Saturday, September 6, 2008

3 Reasons 4 The Most Virulent Gangs

3 reasons 4 the most virulent street gangs:

One, love: a gang can represent an opportunity for belonging to kids being brought up without sufficient love and supervision at home – with weak or absent parents or grandparents or in foster or group homes.

Two (really number one, but it transitions perfectly into number three), money: thanks to American labor falling asleep at the wheel for decades the minimum wage as of June 2007 had been reduced to 1939 proportions ($4.50/hr in 2007 dollars w/no tax) -- and by the time the recent increase tops out it’s buying power will be about a dollar below the 1956 minimum ($8.00/hr in 2008 dollars at 40% of today's average income!).

As of last year a quarter of the American workforce was earning less than LBJ’s 1968 minimum wage of $10/hr – and not many of those earning at or near the $5.15 minimum were American born. American born workers will not even show up for that kind of money – which is where we came into this movie.

Your typical, drug selling ghetto gang could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald. Most street sellers are lucky to make $10/hr (with all the attendant risks).

And, now – the "big" new insight:

Three, a feeling of satisfaction from accomplishing work – no; not from selling drugs: I had this insight the other night while watching a documentary about the spread of the Crips to New York and New Jersey and about their obsessive brand of violence.

The satisfaction of accomplishment – substituting for the satisfaction of a real day’s work – may be what is sought from all the inter-gang rivalry, initiation rituals and defending “territory” mayhem (the latter apart from drug business). This connection is not usually made, I think, because the substitution is not a very close match.

Love is love and money is money – but the satisfaction gained from slicing someone’s face (rival gang or neutral) with a razor blade does not do much to replace the missing feeling of a real job well done. However in the vacuum of anything resembling realistic goals, human beings (young males most especially) may participate in pointless destructiveness if that is the only they can feel anything resembling accomplishing something important or significant – phony war substitutes for real life.

What is this insight worth? I may be worth a lot if it can be can convince some individuals they don’t really want to be involved in this behavior. It might be similar to explaining to gang bangers that, while if an outlaw biker gang won the lottery they would build a bigger clubhouse, half the Crips and the Bloods would go to college (perhaps making the point by exaggeration – which reminds they really don’t want to be in the criminal life. The latter insight may not talk anybody into actually quitting a street gang – not without a viable economic alternative* but it may remind them not to get TOO into it.

Ditto for preaching the former which may not talk anybody out of pointless destructive behavior but which even more precisely may target the mismanaged motivations behind it. Number three could give give gang bangers a clearer insight that they really do not really want to be involved in the street craziness and to not get TOO into it – again, while waiting for a viable economic alternative to gang life to show up in the American labor market*.

Nothing can be done to end the reign of street gangs until something is done to make work pay in American again – the way it paid 40 years ago, the way it would pay today if labor had not relaxed its bargaining guard (double the average income later!), the way it pays overseas. Ditto for chopping crime in general and making ghetto schools work again (schools wont work if the parents don’t).

For how to legislatively (re)impose a fair and balanced labor market, see this LINK.

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