The ‘Robin Hood’ syndrome

This week in the Observer on Sunday one story  takes a look at the terrible situation in Jamaica from a different perspective than the one generally portrayed in the mainstream media.

Depending on what side of the Caribbean Sea you are on, Chris Coke is either a dangerous drug kingpin or a national hero – and those are typically the two sides readers see.

Today’s article looks at things from a different view.

Well-known Jamaican reggae/dancehall artists are now being denied visas by the US government, possibly  because of a perceived connection to Coke and people like him. These types of music are arguably Jamaica’s greatest (legal) export and certainly the US market is the most lucrative available for most JA artistes.

Now – because of a situation not of their own making – these people are being denied what they feel are their rights to earn a living.

Many in Jamaica might argue that those involved in the dancehall scene are at least partly responsible for glorifying the guns-and-gangs (or gaza and gully, if you prefer) lifestyle that so many of the young people today can be seen and heard emulating. It’s much the same argument that was bandied back and forth during the late 1980’s in the US when gansta-rap rose to prominence.

But there’s really not much the Jamaican musicians can do if the US decides to shut them out – no matter the reasoning behind such a move. They are not given the same free-speech guarantees as artistes born on American soil.

So here is the reality of the situation: A group of people – some of whom may be entirely innocent – suffer for the actions of a few.

The Chris Coke situation should not be taken lightly from a regional or international perspective. Everyone around the world should be paying close attention.

These problems have been growing for decades in the Caribbean and now the chickens have come home to roost, so to speak. The problem is not as clear cut as law enforcement officials in the US would like to make out, but neither is it the romanticised modern day “Robin Hood” tale Jamaicans who have benefited from Coke’s generousity would have everyone believe.

The problem is that poor residents of countries that have little economic wherewithal will make heroes out of those who can uplift their situation; make their life better. Whether that is done from ill-gotten gains or not is often a secondary consideration, if it is one at all.

When pleas for international aid come from these countries it would behove those with the means to assist their neighbours where they can. The alternative – ignoring them – usually affects us all in ways we can’t predict, and won’t like.