Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Loyalty to Cayman

Our Islands’ criminal gangs draw their members from extended families (clans) living in yards and other close neighbourhoods. The clans’ and their individual members’ loyalty to each other is far stronger than their loyalty to the wider community. They may be Caymanian patriots, but only up to a point; they won’t readily betray one of their own in response to appeals for witnesses to crimes.

I have every sympathy with their loyalty. I wouldn’t betray my son or grandchildren to their enemies, no matter what they had done. And I don’t expect any other loving parent to do what I wouldn’t do. To the families of the criminal underclass, The Enemy is the Police. Before Cayman’s law-enforcement authorities get any cooperation from that quarter, the families must somehow be persuaded to feel loyal to the broader community.

What about expat immigrants? How do we get them to cooperate? Well, it depends. It’s unrealistic to expect them to get chummy with overt xenophobes. For all expats, the Immigration authorities are The Enemy. Nothing positive would result from forcing expats to sit on committees alongside former Immigration Officers or members of Work Permit Boards. That would be like packing a Civil Rights committee with former Ku Klux Klan members. (There are a few expats who do willingly enjoy rubbing shoulders with known xenophobes, but they can be dismissed as stooges or cronies. I could name most of them, if I had to.)

Caymanians and expats have entirely different sets of prejudices. The Immigration authorities are anathema to most expats, however long they have lived here; and there is a close working relationship between Police and Immigration. So what Work Permit expat in his right mind would risk summary deportation by cooperating with the Police? I’m not talking about middle-class Englishmen, here. It’s the low-status Jamaicans, Filipinos, Latinos and Indians who are the most vulnerable.

Ethnic Caymanians’ equivalent prejudice is Birthright Entitlement. Pretty much all ethnics believe in the entitlement in some degree or other. They think it’s fine that expats can’t vote until they’ve lived here for 15-20 years, and can’t be elected to the LA for 10-15 years after that. Even most liberal-minded Caymanians are content to allow their Islands to suffer from the politics of vanity and irresponsibility.

Sure, they wring their hands over the mess their representatives make of things; but at least the representatives are their tribal brethren. Not even McKeeva’s or Alden’s worst enemies would swap them for expats. Isn’t that something?

So what kind of coalition could possibly work between the uppity wogs and the local crew of God’s chosen islands? It’s a difficult question to answer. There is so much blood on the floor, so to speak. Forty years of an indentured-servitude system policed by the Immigration bully-boys are not easily forgotten or forgiven. They have left an enormous reservoir of resentment. If the FCO had deliberately set out to create an unbridgeable schism in our society (which it probably did do, in Britain’s national interests), then it can take pride in its success. A job well done, chaps.

Nevertheless... If true-born Caymanians were to swallow hard and allow all expats a stake in Cayman’s future, the battle against crime would be energised immediately. If expats were to swallow hard and settle for less than full civil rights, a deal might be possible. Both sides would have to give up some ground, and both sides would be unhappy about it. But the end objective is the elimination of street violence, and that requires some concessions - the FCO’s master-plan be damned.