Alfred Dawes | ‘Brik Pan Brik’
“You do know that song is about celebrating scamming, right?”
“Yes,” he replied. “But you do realise that a lot of the same rich people I target got their money from scamming one way or another. What I do is to right their wrongs and give back some of that wealth to the youths and families who look towards me to provide for them.
“Do you know how much I spend on back-to-school, uniforms, books, and contribute to grave digging, nine nights, medical bills, etc? How else would those so-called victims contribute to my area?”
I understood his arguments.
A lot of the nobility and gentry in Europe today are the descendants of cut-throats and pirates. They just found favour with the ruling class through being invaluable in times of war and politics.
The much-celebrated British East India Company was the greatest drug cartel the world has ever seen. They controlled the opium trade that saw millions of Chinese addicts. When the emperor protested, Britain went to war in order to continue the export of opium into China, securing Hong Kong in the process.
Closer to home, we have those whose ancestors profited from slavery, bootlegging, and the manipulation of entire countries’ economies. We still rub shoulders with former criminals who have artfully converted their ill-gotten wealth into legitimate businesses. But justifying scamming as reparations, as Vybz Kartel did, as well as this characterisation of a crime as a way to get money for largesse, seemed a bit disconcerting.
“It’s not like we are sticking up anybody with a gun. They send the money willingly. We have facilitators that ensure that the transactions go through, and they get their cut. I still have my soldiers to support, and they, in turn, have women and children they take care of. The money finds its way into the economy, and many people benefit. There are no real victims here,” was his argument.
“The system is what makes this necessary, and the system was set up from colonial days. It can’t change so easy. We just have to find a way to live within it and help who depending on us to survive. It’s not easy to see a hungry family that needs your assistance after they supported you and you can’t help them. If I can’t take care of them after they took care of me, how can I call on them next time I need them? Is like one hand washing the other.”
CULTURE OF DEPENDENCY?
“But isn’t that creating a culture of dependency?” I protested. “These people who are dependent on handouts will never make meaningful attempts to elevate themselves through hard work and enterprise if they know that you and your colleagues will be there to take care of their basic needs. People will say that you make them reliant on your handouts so you can maintain power over them. And that would not be an unfair statement.”
He countered, “These people who talking on their verandahs and on Facebook have no moral authority to talk about what we do. Half of them are tax dodgers and the other half pay bribes same way. Look how many big businesses stealing electricity. Why is it that some businesses operating at the same location, selling the same products under the same trading name, change ownership every few years?
“They are quick to throw stones when one of us get caught, but they themselves are just lucky to continue to get away with what they are doing. Let me tell you something about Jamaican people. The same ones you see hitting out against me and my colleagues would never pass up the opportunity to do what we doing if they knew they could get away with it. None of them!
“So, all these prominent businessmen and people on Twitter making up noise better pray MOCA (Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruprion Agency) don’t pick them up on their radars. You think is joke Protoje making when him say is nuff drugs money deh Cherry Gardens?
“You here talking about Brik Pan Brik. Go listen to Blood Money and then talk to me. I work and live in that system Protoje talking about. I just do what I can do to help the people who have no choice but to look to me for assistance.”
“I understand what you’re saying about the system and agree that it has to change, but I … .”
“Look at it this way,” he interrupted. “Suppose I played by the rules this hypocritical society set? What will happen when there’s nobody in these depressed communities to help send poor people’s children to school? How will they get a fair chance at success in life when they were born into a life with no opportunities and violence all around?
“When a farmer can get some fertilizer or some goats and chickens to earn a living, that is a big deal for them when there is no system in place to give them a start like I do. When me and my soldiers start do road and every yard get a touch, they spend that money in bars and groceries. The whole economy of the community benefits.
“These people yapping their mouths would never go into certain areas much less spend a dime there for it to circulate in that local economy. Until this whole system is torn down and replaced by one where poor people can get opportunities to succeed and rich people get opportunities to go jail for their crimes, we have to do what we have to do.”
“But, sir, you make it seem like you do this only for the benefit of the people you help. Surely you must benefit somehow,” I stated.
“What I do is a sacrifice. I give up a lot of time to my work. My family and business suffer because of this life I got into. If I were to advise a youngster, I’d tell them to stay away. It drains your pocket, and if I don’t find a way to support myself and my family through this, I would walk away a pauper,” he argued.
“You see the big uproar the other day when they spoke about salaries? My salary alone cannot deal with all that I need to do. These contractors are making a killing fixing roads, cleaning drains, and supplying the Government. So what if I demand a small kickback to ensure they get the contracts?
“Investors coming in will make a ton of money using our resources and people. Many times, those profits never even reach Jamaica. If they want to start make their money immediately in spite of the red tape, then they need to pay up. It is a victimless crime, and many small men benefit when otherwise they would get nothing.
“Anyways, I have to run. I have a standing committee meeting in Parliament before I go to my constituency office.”
- Dr Alfred Dawes is a general, laparoscopic, and weight-loss surgeon; fellow of the American College of Surgeons; former senior medical officer of the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital; former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association. @dr_aldawes. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.