SO many of us are divorced from reality that in the latest instalment in the Jamaican 'hit parade' — the lottery scam — some of us with almost religious zeal have begun to make judgements along the lines of 'we' versus 'them'.
The scammers are the scum representing the chaff more closely conforming to 'them', and those of us who quite correctly condemn them and raise our non-corruptible, saintly, and self-righteous voices to the high heavens are those called 'we'.
New attention is being paid to the parliamentary deliberations on the passage of bills in both Houses relating to an easier route to nabbing lottery scammers. One suspects that, with the bills having previously enjoyed a holiday in the wilderness of parliamentary inactivity, it has been the pressure of the Americans on our legislators and the full knowledge that respected US journalist Dan Rather had visited Jamaica as an integral part of compiling a documentary on our local criminals involved in the scam which accelerated the local parliamentary activity.
I have only heard bits and pieces of Rather's presentation. The short piece I heard carried on Nationwide was typical of the American's view of us. Most of us are, if not actually guilty, then certainly suspect of something else equally sinister to what is being investigated.
Most US journalists (and indeed foreign journalists) have a much easier route in ferreting out delicate information about Jamaica and Jamaicans on Jamaican soil than any local journalist. When this happens, Jamaicans, especially those who emigrated to other countries over 20 years ago, climb on a self-righteous horse while berating the local news fraternity for unprofessionalism and being 'fraidy-fraidy'.
What many do not appreciate is that local-based media practitioners are, well, based here and obviously subject to harassment and threats which include the murder of family members and self. In addition, ex-assistant commissioner of police, the British-imported Les Green was, months ago, dead correct when he imputed that he, with a white skin, was more trusted by the Jamaican public than they trusted the local black-skinned police.
With good reason
First, journalists visiting Jamaica and chasing down stories on organised criminality usually arrive here with a hefty budget which includes that necessity of not just making the horse gallop but also talk, like the horse on the old Mr Ed TV series.
Second, organised criminality on our soil usually has well-connected criminal organisations on the ground in the United States, and our home-based boys know the delicacy of upsetting that link. Threatening a foreign journalist becomes a strict no-no in this understanding, plus our local criminals are deathly afraid of the resolve of US investigators and America's courts.
Third, huge chunks of our organised criminality, like the lottery scam, international drug-running and extortion in urban centres, have long dovetailed inside the criminal arm of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and all it takes is one well-known police name to telephone a journalist and say to him. "Yow! Leave dat b.... c story alone if yu nuh want shot inna yu head! Yu hear whey mi sey!"
The lottery scam conforms to the general movement of power in most societies, especially those which have still not found their footing in developing their people's social and economic strengths and positive societal structures.
Power seeks out power to consolidate its hold on the culture and the 'legal' structure of the country.
Organised criminality, like the lottery scam, is one such chunk of power. It first seeks out the criminals in the rogue arm of the JCF, as that arm was on its way to seeking out a partnership there. Local-based politicians, another arm of 'power', seek out both of them even as the scammers and the rogue cops know that the triumvirate would make the ideal. The ultimate glue keeping the whole together is wads of cash.
The scammers, the druggists, the extortionists and the gun-runners are usually cash-rich, and politicians, especially the ones at council level, are usually cash-hungry, especially at election time. At council level, sometimes moderate government work is routed through thugs connected to the bigger criminals, just so the politician can get his sieved dough.
So, while we constructed and debated bills in Gordon House, I very much doubt that there was a single politician who was naive enough to not know that some politicians and some policemen had long been eating lottery food and doing so with much gusto.
One well-known scammer in the west has notional attachments to the People's National Partry (PNP), and it would be quite foolish for anyone in the PNP to admit that any funds were received from him to assist in the 2007 and 2011 general elections.
One assumes that outside of his lavish lifestyle of having his pick of swanky hotels, jet-skis and a 'bevy' of men friends who like to openly dress up as women with full regalia -- that is, make-up and heels -- he has other interests that would invoke the scrutiny of the police.
Like most people at that level, even if they are taken in by the police, they tend not to stay incarcerated for long or, if charged, one can be sure that a battery of high-priced mercenaries, otherwise called lawyers, will tie up the case in the court system until the nation tires of tracking it down.
How does a sensible person get scammed?
It's long been accepted in American lore that there's a sucker born every minute, meaning that even the most well-meaning and intelligent person is likely to be hoodwinked by scammers whose job it is to bring art, style and 'integrity' to ripping off the good person.
Many people being scammed fit into that psychological profile which holds to the conviction that most people, if not all, are honest and not prone to pathological and deliberate wrongdoing. So even at that stage where they doubt that the 'too good to be true' offer is too good to be true, they pull back by yielding to a subconscious which convinces them that no one could be so evil.
We accept the notion that age generally teaches wisdom. Unfortunately, many older people are not up-to-date with current machinations of a set of youngsters who have seen criminality pay off handsomely via the law of large numbers. If enough lines are thrown out, at some stage someone will bite.
In sectors of the young, depressed population, many have made the choice to accept criminality as a career path. Assisting them has always been our country Jamaica, which has experienced the most abysmal social and economic management by our political leaders during the last 40 or so years.
It cannot be pleasing to hear Jamaica being described by foreign news networks as "The Nigeria of the Caribbean" because of our general corruption and recent penchant for scamming Americans of advanced age.
The crazy argument made by misguided young people who consider themselves latter-day nationalists, that scamming white Americans is just reward for the pain of slavery, is not one that should be considered in 'normal society', even though detectives ought to bear that possibility in mind as they investigate the scammers.
The fact is, there are naive people everywhere on this planet, and many have been identified by Jamaican scammers -- people who have cleaned out their bank accounts of up to US$200,000 in order to collect two or three million said to have been 'won' by them.
The mind after the fact will want to ask, are people really this naive to believe in the sweet words of these scammers? Well, even on Jamaican soil, in fairly recent times, we were subjected to local 'sweet-mouthers' who scammed many of us who were considered 'educated' and 'intelligent'.
The first time I received a call from a scammer, it began with an e-mail message informing me that I had won a two-week Caribbean cruise for two. Genuinely convinced that there was the possibility of some authenticity in the message, I called the telephone number supplied.
The female voice which answered was sweeter than guava jelly.
"Oh yes, sir, it is real. A trip for two!" I could hear and feel the smile and the mirth in her voice.
"So, what do I need to do?" I believed I asked the voice, "to begin the process of taking up the trip?"
"OK, first we will need to have a credit card number," the sugary voice said.
I paused. "I'm sorry. I don't have a credit card. What should..."
The phone went to dial tone. The scammer was no longer interested in me.
America will get what it wants
Since 2010 when the nation underwent the pain of then Prime Minister Golding holding to a principle which only existed in Alice's Wonderland, once the US had Tivoli strongman Dudus on its soil and in its prison system, it was brought home to us that Big Brother to the north of us had brought in the big stick to paddle our backsides.
We had already proven that we were incapable of doing it alone, that is, solving our biggest problem -- crime -- on our own, as we brought in specialist security personnel from Britain in the 2000s. Prior to that, even when we thought we were acting correctly, we wrongfully extradited one of our citizens.
As the power of Dudus grew under the 18 1/2-year run of the PNP, it had to be the most cruel of ironies that it was under the administration of the JLP that the don of dons, Dudus, more than notionally attached to the JLP, was named by the US as a man wanted immediately. As Golding waded headlong into ending his political career, the Americans tightened the screws and certainly, the thought of an IMF loan becoming scuttled must have entered the discussion in hushed tones.
Now that the Americans are pressing home to have our local scammers extradited, the US will have its way. In essence, the Americans are saying to us that they really do not care if we allow our scammers to scam our people, only, don't do it to theirs.
A country that cares about its people tends to place an extremely high emphasis on providing justice for its people. Not so Jamaica. In reality, to the Americans justice is, at its simplest, getting the sucker who made a sucker of our most gullible people.
Apart from the convergence of the 'powers' in Jamaica in furtherance of the scam, I hope the investigators recognise that there is a foreign connection, an American-based connection to the local-based lottery scam that needs to be brought to the forefront with a view to bringing that connection to book.
As members of our diaspora have indicated, Jamaica just does not need another 'black-eye', what with our already high rate of violent criminality.
It sullies our name in terms of employment abroad, and every time a Jamaican walks through an international airport we are first judged as suspected criminals.
Are we waiting for the next hurricane?
I take some pride in the fact that for many years I was the main media person representing the concerns of residents of Cassava Piece in getting the 'No heavy duty vehicle' policy instituted on that very narrow and extremely hazardous roadway.
Finally, in 2009, it became a reality. I had called for making the roadway one-way at specific times of the day, depending on the volume of traffic flow. Well, the planners saw differently and that's OK.
Used extensively by school children, many parts of the road have no sidewalks and children literally are forced to play 'footsie' with car wheels.
Last October, Jamaica experienced the scary unpleasantness of late-season hurricane Sandy. As the skies opened and the rains came, millions of gallons of water went rushing down from the hills and into the Sandy Gully system.
As the accompanying picture will show, a sizeable chunk of the sidewalk along Clifton Boulevard (Cassava Piece Road) was eaten away by the heavy water which moved stone and concrete as if they were soft material. The picture also shows that the gully course was torn all the way up to the edge of the road.
My point is, all it will take is another inundation lasting for a few days to make that tearing away complete, at which stage the road will be impassable.
An MP like the PNP's Paul Buchanan of West Rural St Andrew tells me that much of the time he would much prefer to spend in his constituency has to be taken up making representation to the works ministry and the NWA to get road repairs done, including dangerous breakaways from last October.
Other MPs like the JLP's Daryl Vaz of West Portland are constantly batting for the constituents, even though they know that the job is not one that will ever end.
Well, I am hoping that the JLP's Karl Samuda, not a man who handles criticism graciously, will present himself at the works ministry first thing tomorrow morning and demand that that dangerous gully breakaway in his constituency be attended to as a first priority. He owes it to the children of the many poor people residing in his constituency.
Maybe with an IMF agreement running slower than our rapidly declining dollar, they may be forced to tell him to wait in line. That would be a pity.
Lottery scam suspects being arrested in Montego Bay last year.
A large chunk of the sidewalk along Clifton Boulevard (Cassava Piece Road) is missing after being eroded by heavy water associated with Hurricane Sandy last October. The gully course is torn all the way up to the edge of the road. (Photo: Michael Gordon)