Thursday, May 27, 2010

What is Public Service?

Over the entire academic year my classmates and I have been asked to define public service as it relates to our work and our future. How can you really define public service though when it's different for each and every person and is based from any myriad set of values (community driven/faith based/political/law etc.)? It’s almost like asking “what is the meaning of life?”

From time to time we are faced with situations or events that really ask us to probe a little further on our own definitions and meanings as it relates to public service. For those of you who aren’t aware – there is a serious situation going on in Jamaica right now. Living in the Caribbean we in St. Lucia hear a lot about what’s going down over there and are concerned for our stakeholders who reside in Jamaica. (We are far from the conflict here in St. Lucia however, so do not be alarmed.)

Last August Christopher “Dudus” Coke was requested by the US to be extradited back to New York on drug and firearm charges. The US justice department even went as far to put Christopher Coke on the “world’s most dangerous” list. While normally this would be a situation that is worked out between the US and Jamaica the situation has been marred with public opinion, action, and some pretty heated opinions on both ends of the spectrum.

You see Christopher Coke isn’t just any run of the mill drug dealer. Yes he did engage in the selling and pushing of drugs in the US but back home he is considered a protector, benefactor and even Christ-like figure in Tivoli Gardens (an area of Jamaica). According to news articles he's helped put kids through schools, provided food for those hungry, and jobs to those in need. Christopher Coke has helped (served?) his community to such an extent that they are acting out violently in attempts to prevent his extradition back to the US. It all plays out much like a modern day Robin Hood story – where I can honestly see both sides of the story.

To show you just how dialectical opposing the beliefs are, here is a picture from the Associate Press of a supporter's sign regarding Christopher Coke. (Wow!)

I guess my immediate reaction and questions are:
  • Do the means justify the ends? Especially when lives are being harmed not only in the US, but Jamaica as well. To date some 60 odd Jamaicans have already died in the conflict that has risen out of this.
  • As this falls under the realm of international law, which country gets to decide the fate of what happens to Christopher Coke?
  • Is it possible to be both a public servant and criminal?
  • What are the ethical implications of Coke’s decisions to provide for his people by using drug money?

Dean DiPippa if you’re reading this – please give us your wise and thoughtful insight! This no doubt calls for a refresher in your Law and Ethics class.

*please note the factual information of this post was extracted largely in part by news articles from the BBC. Check out these articles for more information:
BBC’s Profile: Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke
BBC’s Jamaica violence ‘linked to US drug market’


John DiPippa said...

This is a classic utilitarianism vs. Deontology problem. But no matter which way you go, Dudus loses. Drug dealing causes harm to untold numbers of people and it destabilizes the rule of law here and there. It is like the Mafia Don who takes care of his people. Some good is done but it is outweighed by the overall harm created. Similarly, Dudus' activities feed violence and harm and his do-good activities are predicated on the misery of others. Thus, he is using people (drug users) solely as means and does not treat them with the dignity humans deserve.

International Law has a whole set of procedures but, in the end, it is up to the home country (Jamaica) to decide what to do. If the ignore the international rules, they can be sanctioned.

Ultimately, some people benefit from others misery. Not acceptable.

Captain Judy said...

Thanks, Dean DiPippa! I knew you would be able to put it all into perspective. Also, I miss your class!

Post a Comment