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Blimps, Bozos & Cat in Bag
Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2005

By Michael De Gale

The war in Iraq continues to rage long after victory was officially declared. With all its superior weaponry and sophisticated technology, the US military has still not been able to put an end to the "Iraqi insurgency". Similarly, "suicide bombers" in Palestine, continue their resistance against Israeli occupation despite the superior technology of the Israeli military. There are no shortages of examples throughout the world, where overwhelming military force and sophisticated technology are brought to bear against poorly armed resistance fighters. Indeed, sophisticated technology have aided these respective governments and allowed them to inflict tremendous damage on these fighters, yet the struggles continue. It is not my intention to compare the escalating crime and violence in Trinidad with the legitimate resistance emanating from various countries where historically oppressed people have opted to embrace armed struggles. The comparison here is the technology employed, the cost involved and the continuing resistance in spite of it all.

The impending purchase of a second blimp, the new Skyship 600, is an example of money that could otherwise be effectively deployed to address the issue of escalating crime in Trinidad. Sales managers would tell you, that their most effective and productive sales people are the ones who pound the pavement on a daily basis, not those that stay in the office making telephone calls and sending e-mails. Foot soldiers are more likely to dislodge pockets of resistance than firepower from above. Unless the ultimate intention is to carpet bomb poor communities into oblivion, these blimps are a colossal waste of money. They are nothing more than expensive toys for boys who have no idea how to bring the crime situation under control. To quote unethical salespersons, "if you canít dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit." The analogical stench is overpowering.

Police commissioner Paul claims that, "Öthere is great emphasis on intelligence in terms of solving crime and the airship promises to assist in the gathering of this intelligence,". If the commissioner were interested in "gathering intelligence", he would use the blimp money to invest in community policing efforts and ensure a visible police presence in high crime areas. If he is "intelligent" and wants to make his job easier, he would encourage his superiors and the business community to invest in programs that will empower improvised communities as part of an overall strategy. This inclusive approach to crime fighting will prove to be more of a deterrent than the purchase of ten blimps and will pay greater social dividends in the long term. Giving young people a stake in their communities and in their country will remove the attitude that suggests "we own nothing" and therefore "we have nothing to lose." I can assure you that this is the prevailing attitude. However, it is only symptomatic of a much more sinister problem in capitalist societies, where greed and various "isms" leave many people living on the fringes of society. The removal of social programs, class and race distinctions, the drive to get rich by any means necessary are all factors that contribute to crime and consequently reduces the value of human life.

As a relatively rich "developing" country, salespeople from developed nations are clamoring at our doors to sell us high-tech solutions to common sense social problems. Perhaps they feel that we are not technologically sophisticated and are easily impressed with high-tech gadgets designed to separate us from our wealth. Evidently, they are correct. We are so gullible that instead of investing in our communities, we trade petro-dollars for a modern version of glass and coloured beads. As long as there is gas and oil, they will come in great numbers, selling every useless thing from winter coats to home heaters and we will buy them. If we continue to seek high-tech solutions to this fundamental problem, they will rob us blind. There is a place for technology in our society to ensure that we are not left behind. Computers with internet access in every school and modern medical equipment for the benefit of all immediately come to mind. But blimps? I donít think so!

It is imperative that we seek practical long-term solutions to the problem of crime. These solutions, like the blimps, lies on the ground not in the sky. The answer is simple; we must invest in communities if criminal activities are to be reduced to a minimum. Investing in this costly technology as a deterrent to solving crime will only identify us as bozos. In the end, we will continue to be plagued by crime and slimy salespersons from every nook and cranny will emerge from the woodwork to sell us "cat in bag".

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