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Gangs Psychology


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 psychological answer to
these questions can only be speculated upon, but in the immediate reasons and
benefits are much easier to find. On the surface, they 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. Individually, these can only be hypothesised. However, by looking at
the way humans are influenced by the cultural practices of society, I believe
there is good evidence to point the blame at several institutions. These include
the forces of the media, the government, theatre, illicit 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 involved in a gang by making it all
sound glamorous. Money is also a crucial factor. A teen is shown that he could
make $200 to $400 for small part time gang jobs. Although money is a strong
motivator, it is usually not strong enough to make kids do things that are
strongly against their morals. One of the ways that children’s morals are bent
so that gang violence becomes more acceptable is through the influence of
television and movies. The average child spends more time in front of a
television than she or he spends actively participating in a classroom. Since
nobody can completely turn off their minds, kids must be learning something
while watching TV. Very few hours of programming are educational, and these are
not often watched by children, so other ideas are being absorbed during this
period of time. Many shows on television today are extremely violent and are
often show a gang's perspective. An adult can see that this is showing how
foully that gangs are living. However, to a child this portrays a violent gang
existence as acceptable. 'The Ends Justifies the Means' mentality is also taught
through many shows where the "good 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 does not 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 'violence- acceptant' person.
"Gangs bring the delinquent norms of society into intimate contact with the
individual."1, (Marshall B Clinard, 1963). So, if television 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 do not spend a lot of time with their children 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. Rap music is the most recent genre’ to emerge
promoting the gang lifestyle. While this music at first only attracted black
youth, it has now infiltrated pop music culture. Groups such as the Gang Bangers
and 2Pac Shakur glorify gang life and the privileges obtained through such
associations. We all know that music is the most power influence in our society,
whether blatant or subliminal, so the gang message is spread. Once this
mentality is instilled in youngsters, they become increasingly aware of the
advantage of using gang power in any situation, whether 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 possibly out of boredom and to belong
somewhere. As time goes on, a form of love or kinship develops between the gang
members and the individual. It is then that the bond between the person 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
gang can be joined. " 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). Within male gangs, problems occur as
certain members try to be the leader with numerous supporters. This often leads
to 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 unorganised violence spree. In gangs
with more intelligent 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
organised and improves the morale of members which in turn makes them more
dangerous and very hard for the police to deal with and catch. 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 respected. To do this, they try to establish themselves as the
only gang in a certain neighbourhood. After a few gang fights, hatred forms and
gang murders and drive-bye’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-bye’s kill their intended victim yet over 60% do kill someone. As you
can see, often the intended victim is not killed. This gang application is one
of the many reasons that sexual stereotypes and pressure to conform to the same
must be stopped. Lastly one of the great benefits 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 Bedford Styvesant of NYC, 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
propaganda spouted by 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 or race. This often
results in an attitude that motivates the person to base his life on doing what
the system that oppresses them does not want. Although this accomplishes little,
it is a big factor in gang enrolment. "Bucking the system" and
"Down with the establishment" were cries begun in the sixties and
brought to a new level in the nineties. So, as you have seen, gangs are a
product of the environment created by music, media, cultural, and financial
circumstances. 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 organised force to
help fight gangs. Of course the police are supposed to do this, but since gangs
are a type of family, police cannot fairly with these issues and can only deal
with their manifestations not root causes. What might help is if there were more
organisations like the "Guardian Angels", a gang-like group
originating in New York City, that makes life very tough for street gangs that
are breaking laws. This group would need to be sanctioned by the current law
enforcement administrations to be most effective. Group or organisations
equipped to meet the heart needs of the gang members and victims would possibly
get to the root of the problem. Dave Wilkerson is best known for his book The

Cross and the Switchblade, which tells how he brought God into gang members’
lives. Through God they found inner peace and freedom from their addictions.

Scripturally, we know the answer to this and every problem is found through a
personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Bibliography

Grolier Multimedia Encyclopaedia, 1995 Margot Webb, Coping with Street Gangs.

Rosen Publishing Group, New York, 1990. David Wilkerson, The Cross and the

Switchblade. William Foote Whyte, Street Corner Society. University of Chicago,

Chicago, 1955. Footnotes 1. Marshall B. Clinard, Sociology of Deviant Behaviour

University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin, 1963, Page 179. 2. Merton Nisbet,

Contemporary Social Problems. Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1971, Page

588.