Saturday, May 22, 2010

When is collateral damage acceptable?

I wished someone dead...or at least harmed.  Actually, it was more than one person; it was a whole community of people.  In the moment the thought formed in my mind I felt bad about it, but then it found words and air. Then surprisingly, they also found agreement.  Jamaicans living abroad are distressed about the ongoing Dudus Affair and most of us don't hold much hope for satisfactory resolution.

After months of dirty politicking, scandals of conflicting interests, and rumors of high level blackmail and illegal favors, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke's extradition process has started and a warrant signed for his arrest.  The response from the Tivoli and Denham Town communities has been stunning - like the implausible plot of a really bad movie.  Members of these communities have blocked access to roads in and out in a show of displeasure with the government's decision, and supposedly to prevent the police or army from taking Coke into custody.

While there is some report that some residents may have been coerced into joining the picket lines, it does not seem to be true for the majority of demonstrators.  As is often the case with kingpins of criminal groups, Coke has doled out just enough cash and favors to buy the misguided loyalty of the uneducated and unemployable masses too ignorant to realize that his handouts have given them nothing beyond some chicken dinners and maybe a few pieces of clothes.  There are no reports of schools being built or outfitted with books or computers in Tivoli.  There is no Coke Technical Training Center in Denham Town.  The news of young men and women from Tivoli and Denham Town graduating from university on the Dudus Educational Scholarship has yet to be broadcasted. He has given them fish, but they are too simpleminded to realize that what they need are the resources to fish on their own.  He has supposedly provided protection for the members of these communities; no one seems to realize that it is he and others involved in criminal activities that are the real source of the danger.

So the rest of us stand on the outside slackjawed at the pictures and news of people offering up their lives and their children's lives in protection of 'President Dudus.'  First it was the government that was willing to hold the country hostage, but now it is the citizens that are willing to pick a fight with the United States over a man that is widely known to be a criminal.  These are not a people looking for or demanding a responsible government or better social services and education  These are a people satisfied to wallow in their destituteness and gather crumbs from gangsters.  It is hard to be hopeful.  It is hard to to see a Jamaica beyond the preposterous murder rate, corrupt politicians, and a seeming aversion to meaningful progress.

It is that hopelessness that leads to thoughts of razing entire communities and starting fresh. It is the lack of any vision of how to fix Jamaica that leads to musings that the casualties of an unlikely US-lead incursion into Tivoli to seize Coke may be worth the price.

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