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Saturday, 7 March 2009

Vivian Blake, ex-leader of one of the most dangerous gangs ever to hit the United States, the Shower Posse

Vivian Blake, ex-leader of one of the most dangerous gangs ever to hit the United States, the Shower Posse, (recently featured prominently in the American Gangster series on American television) said something startling.Asked if he had his life to live over again whether he would do anything different, he said, without hesitation, "No". Get a copy of that American cable show or the book written by Blake's own son to see the atrocities of which the Shower Posse was accused. Blake was insistent and stressed: "After I lost my job, I had to live. I had to live. I had my children to look after and my grandmother. I used to see her fridge empty. I had to live", by any means necessary. That is why he could say openly that he had no regrets - for anything is justifiable to live. The hosts must have been too stunned, too polite (or too afraid?) to challenge him on that reprehensible statement.
But Vivian Blake's views represent those of many Jamaicans who were never gangsters. There are many "decent", everyday Jamaicans who believe that humans should do anything to survive (except to engage in homosexuality, of course). That's the only exception they seem to have; the only thing worth dying over! In these harsh economic times, to say that you are "standing up for principle" or "morality" (who can eat that?) and that you are not engaging in "the runnings" to "eat a food" is to laughed at or seen as a fool. How you fight corruption in a culture like this?
You don't have a society with a set of values which says these values are worth suffering deprivation for and even dying over. Our forefathers believed that the lives of their children and their children's freedom meant more than their own lives. They sacrificed their lives for us. We lionise people who threatened their lives to win our freedom and who stood up against oppression, but that's only in another narrative. In the real world we believe that is rubbish, that "man haffi survive", by any means necessary.There have been all sorts of people - communists, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, black power nationalists, anti-colonialists - who have put liberation, the ending of oppression, the fighting for an ideal, for justice, for human rights, above their own personal welfare and personal advancement. If you have a society where the greatest value is money, we cannot fight corruption.
People in positions of power and responsibility in the public service will bow to the politicians who ask them to bend the rules and to facilitate their whims and fancies because they would rather keep their cushy jobs rather than fight any corrupt encroachments.This is why this country does not begin to realise the value it has in Greg Christie. We will never begin to understand what a treasure Greg Christie is and we can never pay him enough for his uncommon courage, fearlessness, inflexible commitment to integrity and even his feisty temperament. Sure, he is sometimes unnecessarily contentious, obtrusive and sometimes will overstep his bounds. But I much prefer him to err on that side than to quiver before government ministers or even to the prime minister. We need independent people in the public sector who can stand up to prime ministers, ministers of government and any Mr Big Man from any big-name family. People who would rather lose their well-paying jobs than compromise an ounce of integrity.Unless you have people with this kind of character - this kind of commitment to a set of moral and philosophical principles - all your institutional reforms and enforcement procedures will be woefully inadequate. Necessary, but not sufficient. You need moral capital.We desperately need more anti-corruption champions like Greg Christie. And more people to follow his example.


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