February 27, 2012

Gang Nations

Really, what's the difference between nations and street gangs?

Both mark off territory and work to defend it. One old school word calls "turf" what another calls "spheres of influence." They have colors, uniforms and hierarchies. They each even have their own version of taxation. Each takes a part of the world and marks it off as "theirs." They can both extol extensive "histories" that belong to them alone. There are citizens and there are homies. They regulate trade and economic activity. They both have systems of "justice" to mitigate any disputes within their realms. Both control by force and compulsion. See what happens if you refuse to pay your taxes. Or your protection money. Declare yourself independent of the larger powers that surround you and you'll find out - from both entities - how far you'll get and how long you'll get to do it. How long has the US been the Crips to Russia's Bloods?

The difference, of course, is seen as one of legitimacy. But what state doesn't coerce its legitimacy? Might makes right. The power dictates. The capacity to redress grievances may differ, but that also differs between nations. You may be able to appeal certain things in the USA, but try to get redress for your concerns in Syria. It's just a matter of degree, really. A neighborhood under the oppression of local gun thugs in Los Angeles or Chicago is the same as being in some countries.

Is it because our "gang" has nicer uniforms and a flag that makes us, or any nation, "better" than a mere gang? Is this only a matter of degree as well? We're proud of our soldiers. So are some neighborhoods I know of. We're proud of our kids when they participate in the life of the nation. We cheer them on and point to them as examples. But the same thing happens in the world of gangs. Some gang members are third and fourth generation already.

And if we feel a rival nation is threatening us, what do we do? Isn't organized warfare between nations the same thing as gang war, when you come right down to it? So what is the difference, if not only a matter of degree?

In the realm of philosophical anarchism - i.e., anarchism separated from the bomb-throwing connotation and seen in the light of an individual's relationship to their community instead - this view raises questions about human nature. What do we construct around ourselves? It's a question of how we become groups, and how these groups interact.

You can't have pure anarchism, at least not for long. Any void will be filled and, in the case of power wrenched from what is established, it will probably be filled by those who have the means and resources to inflict a new level of control. If there were no states, states would form. Take away the controlling power and that vacuum would be filled by another kind of controlling power.

Give that some thought the next time you rise to sing the National Anthem. Hand over heart. Cap off. Gang signs.


Dave2 said...

It would be an interesting 15 minutes though...

B.E. Earl said...

You could make the same analogy about the red state/blue state division in this country. Look at a map. All Crips and Bloods.

SK Waller said...

This is fantastic.

sybil law said...


Maybe this is why mob mentality rubs me the wrong way.

Brian said...

You could also flip it around: gangs tend to thrive in places where the state has turned its back, or simply been insufficient/incompetent. South Central. Cabrini Green. Juarez. Russia. Mogadishu.

Which is probably as strong a practical argument against anarchism as anything else. Something will always fill the gap.

flask said...

when i'm ready to give up on the world, there you are.