No Hope, Bad Dope

I am the measure of all humanity. My height is average. If you’re shorter than I am – well, sorry, you must have been the runt of the litter. If you’re taller – perhaps you should consider a career in pro basketball.

My income is average. If you earn less than I do, it’s clear you’re lazy and do not want to work. If you earn more – then you will pay when the revolution comes, comrade.

OK, I exaggerate, but isn’t that a little true of all of us? We see ourselves as “normal” and the more we get stuck inside that kind of thinking, then the harder it is to understand the motives and actions of others. If those feelings are common today and will grow in the near future, I’m afraid. I know a few people already who have been stranded on the rocks as the economic tide ebbs away.

“They paid how much? For that house? No wonder they can’t keep up the payments.”

“What was he thinking? He had that great job and he quit to go back to school. Now look where he is.”

Figuring out what those people were thinking is hard enough. What about pirates? Why would teenagers take to the open ocean in rickety little boats to hijack freighters and tankers and start messing with some of the biggest navies on the globe?

For that matter, what could possibly convince someone to blow themselves up in the middle of a marketplace in Karbala or Kandahar or Tel Aviv? Closer to home, why would someone sell crack on a corner in their own town, consigning their neighbors to addiction and themselves to a violence-curtailed life?

Two reasons: no hope and bad dope. No hope, in the sense that Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, which means for the entire life of those teenaged pirates, they have lived in a chaotic, feudal state ruled by various warlords.

Some of the older pirates or the fathers of the younger pirates were once fishermen. Seeing an opportunity in Somalia’s plight, however, the industrial fleets of so-called “developed” nations plundered Somalia’s stocks of fish. (These people, too, are pirates, although their piracy gets far less attention.)

Somalia has a coastline as long as the US eastern seaboard. People along that coast have been mysteriously sickened in recent years. The tsunami of 2004 washed barrels of radioactive waste up on her shores. Mystery solved. It’s speculated that European organized crime took advantage of the lack of a Somali government to dump the waste and make a quick profit. Pirates again, and these colluding with the nuclear industry.
Somewhere, behind all these scenarios, people are getting rich or powerful, whether it’s the Somalian warlords who get the bulk of the ransom money or the pirate fishermen or the Euro mobsters or the nuclear industry. In the case of suicide bombers, it’s the leaders of the political factions who use people as weapons. In the case of the neighborhood crack dealer, it’s the drug lords up the supply chain.

The people on the corner or exploding in crowds or getting shot by Navy SEALs have no hope and they’ve been given bad dope. Not the kind of dope one pushes into a vein with a hypodermic, but bad information, about getting rich or being respected or going to paradise or just being able to feed one’s family in a nation that ceased to be a nation almost two decades ago.

So, it’s discouraging to see all the news reports cheering about how we “kicked the pirates’ butts!” Of course, we’re happy to see Richard Phillips and his crew return safely to their families, but we should remember the people who attacked them are scared and desperate and have been fed nothing but lies.

Come to think of it, the same could be said of many of those waving tea bags yesterday.

© Mark Floegel, 2009

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