding, and also social unrest. and it's in that area that things like rubble removal, pilot sites where people are getting out of the camps and into pockets of neighborhoods so that the people can see that someone is doing something. and so that you can give some notion of the presence and the efforts of central government. >> rose: this is a piece about you in the "vanity fair" magazine written by doug
brinkley who's a well-known historian who lives in new orleans and teaches in new orleans. to read that, you get a sense that you have access to the lovers of power in the u.s. government. you testified before congress, the military there has been almost partners with you in terms of what you're trying to do. you know people in the state department, the deputy assistant secretary of state level and certainly more if you needed it. are they responsive to you? do you get a hearing? are they listening? >> they've been directly responsive. i have had... we wouldn't be able to bring the things that we've brought without their help. and certainly initially even getting in happened through the state department and congressman kucinich. >> rose: within 48 hours or so. >> yeah. and their follow through... i can get them on the phone, i can get the attention has been on... because the issues have been...
you know, mutually important. the u.s. military mission in haiti was... i can say this today and i will say it until i fall down dead, has been a strictly humanitarian mission. and their logistical capacity, their predisposition towards service even though it is understood and it's why people think it's ironic i would have such a relationship with the military. but my criticism has rarely if ever been toward the troops themselves but the abuse of 40 who give them their orders. >> rose: pollsy. >> policy. but to see them exercise their skill sets and their will to serve under circumstances like this was and awesome thing and a great learning curve and it set the standard... >> rose: learning curve for them
or for you or for both? >> for us. but because this was not a conventional conflict zone where n.g.o.s in the military tend to have very different agendas, in this case everybody wanted to help these people under these circumstances. and the military were the best at it. and so we were able to partner because we had doctors they could complement their services with and they had horsepower they could complement our service with and out of that, initially we had mike foster and then leading on with my relationship to lieutenant general keene. we are trying to continue that relationship not only in terms of j/p h.r.o. but to find a way in which the united states and n.g.o.s in circumstances of disaster could have an institutionalized collaboration. >> rose: so this is a learning experience for people who in the future will be called on to do things liking this? they're learning how to do it. >> right. >> rose: and it's a new role for the military beyond security.
>> correct. but, you know, at the same time it is a war. the way that i look at it... the reason i think it would be totally legitimate for the united states military given president preval's administration allowing it and i think they would to still be in haiti with... there's a small engineering group still there. >> rose: so at the time of the most number of military, how many there are? >> i think it was 22,000 troops. >> rose: and today? >> 500. national guard. and they're in the worst flood zone areas, preparation for bad weather, hurricane, in gonaives. >> rose: which comes up when? in the summer? >> now, it can happen any time. we're getting heavy rains right now. >> rose: so the reason they withdrew the military was because they had to redeploy them for other needs or because they thought this was a temporary mission which had been completed. >> rose: the first responders... for example, the 82nd airborne, you know, they all had hard
deployments in particular in afghanistan. so, again, when i say this country just... an hour and a half off our shores, yes, there's a war in afghanistan, arguably a misconceived approach being done there and american soldiers dying, here just an hour and a half away is a war without a face to hate. so off surge coming with the weather, you have a surge coming with the kind of historic pressures that build up when an election comes. and you've got people in a devastated infrastructure on the streets and spontaneous camps that are predisposed to outbreaks of disease and these surges are on the way. well, that's a war. that's a reason for the united states military to be there to fight that war. >> rose: so you've asked them and you've asked those people that you know and have contact with send more military? send the military back? >> yes, i've asked and i can tell you that the soldiers that
i was side by side with there in haiti by and large would love to have that mission and they handled it with so much humanity and grace and courage and it really... but, to be realistic-- and i don't think we're going to have a big redeployment of troops until there's an emergency. they have already done what they've done and if we... if the private sect ortho it is kind of a ludicrous idea that the private sector is going to be taking this on by itself. >> why is that a lewd cus idea? >> i don't think it can happen that way? for one thing, it doesn't have... you have the problem of engs. n.g.o.s live in... if we went to haiti today you would see a devastated... port-au-prince, devastated city. but i could find great and intact houses with chefs and
swimming pools and in every one of them lives an n.g.o. and that's where they're living and that's... >> rose: you're living in a camp with... in a tent. >> yeah, which is not to simply say because you're living comfortably and you have time to organize your office space, because some of them are very effective. but it is to they there is an entrenched culture. and it feeds itself in supporting its donorships' eye and its grantors, the grantor being in particular u.s.a.i.d. lack of presence. because for one thing, both in the n.g.o.s and... and i have some very helpful contacts in u.s.a.i.d. and i think that dr. shaw is a formidable guy who again, this is a very new job and emergency there. i'm very optimistic about what u.s.a.i.d. will do. but to date one of the problems is rotations. just as n.g.o.s are developing
relationships with the on-site people from u.s.a.i.d., just as they're developing relationships with each other, both the n.g.o.s and u.s.a.i.d. rotates these people out, now you've got a new guy. >> rose: what's the answer to that issue? >> well, the answer to it... people sort of ask me how did you get yourself into this? >> rose: i'm coming to that actually. >> there's one part of that i'll address now. but that the fact that the stakes are different, the culture is very much like the culture of making a movie in hollywood. you have so many things working against the middle. you've got so much cult of personality. you go to an n.g.o. party and it might not be that the guy who starred in that movie walks in the room and everyone pays attention, but it may be that a u.n. cluster lead walks in. it's a culture of celebrity, it's a culture of... and now
more than ever... for example, we've talked about this, in the movies they represent scripts more than they make them most often. leapt's represent, let's do the cosmetic version of a complete project. so they will do a relocation project. and once it looks handsome, the people are on their own. some it's not a follow-through. and then when it doesn't work because... >> rose: it sounds to me like you're saying there's more planning than doing? >> there's planning and there is... there are sets built but there's no infrastructure to those sets. >> rose: and so therefore what's needed is not reaching the people who need it? >> no. and that's been the history. now i do want to come back. i think this is a very crucial period. and this is... >> the next six months? the next three months? the next... >> the next month is going to
trigger things. so one of the things that may make or break the situation is that it turns out that when you have a central government-- broken though it is but with some very good leaders involved you've got the world community of charity, you've got the u.n., the missing link is the press. that's the oversight. >> rose: they're not? >> no. >> rose: they left after the first... >> they left after the first. they came back six months later and said "what happened?" >> rose: we're doing our six-month review. >> my answer was the problem here is that you're asking me what happened. you should have been here every step to see what happened and if i made a mistake, you should have reported it. if they are corrupt over here, you should have proven it and reported it. they should have been there. had that happened, far less people would have died and will die as it's coming up. they are a fundamental part of this problem. >> rose: how big is what you do now? you run a camp, you run an n.g.o..
you what there? >> all right. we've got 55,000 i.d.p.s in camp. >> rose: what's an i.d.p.? >> the term for refugee crosses borders into another country. so we... as camp managers we work for the international office of migration, in essence, under their umbrella and with a grant from them. so what we do is we provide... we coordinate the n.g.o. actors in the camp. ironically they're called actors whoever's acting in camp is an n.g.o.. so the coordination... we have about 15 primary n.g.o.s that work as partners with us there. some major, some homegrown and smaller, so well-financed, some not. so we coordinate those and we look for projects, we look for things to make life safer and better everyday for those people while they're in that circumstance but not to the point that you draw it into being the feeling of a permanent community which will never be
established. >> rose: so it's medical, it's food, it's shelter. >> yeah. well, it depends. my organization also had has a class 3 hospital on site and we have a medical n.g.o. and we have several medical n.g.o.s that we work with. i am m.s.f., several veteran camps as well as we have oxfam, all playing different functions. the medical is coordinated very closely so as not to overlap and that's part of our job. so that's... that job. then... but then, for example, food. you had all these c-130s full of food coming in, the emergency aid relief. almost everything they you distribute in haiti under these circumstances can be looked at as a cash transfer. people who are used to one to two dollars a day prequake, that was the average salary for people in haiti, i don't want to
miss getting into education, because that's a key thing. these people were spending 45% of that a year on their children's education. with substandard teaching in schools and materials. so that's something that is part of both disaster and rebuilding efforts. or they won't work. so we... that's one of the jobs that j/p h.r.o. is managing that camp. we won't do a food intervention now because there are cash for work programs. what we do is we have another n.g.o., save the children has done some supplemental with pregnant mothers, nursing mothers, children, and we constantly check any kinds of issues with kids because what you have to... where you would violate any policy that doesn't want to be abused is when children of a certain age where without the proper nutrition, not just enough to eat, but the right things to eat, will actually have a permanent issue of brain function. so you're trying to constantly
create as much of an equitable investment on your part of this big puzzle and at the same time you have to step in when there's emergencies. separate from that we've started a rubble removal wing. and this is the thing i'm most excited about. you can just get out in the streets. you pick a pilot neighborhood. they've broken them down into the homes that were not damaged in this earthquake. >> rose: this is the government? >> the ministry of public works and transportation working with u.n. ops went in and did inspections, 2,000 structures a day and as many cases as possible identifying who the owners were. but in the area representing the... the i.d.p.s in our camp, they're mostly renters and from multilevel homes that are destroyed. so to... to get them back into shelters in that area. for example, you go to a landowner and say "we will clear the rubble off your property, but you will allow us to put four shelters here for four
families." there were probably eight to 15 families living in what was once that building so it's not going to make room for everybody. and then you bring the resources-- as we have in the camps, like the water bladders, things like that-- and try to move it from a camp management into a community management that increasingly becomes their own and whatever cash-for-work money as quoted by u.s.a.i.d. and other cans go into building an infrastructure that's going to be in the place that's going to last. build it, bring the clinic there is out of the camps into the community, the camp people that are still there can walk there rather than... we have about 50% of our patients that are coming in from outside the camp and about 50 from within. so now we just transfer who walks to it and try to get it so that they're leaving the camps going to the neighborhoods. but only as the neighborhoods can be supported and the schools within rebuilt. >> rose: but back to the government, what you want. is it that you're asking you'd like for the military to come badge? you'd like more money?
more resources? more what? >> u.s.a.i.d. can't give my organization money so we rely on funding from other private donors. >> rose: so all your funding from your n.g.o. has to come from foundations and private money? >> correct. >> rose: are you getting... >> that's because u.s.... you have to be an n.g.o. for a year for the accounting that allows u.s.a.i.d. to do the... >> rose: oh, i see. so in another six months you'll be okay? >> we can go and discuss things at that time. >> rose: what's the life-and-death sort of dynamic right now? in other words 300,000 people die, yes? what's the level of death today from either as a consequence of what happened, as a consequence of malnutrition, as a consequence of a whole range of things. bad health, no drugs, in no... none of the kinds of things that make a difference in providing a sustainable environment.
>> you know, in the big picture of the things that i can act on and my organization can act on and what we generally see, answering your question is very hard. we know about outbreaks of typhoid over here. of tee bee here. we know about these things. but there's not a centralized. if investigation phenomenon we have what we consider a bona fide outbreak in one identified location we're not... i'm not going to be able to come here and say the bells are ringing. we had some close calls, we took enormously prevent measures, others-- the state department among them-- kicked into high gear, especially when we had the diphtheria case. and i think a lot of chains are being established. but right now i can tell you one of the biggest issues there's no blood. there's no blood there. so the trauma hospitals. for example, university of miami
medishare bart barth green's outfit, they've got the only trauma center in all of port-au-prince. they've got no blood. so they were losing as many as three patients a week there. simply because they were sending volunteers down... >> rose: that's today's circumstance? >> that's right now. american red cross. this has been the most interesting kind of learning curve for me. i talked to the leadership of the american red cross. one of the problems is you need big organizations. they're built by people who have a lot of experience and a lot of them are very passionate people. a lot of them know the problem. but, like anything, moving a big organization in an emergency situation is not easy. so we're starting to build different relationships where they can satellite support to those who can move and are on
the ground. they've been very, very... increasingly very responsive to my organization. and i've encouraged it before, they should have a better sense of what those donor dollars do with the american red cross and so on. but, again, there is a kind of model that i've experienced lately with them and they i don't believe are registered n.g.o.s in haiti because they've worked out with the haitian red cross, international federation of red cross. but the mechanics of how all of this stuff works is really the responsibility of donors to understand and our responsibility to make clearer. but so for example when we have these specific issues they become a good place to go to, they can start to mobilize some of those things that have not been but we are this far along right now and i know that american red cross is one of those charging the way and in terms of trying to help design
something with the ministry of health in haiti to be able to get blood collection, perhaps from the united states. >> rose: let me take you back to the time of the earthquake, in your opinion malibu or somewhere out there. you see it on the news. what did you decide? "i have to be there"? "i want to figure out how i can help"? now, you had done that in katrina, a different place, a different kind of emergency but you were there on the ground doing this. where was your said? what did you think you could do? were you flying blindly? were you using skills you had learned somewhere else in terms of contacts, finding a plane, finding doctors, finding medical supplies, finding stuff, finding a way to get into haiti? all of that. >> it was all of that. and i guess most strongly out of the experience and... with katrina was that i waited four
days thinking that agencies took care of these things and when i went down to new orleans it was like pulling back the curtain and seeing that when you pull back the curtain on government there's nothing there. n disaster relief. >> rose: nothing there meaning they don't know how to do it? meaning something else? >> well, they might know how to do katrina today and they might know how to do haiti's earthquake tomorrow. but when the... when these kinds of things... >> rose: and they may know how to do b.p. tomorrow. >> yes, they may know how to do b.p. tomorrow and maybe b.p. should do some promotion to themselves by giving some money to people in haiti as well as the people in the gulf. but what happens is that one of the... you know in a did saszer like this there has to be a functional deputyization when people get on the ground, you've got to take chances with do donors' money. otherwise people are going to
die, and they did. >> rose: you have to make decisions? >> you have to be decisive and that's what i found out in c.a.t. katrina. shamefully i didn't go down right away, i waited because i thought i'd be in the way. then we got 40 people out of the water in one little boat. so i was hearing about amputations being done with no more than a motrin. >> rose: without morphine. >> yeah. /knew somebody who could get me these medications and get them the venezuelan embassy and also this was a... >> rose: but you did an interesting thing there, too. you went to the military and said the look, i found out that hvs, somebody i know and have had many conversations with, is prepared to give us... was it morphine? >> morphine and ketamine. >> rose: and you went to the army and said "i want you to know this." >> and they said "we'll apologize later, bring it on." president clinton said the other day in haiti this is one thing
that venezuela, the united states and cuba agree on. that these people need this medical help now. you will never... you bring doctors, you bring medicine, you bring medical equipment and supplies to haiti and you spend two seconds figuring out where those things are going to be useful. you bring education, working with the ministry of education and in particular in haiti the first lady and you bring subsidies for the schools that have been charging tuition for the poorest people on the planet all this time and a rising curriculum and training for teachers, that's real. but you've got church groups all over this country, very well-intended church groups all over the united states who are giving money, adopting orphans from... that have parents. orphanage are big business in haiti. you know, bring us your kids and all of that was happening.
so president preval has... one of the problems with the aristide government was that while he had social reforms that actually were going to help the people in cooperatives and so on, the kinds of things we should be doing now, particularly with environmental technology i think, there was also such a rising personal power issue that gave into narco trafficking if not personally, certainly indirectly, that gave into violence and so you didn't have the basic security in the country. you didn't have the trust of a police department. but when you have somebody like president preval who will premoats decentralization of power, of presidential power, while wanting to allot land, ownership to people then we have to watch very carefully our own government's influence in this, because historically when you can attach-- as we never will
attach socialism when we talk about the fire department or the police department and yet we'll attach it to health care, in the same way when land has been allotted from idle lands of wealthy mostly diaspora or if there's a lot of... i would very much like to know how much of that land in haiti that we keep calling out for lands to be developed for new communities or for temporary communities to get people out of harm's way, i'd very much like to know how much of that land is owned by the catholic church in haiti. and there are organizations that work very closely with the catholic church and none of these things... it's a funny thing in haiti, nobody tells you where to look for stuff, whether it's land or medicine. you won't have... there's one place that house it is things that will save lives in the case of an outbreak of this disease or this disease. no one goes from that place.
nobody from any of these major organizations, any of them, from that that place that has it to the major hospitals... >> rose: people who have things, they're not going to people who might need them and saying "look we have this if you need it. here we are." >> yeah, and so much goes to what's on the paperwork. it's on our web site. aid organizations that are doing their jobs don't have time for web sites. you've got to be... there's got to be one person going to the 200 need the field, one frern the air conditioned officetor rich n.g.o. house have go to go to the people in the field and say to their supervisors "this is where this is." you don't sty supervisors who can't keep their paper dry in the rain well, that was there the whole time, why didn't you talk to me? we were smoking a cigarette and having a beer, we would have talked to you about it. well why didn't you put your cigarette out, put your beer down, get a truck and go to general hospital or medishare or j/p h.r.o. or the government of haiti and let them know how much
tents you've got in a warehouse. >> rose: okay, but now about you. so you get down there and you come in with some stuff and you've got a plethora of connections you can use to bring and do things other people weren't doing to find things. when did you say "i'm here for the long run"? when did you say "this is not sean coming in to do what he can do for the next three weeks and then he's going back"? because at some point you canceled two movies you were supposed to make? yes? >> uh-huh. >> rose: i don't know if that had to do with this... >> something else. >> rose: new >> that had to do with something else. >> rose: but you basically decided this is where i want to be, have to be and believe i can make a difference. >> uh-huh. >> rose: i went... we went in. my thought was two weeks that we'd stay two weeks. and then you see gaps. forget about the gaps i might be investing in the culture of complaints, the thing i'm
complaining about going wrong in a disaster of this magnitude there's going to be gaps no matter how competent the organizations involved are. there are gaps that we had people and i felt that i had something fornl offer it. friends of mine think i became obsessed. i became obligated we saw we were making a difference and it was... it was like walking away from a car crash and letting people hang off the side of the window with their head about to be crushed or the fireball about to kill them. it was just too clear we had to continue. >> rose: was there in some respect, including this article, that this came at a time in your life where you'd gone through some bad things? that at least psychologically left you in a cold place.
and that this somehow gave you meaning to your life? >> well, you know, any commitment that you make completely that's going to be successful cannot depend on an equal amount of commitment on the other side haiti announces that very clearly. and so when i come there with the people that i came with-- and i know that i'm speaking for my organization at large here and i think for a lot of other people. i mean, we had mentors. i want to make sure i don't walk away from here saying all those bad n.g.o.s. our mentors are in n.g.o.s. people who are really... have educated us. because like i say you have great people but the organizations are flawed. >> rose: but you personally. >> yeah, personally.
there is something in all of us, i think, that at once is searching for purpose, paying for sins, and recognizing our skill sets. and i think that when those things merge and they're complemented by the incredible character of people like the haitian people and, yes, the smiles of the children who i still speak no creole with because i consider myself a facilitator. i'm a function their in this situation. i have people are very hug give kissy with everybody in my organization. i'm... i try to function as a machine in the middle of it. so i notice prifly just how beautiful the smiles are but i don't invest in it. but when those things come around and they grab you and you find yourself surrounded by
people who are in for their own reasons, just as committed, just ass invested in it, there's something that happens and it's communal. >> rose: what happens? >> there's a kind of strength that happens and it goes away from yourself and it becomes very communal and when you get involved with the... say you do find an n.g.o. that's like-thinking and you meet on the street on a project and they're controlling the cash-for-work bank so while you have your heavy equipment in you might have 800, a thousand haitians employed. and maybe that's paid for by u.s.a.i.d. >> rose: was there part of you that when you got there said "everything i am that might have manifested itself in another way here's a place where i can use it. it many s my strength of character, it is my i don't give a damn attitude about things in
terms of i want to get it done, i want to go from here to here." these were natural instincts of yours that somehow you were able to use in a different way than you ever had before. >> yeah, but i was related to something that i think is very common amongst us all and something i've spoken about in my own work and other activities outside of the movie business in the past is that it's kind of all one thing, the older i get, the more we look back and say... someone says to me there's a god. good by me. somebody says there's not a god, just as good by me. >> rose: (laughs) me, too. >> it's respectful enough of god to say "nibble the mystery." >> rose: that's right, that's right. but meanwhile, there's some kind of design to all this thing. >> rose: design to what? >> either our experience in life is one of tremendous coincidence or there's a design. >> rose: and you believe? >> and we may have a part in creating it oar not but you...
of course i knew i was going to be in haiti now when i look back. i didn't know there was going to be an earthquake, but somehow our lives kind of... it's all one thing. i think we kind of get born and we step into a chair and the roller coaster starts and we don't have an enormous amount to say where it's going to go because this is... there is there's something very... on one hand, a friend of mine described it yesterday saying you know you're having a fringe experience. >> rose: a fringe experience? >> a fringe experience. in terms of the things that we see and do everyday in haiti versus what... >> rose: i don't understand what a fringe experience is. >> well, i think i understand it because it's outside the norm. >> rose: okay, right, right, right. when, in fact, living in america is a fringe experience. because most of the world lives
like that. >> rose: so how does it change you. how has seeing all this being able to do something, being able to say that these skills you've had can be employed to make a difference? 40 so how does sean pen come here today to the sean penn i've known well for before six months ago. how are you different? or is it just simply another turn in the wheel, this is who i was always >> i think that by shrek which you willly or whatever i aspire to in that area i always have a sense of these things and try to apply myself to them knowing that i was on if fringe. >> rose: yeah. >> i think that humanly it's a very valuable thing to not be on
the fringe. and in applying that to appreciating things... for example, a lot of vol tlerz come back from our place, a lot of the discussion is, boy, i came back to the states, all that materialism it was so disgusting to me. look, i had 49 years of that, man, i'm not going to get suddenly more disgusted because i've and seen the other thing. it's just that you can now integrate what you thought you knew in a... having it on a daily basis. off more whole sense of what it really smells like, what it really feels like and what the value of being a "have" is versus the lack of value of a "have not." >> rose: is it the value or the advantage of being a "have." >> by "value" i'm putting that word in quotes. we suffer for that value. we suffer for the psychological baggage that we carry around
silently and you don't have to be some kind of... i wanted to rename my organization the do-gooder bleeding heart society just to sort of shove it up this kind of thing because it really isn't that. it's that we are all in this one thing and as long as we are not g.i. integrated, as long as we are not on the fringe, we might have our money, we will not have a full life. and we'll have more people going to shrinks, more dysfunctional families, we'll have more kids on drugs, we'll have more of all... more guns than anywhere else in the world. >> rose: unless we... >> we suffer from our lack of actual cultural integration. we don't even do it where we claim our diverse any this country. you don't go... go to any restaurant in the city. is there black and whites together at tables? yeah, there's a black with 12 whites once in a while. nobody's actually taking advantage of this diversity in this country so why are we
celebrating it. we should actually be activating it. and when you go to a place like haiti you can smell humanity more than you can here where you're smelling the next day's profit. >> rose: you've gotten a couple commendations from the military down there. this is general keene who... he's the lieutenant sglen >> lieutenant general. three star. >> rose: a three star down at tampa? so he says... he's found common purpose with you. and some of the military say "i don't give a damn about his politics" whatever they think your politics are but here in haiti it's not about any of that. it's about what we can do today to make a difference. >> that's right. >> rose: and how we can get rid of whatever stands in the way of doing that and how fast. >> that's right. >> rose: we're not worried about feelings, we're worried about getting the job done. >> that's right. >> rose: general keene gave me this look of pride, it meant more to me than any movie award.
and you happen to have two oscars. what do you mean by that? what was it that he gave you? >> well, i don't know if i said exactly that. i don't want to sell my friend douglas brinkley who's a great writer. i said something... i will say here, you know, i am proud of the respect i've been shown by the military and i will lieutenant general keene. he's somebody i consider a friend and in particular he's somebody i saw the way that... the power of common sense works. of course representing the united states military he had a voice that had to be listened to to down there but really it was just cutting through so much of this thick that i was talking about before where it's not that people are of ill intent or incompetent it's just that everybody wants it to get better. they're looking at the terrible problem. so you'll have agencies, n.g.o.s people with a cautious idea
saying we did a tarp distribution, we've distributed "x" amount of tarps today. and general keene will say "where's the lum sfwher" "the lumber?" well, are you talking about being in a poncho in a rainstorm? because i've been a poncho in a rainstorm yichl ear going to distribute tarps for them put over themselves, you have to build... and he was always just clear eyed about everything practical that would make a difference. >> rose: what's your future commitment to this? ongoing commitment? i mean, you're getting red economy to make a movie which you have to do... i mean, you don't have to do. you're doing. you have commitments to a range of things, commitments to family commitments to yourself; commitments to what you've establish down there. what where's the balance going to take place? >> on a family level... my kids
work in the organization so they've been to haiti several times and worked. i could take what i have to offer, my six months on the ground, before i needed somebody who could do it better i'll consistently go back and be part of that, not while i'm in the middle of shooting the movie but the main thing is we work a little backwards. we don't go first to the u.n. agencies we start with the government in haiti and the people in the community and try to gate sense what people want from their government. and once we go to the government and we express those needs we find ourselves often in the... on the same page. we then know that when we go to the n.g.o.s or u.n. or organizations that we're... we have... nobody's going to say to us, look, the government won't let douse that and i can say "i was just with the president, he will." and so on. so we try to work backwards that way.
>> rose: yeah, that's what we're talking about. >> so in doing, that then, of course, you root out the egos from the activists, from the humanitarians, and there are some really good people in all those organizations. >> rose: and having an ego isn't a bad thing always. ego may be... make a difference. >> yeah, yeah, of course. >> rose: but that's not the kind of ego you're talking about. >> no, i'm talking about n.g.o.s that would prefer to either be there and do it first or not have it done and all and that's rampant. >> rose: either get the credit for it and or not do it at all. >> and even sabotage it. i'll write a movie about this one day and it won't be a drama. it will be a tragic comedy. >> rose: like a catch-22? >> yeah. so now my camp runner has the same network i have that, everyone knows everybody. they can do that. i have a great team and we're... we've got the bulldozers in the streets thanks to a great
benefactor. richard hautes came in and finance it is project. >> rose: you have brought together some really remarkable people who there are and responded across the board. people who were part of your own initial... >> yeah, we have, and then we ran into people. bill evans, one of the guys who runs the old club has been incredibly supportive. >> rose: couple quotes. there's no exit for me until there's more life than deaf. >> right. >> rose: did you say that? >> yeah, i think i said that. i never like hearing my own words back. >> rose: you're going to get them. there's more life than death no exit for me until there's more life than death. >> yeah, a very prominent haitian said to me that when the apocalypse comes the survivors will be cockroaches, rat, and haitians. so there is there this that haitians will survive.
not that baby over there, and not that one over there, but there is this popular notion and it's largely based on incredible resilience these people have but i think that with all the decades of failed aid in haiti, the one thing that the earthquake has done... even the elite have n haiti have had a come to jesus moment. their small pond was devastated. doesn't mean their money is but let's not forget, the wealthy class in haiti is maybe, relatively speaking, we're talking about there might be a 55 millionaire. but you don't have a warren buffett in haiti. there is a potential right now to capitalize on a unified spirit like has never been there before. it's part the reason there hasn't been so much social unrest and violence. yet if we don't make the move now, i think there will be more death than life in haiti. and whether it's be by disease or social unrest or whatever it is.
so i think there's got to be an incredible momentum created now and i think it's possible. >> rose: a perfect known note to end on. thank you very much. >> you're welcome. >> rose: sean penn for the hour. if you want to know more about his n.g.o., it's jphro.org. thank you for joining us. tomorrow night picasso at the metropolitan museum. see you then. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org