Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Social Justice (UPDATED)

posted by Armadillo Joe*

Per fraulein's suggestion, I am creating a post for the comment thread from Broadway Carl's response (A Response To "Arrgh, Me Mateys") to my initial Somali pirates post (Arrgh, Me Mateys), wherein I argued that the Somali pirates are not criminals in the sense that most people understand because these lawless men haven't chosen to reject the laws that ought to bind us all, those laws having never applied to them in the first place -- hence "lawless", and Carl countered that they are criminals for the simple fact that they chose to become pirates in the first place. In looking more closely at the whole issue, I see now that we are in fact arguing apples and oranges. My point is a philosophical one with a moral and ethical component, wherein Carl's point is strictly practical, with a social and political component.

Thus, inter-related and overlapping, sure. But not the same thing.

The comment exchange:
Matt Osborne said...
You're right to say there's no sympathy due the pirates NOW. But we do have to understand how they happened: a vacuum of power, anarchy on the seas, greedy European corporations, and starving native fishermen.Like most things in this world, the Somali pirates started out with the best of intentions, but you're right -- that's not important. What's important is that Obama has the opportunity to fix the situation and start fixing Africa in the process.

And we should be trumpeting the Somali pirates as an example of what happens in a land without government.

April 13, 2009 9:52:00 PM EDT

Armadillo Hussein Joe said...

Thank you, Matt, for ferreting out my underlying meaning in earlier posts.

I feel like my initial argument was mis-characterized because the idea of piracy on the seas is so frightening and repellent to most people that any attempt on my part to understand or plumb the causes of it is an expression of sympathy for the pirates' actions. It isn't. It is an expression of sympathy for the social and political conditions that drove them to it.

Sun Tzu urged us to know our enemies. The fact that we are complicit in the creation of those enemies doesn't make them any less potent or us any less guilty, but to pretend that they have just mysteriously appeared as some kind of fully-formed menace previously unknown in any way whatsoever is intellectually dishonest. We cannot truly know them if we don't acknowledge our role in their creation and growth.

A crime of inaction is still a crime and we allowed the horrifying conditions in Somalia to fester because to deal with them was politically inconvenient.

April 13, 2009 11:18:00 PM EDT

The upshot for me, more or less, is this: the Somali pirates are victims of the ugly reality of the true Golden Rule -- the one with the gold makes the rules. We have lots of stuff. They don't have stuff. They take our stuff and we brand them as thieves.

The Somali pirate situation is a tidy symbol for our income equality problems in this country, but written on a global scale. More than just another example of moonbat, bleeding-heart drivel, what I mean is that the tension between the haves and have-nots in this country can only be addressed when it is truly addressed on a global scale. American and European wealth, stability and prosperity has not happened without consequences elsewhere (Africa, South & Central America, the Middle East) anymore than skyrocketing wealth within America's borders hasn't happened without consequences in the inner cities and rural mountains and elsewhere. The long-term solution at home isn't for the wealthy to retreat into gated communities and beef-up the police departments -- even if specific criminal acts require specific police action in a given moment -- anymore than the long-term solution abroad is to close our borders and hoard our stuff with a beefed-up military presence to intimidate and punish anyone who dare threaten our material prosperity.

It's the difference between strategy and tactics.

The long-term soution domestically and internationally is to be less provincial and, frankly, greedy and search for solutions that -- here it comes -- spread the wealth. Globally. When the average Somali starves because he literally has nothing to eat while a wealthy Parisian sips wine and eats the fish plucked from what should be Somali sovereign waters, how can we smugly say that the Somali is a criminal for any action he takes, however violent or inconvenient to our comfortable lifestyle?

In the eyes of most of the rest of the planet, we Americans and Europeans are all unimaginably wealthy. Whether a lowly iPod or a high-flying corporate jet, both are equally unattainable to most people in the world and the relative difference in cost is still orders of magnitude more than most of them will ever earn in a lifetime.

The idea is not to stop the criminals but to banish the conditions that give rise to them.

* I like that fraulein always has a specific font and color for her dateline, so I'm trying out something of my own. Opinions?


In comments, Annette pointed me towards this fascinating and thoroughly on-point article by a gent named Jeffrey Gettleman at Foreign Policy magazine's website, ominously entitled "The Most Dangerous Place in the World." Of course, he paints the same picture we always get of Somalia: violent, anarchic, the nearest thing to a Hobbesian State of Man in Nature anywhere on earth:
To call it even a failed state was generous. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a failed state. So is Zimbabwe. But those places at least have national armies and national bureaucracies, however corrupt. Since 1991, Somalia has not been a state so much as a lawless, ungoverned space on the map between its neighbors and the sea.
He argues that the current scourge of piracy off the Horn of Africa is the result of this anarchy, which didn't happen overnight or happen spontaneously, but rather has resulted due to three mistakes of American policy over the last two decades. The first was the Battle of Mogadishu -- immortalized in the film Black Hawk Down -- the punctuation mark at the tail-end of our failed humanitarian effort there, resulting in the death of hundreds of Somalis and 18 American servicemen.

The second and third mistakes, unsurprisingly, were made by the hysterical chickenhawks of our recently departed Rethugli-goon administration, scared as they were after 9/11 changed everything™ of their own shadows and every dark-skinned taqiyah-wearer ever to answer the adhān.

Mistake #2 was to undermine -- out of the usual CIA bag of tricks with guns, money & free advice funneled to the already unpopular warlords -- the emerging and popular Islamist government for fear of an al Qaeda safe-haven on the Horn of Africa, a government that was cracking-down on piracy, BTW.

Mistake #3 was to back, again with guns & logistical support, an invasion by christian Ethiopia for the same purpose of toppling the Islamist government. The puppet government installed by the christian leadership of Ethiopia is predictably ineffective -- which is by design, of course -- and has resulted in anarchy, war and death spilling into every neighboring country and the adjacent blue sea.

Hence, pirates.

Add to that vicious cocktail an ocean empty of food and full of other country's toxic waste and no one should be surprised at the level of violence and lawlessness we see today in that part of the world. As Gettleman says at the end of his do-not-miss article:
Nearly an entire generation of Somalis has absolutely no idea what a government is or how it functions. I’ve seen this glassy-eyed generation all across the country, lounging on bullet-pocked street corners and spaced out in the back of pickup trucks, Kalashnikovs in their hands and nowhere to go. To them, law and order are thoroughly abstract concepts. To them, the only law in the land is the business end of a machine gun.


Annette said...

This article I read this morning gave a very detailed and well reasoned history of the area and was interesting to say the least. Maybe it can help bring some closure to this.


Armadillo Hussein Joe said...

Annette, thank you so much for directing me to that article. I am composing an update now that incorporates much of what I read there

Annette said...

You are welcome.. I found it and thought it was so good it needed to be posted somewhere.. and you and Carlos were in the middle of this.. glad it helped.

Matt Osborne said...

"The tension between the haves and have-nots in this country can only be addressed when it is truly addressed on a global scale."


"All politics is local. The location is Earth."

We're at a peculiar crisis point. I'd argue that the "lesson" of 9/11, completely lost on 99.9% of us, is that the world is shrinking and will no longer allow us the luxury of detachment.