By KIRKLAND PRATT
The week of May 20, 2013 has proven to be one of the bloodiest of this year with a disturbing total of seven murders occurring in just six short days according to recent reports. Murders and heinous crimes don’t occur on their own, and suffice it to say, there must be a demand for the behaviour within some element of society that feeds this adverse and maladaptive behaviour.
There exists an intrinsic need for people to associate with a fraternity that speaks to their needs and goals as they find their social refuge among like-minded people who may affirm them. The same is true of gangs. Psychologically speaking, the lure of gangs finds itself steeped in misguided and rebellious mindsets. Moreover, and contrary to popular belief, not all recruits emerge from poorer class conditions. As such, addressing this issue calls for a classless approach.
As I see it “ghetto” is a state of mind; a mindset that rejects progressive thought and proactive behaviour, which is a non-starter for the behaviour curb necessary to promote healthy and rich thought. The broader society is ill-advised to project diminished expectations on any social classification across its demographic.
Children who are born into wealth find themselves involved in gang activity as well. Most gang members tend to be adolescents or young adults, however, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry report, Children and Gangs No. 98 (August 2011), recent trends indicate that children are being recruited into gangs at a much earlier age, some when they are in elementary school. I have always argued against the school of thought that suggests that “ghetto” is concerned with geography.
In a recent article, Dr. Cheryl Kaiser, PHD, asserted that people who join gangs typically feel dispossessed or alienated and are looking for a group to belong to. She says gangsters see fellow members as family and won’t hesitate to retaliate with violence if they feel one of their members has been hurt.
“When something happens in reverse, it is all cost for them, they can do a drive by shooting or whatever, but when somebody does it to them, it is a whole different ball of wax and so that is the kind of thing that often makes a gang banger get very retaliative or very pushed over the edge,” said Dr Kaiser.
Certainly Kaiser’s projection can be likened to the recent spate of calculated and seemingly retaliatory homicides stemming from the gang culture within New Providence. Arguably, the ‘all for nothing’ mentality that the drug culture of the 1980s, and the imitative rap culture of the 90’s has produced is now being realised in the offending gang bangers. Dr Kaiser further suggests that parents look for good role models for their children.
Factors contributing to gang recruitment and retention include: A history of gang involvement in the family/home, a lack of positive roles models and exposure to media (television, movies, music) that glorifies gang violence, a sense of hopelessness about the future because of limited educational or financial opportunity, and underlying mental-health issues or behavioural disorders, such as oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
By and large, much by way of prevention of gang activity takes in the need for the leaders in our Bahamian society to collaborate so as to advance a comprehensive family planning program in which all vulnerable communities may benefit from the systematic education needed to properly rear children while discouraging arbitrary pregnancies. None of this significant work needs be politicised – the village consensus is required.
Keep thinking though, you are good for it.