June 29, 2005

Batman Ain’t Gonna Cut It

Richmond State of Emergency Is Just A Symptom of An Alienated Society
By Fred H. ArmRichmondPoliticalCartoonAA.jpg
On June 23, 2005, the Chronicle published this satirical political cartoon by Tom Meyer about the citizen’s clamoring for the City of Richmond to declare a state of emergency. “Emergency” has been defined as:
a sudden unforeseen crisis (usually involving danger) that requires immediate action; a state in which martial law applies; an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action, an urgent need for assistance or relief.

Is this really an emergency? A crisis? I think not. This sort of lawless activity has been going on for centuries. It’s not until coincidentally there have been a few more such killings placed closely together in time that the population panics and demands that the City and the police protect them.

In the 1800’s, when the gold ran out, miners from the north streamed into the lawless cauldron of Los Angeles. Gangs preyed on stagecoaches and the murder-rate soared. Presaging present times, race relations were awful: white vigilante groups, backed by landowners, preyed on Mexicans and Native Americans, and Mexicans formed gangs to fight back. In 1871, an anti-Chinese riot killed 20.
And so, the same beat goes on, only with different precipitating factors and different players. Richmond is unique in the Bay Area in that it has a large minority population left over from the influx of defense workers during World War II. When the war ended, so did the jobs. The population had to scramble to survive just as it did when the gold rush ended.
Families, as we knew them, disintegrated largely from the lack of a steady breadwinner. Values changed. The entitlement generations were fashioned from the disenfranchised youth evolving out of the “me” generation. The emotional support and guidance now comes from the “gang” way of life rather than the nuclear family. The drug culture also evolved to provide a quick fix both financially and emotionally for the alienated youths and their broken families. The cops, no longer walking their beats, had become the enemy.

Unemployment and broken homes further fueled the alienation such that “gang values” now provide the youth with a powerful set of mores that can instantly gratify the most primitive of impulses. If someone crosses you, insults you, or impinges on your territory, the ensuing retribution is usually death. The killing fields engender very little remorse or empathy. This is their new way of life and they are just not interested in traditional values or mores. How much difference is there between the gunslingers of the old frontier days and the gangs in Richmond?
Clearly, until there is a cultural upheaval of substantial magnitude, the killings will go on and on. No matter how many millions are spent on police, it will not stem the tide of needless bloodletting. No doubt increased police activity may increase the number of police officers killed and further solidify the isolation and division in our society. The killers will soon elevate their activities to the level of insurgents as they have in Iraq. 160,000 US soldiers have done little to stem the tide of insurgency in Iraq, so why do we naively think we can stem the tide with more police here in Richmond? It is time for us to wake up. The enemy within will destroy us all until we radically change our society, not increase the violence by declaring war upon the children.

Posted by fredarm at June 29, 2005 04:09 PM