Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Gordon Robinson | Can state of emergency trump murderers?

Published:Tuesday | January 30, 2018 | 12:00 AM

What's the difference between Donald Trump and St James' state of emergency (SOE)?

Not much. Both are products of desperate, dysfunctional societies with seemingly no answer to an awesome threat to their essential fabric. Both have little or no chance of averting the threat without plenty external help. In USA, Donald Trump is the last great white hope, thrown into Washington like a grenade into a maelstrom with a mission to staunch the flow of colour into US society and maintain its traditional white supremacy.

In Jamaica, the SOE is the last-resort card played by a desperate Government, thrown into a violent vortex like Jonah into stormy seas with a mission to bring peace but, without divine intervention or clear-headed long-term planning, likely to be swallowed by a crime-created whale and spat out in three weeks.

The trouble with Government's declaration of an SOE (limited to St James) is there's no emergency in St James. According to the Oxford English Dictionary and common sense, the word 'emergency' means 'a sudden serious and dangerous event or situation which needs immediate action to deal with it'. Examples of national emergencies include earthquakes or hurricanes. Or maybe, just maybe, the sudden barricading of a community to prevent law enforcement from entering and arresting an international fugitive defended by armed thugs, combined with sudden, incendiary, terrorist attacks directed at security forces and police stations.

 

DECADES OF NEGLECT

 

The crime situation in St James is serious and dangerous, but one reason why it's NOT an emergency is because it's NOT 'sudden'. This is no crisis. It's the inevitable result of decades of law-enforcement neglect, beginning with little acorns of customs fraud, from as far back as the 1960s, growing into shrubs of drug-running/tourist harassment; saplings of lotto scams; until we've now produced full-grown redwood trees of murder.

This could've been quelled 50 years ago by simplification and reduction of customs tariffs together with fair and uncorrupt enforcement. Instead, we preferred 'see and blind' while acorns were growing into trees.

Because it's NOT an emergency, emergency powers can only temporarily quell the noise but won't solve the problem. Like Jonah, we slept while trees were growing; awoke too late; and panicked.

Reason two for this NOT being an emergency is that no "immediate action" will "deal with" the situation. Only cerebral, long-term planning can chop at tree trunks until they're cut down.

Jamaican politicians focus on gaining/keeping power rather than Jamaicans' interest. So, JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force] is allowed to become so rotten that community policing is impossible, yet JDF [Jamaica Defence Force] reports St James residents are flooding its tip hotline. Does Cabinet spot the rake? Will it have the courage to do what's right? Will we force them? Or do we prefer weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth?

USA has the identical problem. A narcissistic president always putting self before nation can't focus on the job. Insight into the Trump phenomenon permeates the pages of Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury. Wolff, granted unprecedented access to the White House (WH) and Trump because each WH staffer thought another gave authority, saw and heard everything. His take on why Trump can't grasp what it means to be president:

"Ultimately, Trump may not be that different in his fundamental solipsism from anyone of great wealth who has lived most of his life in a highly controlled environment. But one clear difference was that he had acquired almost no formal sort of social discipline he couldn't even attempt to imitate decorum. He couldn't really converse, for instance, not in the sense of sharing information, or of a balanced back-and-forth conversation.

"He neither particularly listened to what was said to him, nor particularly considered what he said in response (one reason he was so repetitive). Nor did he treat anyone with any sort of basic or reliable courtesy. If he wanted something, his focus might be sharp and attention lavish, but if someone wanted something from him, he tended to become irritable and quickly lost interest. He demanded you pay him attention then decided you were weak for grovelling. In a sense, he was like an instinctive, pampered, and hugely successful actor. Everybody was either a lackey who did his bidding or a high-ranking film functionary trying to coax out his attention and performance and to do this without making him angry or petulant."

Are there similarities between Trump and St James' SOE? You betcha! Both are headed for forgotten history. Neither can accomplish anything lasting.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.