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Gangs

Gangs

Gangs are a violent reality that people have to deal with in today's cities. What has

made these groups come about? Why do kids feel that being in a gang is both an acceptable

and prestigious way to live? The long range answer to these questions can only be speculated

upon, but in the short term the answers are much easier to find. On the surface, gangs are a

direct result of human beings' personal wants and peer must find the way that these morals are

given to the individual. Unfortunately, these can only be hypothesized. However, by looking at

the way people are influenced in society, I believe there is good evidence to point the blame at

several institutions. These include the forces of the media, the government, theatre, drugs and

our economic system.

On the surface, gangs are caused by peer pressure and greed. Many teens in gangs will

pressure peers into becoming part of a gang by making it all sound glamorous. Money is also

an crucial factor. A kid (a 6-10 year old, who is not yet a member) is shown that she/he could

make $200 to $400 for small time gang jobs. Although these are important factors they

are not strong enough to make kids do things that are strongly against their morals

One of the ways that kids morals are bent so that gang violence becomes more

acceptable is the influence of television and movies. The average child spends more time at a

TV than she/he spends in a classroom. Since nobody can completely turn off their minds, kids

must be learning something while watching the TV. Very few hours of television watched by

children are educational, so other ideas are being absorbed during this period of time. Many

shows on television today are extremely violent and are often shown this from a gang's

perspective. A normal adult can see that this is showing how foully that gangs are

living. However, to a child this portrays a violent gang existance as acceptable. 'The Ends

Justifies the Means' mentality is also taught through many shows where the "goody guy"

captures the "bad guy" through violence and is then being commended. A young child sees this

a perfectly acceptable because he knows that the "bad guy" was wrong but has no idea of what

acceptable apprehension techniques are.

Gore in television also takes a big part in influencing young minds. Children see gory

scenes and are fascinated by these things that they have not seen before. Older viewers see

gore and are not concerned with the blood but rather with the pain the victim must feel. A

younger mind doesn't make this connection. Thus a gore fascination is formed, and has been

seen in several of my peers. Unfortunately kids raised with this sort of television end up

growing up with a stronger propensity to becoming a violent gang member or 'violent-

acceptant' person.

"Gangs bring the delinquent norms of society into intimate contact with the

individual."1, (Clinard). So, as you can see if TV leads a child to believe that violence is the

norm this will manifest itself in the actions of the child quite, often in a gang situation. This is

especially the case when parents don't spend a lot of time with their kids at

the TV explaining what is right and what is wrong. Quite often newer books and some types of

music will enforce this type of thought and ideas.

Once this mentality is installed in youngsters they become increasingly prone to being

easily pushed into a gang situation by any problem at home or elsewhere. For instance, in poor

families with many children or upper-middle class families where parents are always working,

the children will often feel deprived of love. Parents can often feel that putting food on the

table is enough love. Children of these families may often go to the gang firstly out of boredom

and to belong somewhere. As time goes on, a form of love or kinship develops between the

gang members and the child. It is then that the bond between the kid and the gang is completed

because the gang has effectively taken the place of the family.

The new anti social structure of cities also effects the ease in which a boy/girl can join

a gang. " The formation of gangs in cities, and most recently in suburbs, is facilitated by the

same lack of community among parents. The parents do not know what their children are doing

for two reasons: First, much of the parents' lives is outside the local community, while the

children's lives are lived almost totally within it. Second, in a fully developed community, the

network of relations gives every parent, in a sense, a community of sentries who can keep him

informed of his child's activities. In modern living-places (city or suburban), where such a

network is attenuated, he no longer has such sentries."2, ( Nisbet).

In male gangs problems occur as each is the members tries to be the most manly. This

often leads to all members participating in "one-up-manship". Quite often this will then lead to

each member trying to commit a bigger and more violent crime or simply more crimes than the

others. With all members participating in this sort of activity it makes for a never ending

unorganized violence spree (A sort of Clockwork Orange mentality). In gangs with more

intellegent members these feelings end up making each member want to be the star when the

groups commit a crime. This makes the gang much more organized and improves the morale of

members which in turn makes them more dangerous and very hard for the police to deal with

and catch (There is nothing harder to find and deal with than organized teens that are dedicated

to the group). This sort of gang is usually common of middle or upper class people although it

can happen in gangs in the projects and other low rent districts too.

This "one-up-manship" is often the reason between rival gangs fighting. All gangs feel

powerful and they want to be feared. To do this they try to establish themselves as the only

gang in a certain neighborhood. After a few gang fights hatred forms and gang murders and

drive-by's begin to take place. When two gangs are at war it makes life very dangerous for

citizens in the area. Less that 40% of drive-by's kill their intended victim yet over 60% do kill

someone. This gang application is one of the many reasons that sexual sterotypes and pressure

to conform to the same must be stopped.

Lastly one of the great factors in joining a gang is for protection. Although from an

objective point of view, we can see joining a gang brings more danger than it saves you from,

this is not always the way it is seen by kids. In slums such as the Bronx or the very worst case,

Compton, children will no doubt be beaten and robbed if they do not join a gang. Of course

they can probably get the same treatment from rivals when in a gang. The gang also provides

some money for these children who quite often need to feed their families. The reason kids

think that the gang will keep them safe is from propoganda from the gangs. Gang members will

say that no one will get hurt and make a public show of revenge if a member is hurt or killed.

People in low rent areas are most often being repressed due to poverty and most

importantly, race. This often results in an attitude that motivates the person to base his/her life

on doing what the system that oppresses them doesn't want. Although this accomplishes little it

is a big factor in gang enrollment.

So, as you have seen gangs are a product of the environment we have created for

ourselves. Some of these factors include: oppression, the media, greed, violence and other

gangs. There seems to be no way to end the problem of gangs without totally restructuring the

modern economy and value system. Since the chance of this happening is minimal, we must

learn to cope with gangs and try to keep their following to a minimum. Unfortunately there is

no real organized force to help fight gangs. Of course the police are supposed to do this but

this situation quite often deals with racial issues also and the police forces regularly display

their increasing inability to deal fairly with these issues. What we need are more people to

form organizations like the "Guardian Angels" a gang-like group that makes life very tough for

street gangs that are breaking laws.

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