14 December 2007

Oakland, Gaza, Paris, Kenya, Sao Paulo--Governments not Prepared for Gangs

On the streets of Oakland, California, young black men want what most young men want--respect, the attention of young females, to survive. But the environment of Oakland's streets is remarkably like a maximum security prison environment--without the bars.
...the meanest rise to the top. It's a survival skill that ensures ownership of drug corners, a sense of self-worth, female attention and protection from attack....

There are entire blocks without a single two-parent family, where drug dealers have become the predominant male role models, and children fend for themselves in crowded, chaotic homes where they are routinely exposed to drugs, sex and guns.

Criminal families are on their third and fourth generations. Grandparents - the ones who have historically stepped in to help raise fatherless boys and instill a sense of right and wrong - are dying off.
The youth gang violence in Gaza is different. In Gaza, children are taught to hate from the cradle. Bedtime stories from grandparents and parents focus on ethnic and religious hatred. The children are programmed into violence from within two parent, deeply religious households. They are confirmed into hatred and violence by schoolteachers and religious authorities. Youth gangs, but on a "mission from god."

Hamas, Al Aqsa Brigade, and various jihadi organisations are the well armed, well-organised result of lifelong religious gang preparation--and the doom of Gaza.The youth violence in Paris is a combination of the social dysfunctionality of the Oakland streets with the religious and ethnic intolerance of Gaza. The worst of the middle east meets the worst of the dissolute west.

In Sao Paulo (and Rio), huge slums breed endemic gang violence. Gangs possess hand grenades, automatic weapons.
...In at least 100 separate attacks on Friday, Saturday and [Monday], groups of criminals brandishing hand grenades and automatic weapons swept across the metropolis, gunning down members of the security forces as they worked. At least two bystanders died in the crossfire.

Simultaneous rebellions broke out in 51 of the state’s prisons, where more than 240 prison guards were being held hostage yesterday.

In Kenya and other African countries, gang violence grows more prominent--leading to significant areas of loss of state control.
The fighting has emptied out an entire slum in central Nairobi, and on Thursday, women fleeing with mattresses on their backs slogged through the streets, while men with hammers knocked down the metal shanties that used to be their homes, selling their very walls for scrap.

The bloodshed began with a bootlegging dispute, but it has been fueled by ethnic rivalry. The epicenter is Mathare, a cluster of slums with approximately 500,000 people, crammed between downtown Nairobi and an affluent neighborhood where many ambassadors live.

These isolated reports are the tip of the iceberg. The actual malignant social dysfunction has become endemic to these disparate neighborhoods from divergent cultures, distant continents.

Demographic "youth bulges", where human young are rapidly produced into an adult culture unprepared or unwilling to raise them in less violent, more productive ways, tend to produce youth violence, youth gangs.

In the affluent western world, where birthrates are typically low, most of the youth violence is occurring in immigrant communities, or within minority communties where traditional authority has broken down, for a variety of reasons. In the Islamic world, youth violence is seen as Islam's best weapon against the dominant western infidels. Youth violence is encouraged by large numbers of Islamic clerics and wealthy muslim donors. In the non-muslim third world, youth violence is a natural outgrowth of rapid procreation leading to huge slums of impoverished humans, immersed in learned helplessness. Gang violence appears the only means of self-assertion to many, the lone alternative to giving up.

A social analysis of patterns of gang violence suggests that immigrants, transplants from rural to urban environments, and other "fish out of water" situations are largely responsible for youth violence. That is quite true--the loss of cultural and traditional authorities and guides leave the stage clear for drug dealers and violent criminals to serve as authorities and leaders.

In the early days of New York City, gang violence was the work of immigrants from Ireland or Italy. Now the violent immigrants may be from Santo Domingo, Vietnam, or Lagos.

It is easy to look at the perpetrators of most violence, and match them with population average IQs accumulated by various IQ researchers. Certainly the correlation between IQ and crime is significantly inverse. But it is important to keep in mind the history of gang crime that suggests that social factors are just as relevant as IQ. Executive Function is also no doubt involved in personal decisions about whether to engage in violence and crime.

Russia appears to be something of an outlier, where violence is instigated (or tolerated) by the government to create an atmosphere where ordinary people are terrified to stand out and express themselves. Russia, once a great world power, has become a "hunker-down" society.

Clearly the governments of the world are largely unprepared for the undertow of youth violence that appears to be barely kept under the media radar. For now the media is happy to be entranced by Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Global Warming, and other insignificant headliners. Genuine newsworthy phenomena must wait in the wings until they become too large to ignore.

Hat tip Clayton Cramer

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Blogger Will Brown said...

What I don't see being given sufficient mention, in my opinion, are the many traits that gangs share with other human structures.

Gang hierarchy requires that membership and economic growth be continuously expanded, if only to provide advancement possibilities, and thus greater authority both within and outside the membership, for maturing members.

The other aspect that was only barely glossed over is that, by and large, criminal gangs are run by their most senior members; ie: those who have been imprisoned. To quote from the film "American Me", Inside runs outside.

By their nature gangs are competitors of (and not just working in opposition to) the social and legal structures within which they operate. Gangs offer a counter-government to the more mundane societal structure that more often than not disdains any such claims. Impartial students of history know that the National Socialist political party of 1920's Germany was infiltrated and it's leadership usurped by the then criminal gang element that subsequently transformed itself into the Brownshirts.

Gangs are a lot more dangerous then most people are willing to credit. My own TEOTWAWKI scenario revolves around some expression of "street gangs" gaining control of substantial swathes of territory which also host military weaponry stockpiles. It sounds like a bad '70's made-for-TV movie script, and the acting would actually be worse, but how do you counter a gang armed with SAW's and morters and members just a cyber-smart as anyone available to the cops? Of course they couldn't maintain control for very long - and they know that too - without their spreading the radius of damage so far beyond their immediate region of influence that countering forces are tied down elsewhere.

That's the problem with Sun Tzu; anyone can read his book. And prison inmates have a lot of time to think about what he has to say as it applies to them.

Saturday, 15 December, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Very good points, Will. If you are interested in writing a book, this may be an excellent topic for you. You appear to have created a workable draft outline already.

The recent trial of muslim extremists in Southern California--recruited in prison, preparing to attack military bases in the region. They almost got away with it. Prison-trained gangsters, with religious overtones.

The third world "youth bulge" demographic has a limited reflection within first world minority communities. All testosteroned up with nothing to do--that spells trouble.

Saturday, 15 December, 2007  

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