Friday, April 17, 2009

Pirates, the Mob, Drug Lords and Sergio Fajardo

The thing about Pirates is that we can’t just kill them all. Here is a very interesting article I discovered via Kundai and the magic of Twitter (yeah, I twit):
It happens to have the awesome point that “you are being lied to about pirates,” but the other key elements are thus, pirates are viewed as local heroes, they are an INEVITABLE outgrowth of the social conditions in Somalia.

Somalia is a failed state and has been for over a decade. Violence is normal, hope does not exist. The coast is the primary source of wealth. However, because Somalia has no functioning government they cannot enforce and protect their coastal waters. As a result European fishing vessels are overfishing their coast and leaving no food for the people of Somalia. In a different, non-fishing coastal area, the Italian mafia is dumping nuclear waste on behalf of some European governments. The result has been massive sickness and death.

Many of the pirates emerged as a volunteer coast guard to protect the fishing rights of the Somali people and to prevent illegal nuclear dumping. Pirates therefore enjoy a great deal of local support and popularity. Obviously there is a level of opportunism and violence that is unacceptable (hostage taking, attacking innocent people, etc).

That’s the thing about piracy though, it is a way to make a great deal of money in Somalia while all other avenues lead to poverty and despair. You can kill as many pirates as you want, there will always be people willing to risk their life if the upshot is their only chance out of the desolation of the failed state of Somalia. It is the same reason that no amount cops on the street or mandatory minimum sentencing in the laws will eliminate drug dealers in America. If you have places where the schools are broken, opportunity is a myth, and lots of money can be made pushing drugs, the potential benefits will always outweigh the risks. There have been countless rap songs on this very subject (Biggie, 2 Pac, Jay Z, etc. all have numerous songs with lines advancing this very argument). Now imagine that opportunities are even worse. There are no schools, there is no chance of being an athlete, there is no career in music. Imagine there are no social programs, no fish in the ocean, no food, no protection. In becoming a pirate you risk your life, but the chances of being killed are much smaller than the chances of being arrested in America for peddling drugs. Almost all drug dealers get arrested at some point, virtually no pirates end up being killed. EVEN IF WE CHANGE THAT and kill as many pirates as we can, when the option is a life of opulence and danger or a life of starvation and hopelessness there will always be adventurers willing to risk it all for a chance at a better life. As long as these conditions persist there is absolutely no chance of solving the problem.

So what should be done? Well, I have a good idea about the “what,” not so much on the “how.” Medellin, Colombia provides an excellent case study of how a violent, corrupt society built on the hopelessness of poverty and the opulence of crime can be transformed. It was once the home of Pablo Escobar, the epicenter of global narco-trafficking and a place with little hope. Now violence has dramatically decreased, it is safe to visit, the drug trafficking has by and large moved elsewhere and the people have hope. I believe that Sergio Fajardo knows best how this came to be and what programs are needed to replicate this success elsewhere. Listen to him explain how Medellin was transformed: