IT AIN'T THE POVERTY
It's always been In The Hat's contention that poverty alone is not the prime indicator in a young person's participation in drugs, gangs or violence. In more cases than we can name, we've seen average middle class kids (Hispanic, Anglo, Asian or whatever) dive head first into the gang life. And the jump was usually fueled by some form of chemical stimulant. In this SUNDAY LA TIMES, there's a story about a 22-year-old Laguna Niguel resident who was using her parents' 5000 sq ft mansion to cook up crystal meth. The parents are apparently going through a divorce and they were living in two of their other houses and had no clue that their daughter, ADRIEAN VOLZ, was using the house as a meth lab. The article also mentions RENEE DEMONTREUX, a REDONDO BEACH college student who tossed over her upper middle class life and took up with gangsters and criminals thanks to her meth addiction. VOLZ apparently started running with the NAZI LOW RIDERS prison gang after she got hooked on meth.
One anecdote does not make a definitive sociological study. But what do we make of a filthy rich twenty-something meth tweaker who should know better? Was it poverty that led her down the path to the NAZI LOW RIDERS? Obviously not. It was probably the meth. But why does a person who has everything to the third power even bother with meth? Because it's a high. And the high transcends class, wealth and education. And maybe she had the pony and the clowns on trampolines for birthday parties and the Malibu Barbie with every accessory known to man but was still hollow inside. Well, who cares? The fact is, getting high causes all manner of stupid behavior.
And this leads us inevitably to street gangs. One of the first tools of control veteran gangsters use on the PEE WEES (a street term for the 12 and 13-year-old wannabes) is liquor and pot. They get the kids high. And they keep them high. And when you get a 13-year-old acting stupid, you can get him to do anything up to and including murder. Every gangster is a user. Some use more than others, but they all do it. Even the CARNALS, who by the rules of the EME are not supposed to ingest addictive narcotics, are users. Drugs are the basic unit of currency in the gang culture. It's the social solvent and social leveller that makes a 22-year-old daughter of millionaires the equal of a TECATO who'll sell out every CARNAL in the BAY to get high. Drugs are also the cornerstone of criminal organizations like the MEXICAN MAFIA. Take away the drugs, and there is no gang culture. Take the profit motive out of drugs, and the gangs disappear faster than a pack of LUCKIES at an AA meeting. Without the profits from drug sales and street taxes, the EME would be a toothless lion, roaring away in harmless desperation behind bars.
But for now, the profit motive is there and the gangs are there. So what do you do about a kid who wants to get high and maybe starts running with other kids who get high and carry guns and they start shooting at other groups of kids who also get high and carry guns? You can tell him (or her) to just say no until you turn blue and your tongue falls out. And guess what? They'll get high if they want to. Society can't stop it. All the social programs in the world are not going to stop a 16-year-old from getting blasted on whatever he can get his hands on and hanging out with other 16-year-olds. And all the color TVs, german sports cars and wild-on-the-beach vacations to CABO won't stop somebody from turning a mansion into a biker meth lab.
It ain't just the poverty. And it ain't just the ennui of the idle rich.
It seems to me that the first thing that has to happen is for us to stop making excuses for bad behavior. Poverty is no excuse. Being filthy rich and bored is no excuse. You are born into an imperfect world and just because things don't go your way is not a reason to get high and start capping rounds at a carload of equally disappointed teenagers. And the second thing we need to do is take the profit out of drugs. The third thing we need to do is grow a spine about abusive parents and start taking away children from people who have no business bringing them into the world. We already do that to some degree, but I believe this is an area for greater exploration and some creativity. And I haven't gotten all the way through in my thinking about this, but maybe we should find a way to keep unstable and irresponsible people from having kids in the first place. Yeah, I know. This sounds like BIG BROTHER social engineering. The nightmare of liberals, conservatives and everyone else except maybe Hitler's LEBENSBORN creeps. But we can't stuff the gunpowder back in the pipe bomb after it blows up. If we want to solve the youth violence and gang problem, we have to short circuit the system. And that means starting at ground zero: the home. And boy is that ever treading into the realm of social engineering.
Bad parents raise future victims and predators. That's a fact nobody can dispute. Stupid asswipes who create angry, abused, vicious, violent and emotionally crippled kids and toss them into the world and then expect us to fix them or jail them for the balance of their lives if they can't be fixed, should to be prevented from manufacturing more of them. Are we agreed? Right. And that applies to the BARRIO as well as LAGUNA NIGUEL? Roger that.
But is that ever going to happen? And I don't know if I want to live in a country that tells people when, how, where and why to have kids. I'm sure the CHINESE RED ARMY would have no problem sterilizing lousy parents (or just shooting them) and sending their kids into labor camps. But we don't do that here. They may not have the gang problem there that we have here, but I think we're all agreed that we'd rather cope with the EME than deal with the PEOPLE'S BUREAU OF RE-EDUCATION AND CORRECT SOCIALIST BEHAVIOR.
Frankly, other than removing the profit from drugs and putting a lot more cops on the street to neutralize the more egregious offenders, there really isn't very much we can do legally or morally to keep adults from making future criminals. More on this as the mind continues to work the problem.