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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 pressure. To determine how to effectively end gang
violence we must find the way that these morals are given
to the individual. Unfortunately, these can only be
hypothesized. However, by looking at the way humans 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 s/he could make $200
to $400 for small part 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
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, (Marshall B Clinard, 1963).
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, (Merton Nisbet, 1971).
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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