Monday, 7 May 2007

Why gangs? Why shooters? The answer, my friend, is blowing through the schools.

After the events of the weekend -- youth violence, party mayhem, gang shootings -- people are asking questions: "Why do people join gangs?" "How do we put a stop to them?" "What makes someone drive through a crowd of young people with the intent to kill?" and "What the hell is happening to this country?"

The answer to the second question is simple enough: If you want to stop the rise and rise of gangs, then stop giving them an income stream. Stop giving them money. As any student of history can tell you, prohibition plays into the hands of gangsters. We've done the same thing here, and too few seem to want to recognise that.

Why do people join gangs? What makes someone drive through a crowd of young people with the intent to kill? I think the answer to both is the same, and to demonstrate the answer, let me tell you about young Katelynn Johnson (right), a student at Virginia Tech -- a 'Hokie' as they call themselves -- who had a rather enlightening reaction to a monument for the 32 dead 'Hokies' in the Virginia Tech shooting. This martyr to worthiness added a 33rd stone (to the monument, not to her weight). The 33rd stone, she explained, "was meant for the shooter."
When there was an outcry and someone removed the 33rd stone, this was Johnson's reaction:
"'To see this community turn on one of its own no matter what he did is heartbreaking to me,' Johnson said. 'If we're a community, we're a community. If we're a family, we're a family. You can't pick and choose your family.'

"'We lost 33 Hokies that day, not 32,' she wrote. 'Who am I to judge who has value and who doesn't? I am not in that position. Are you?'"
Well, I can say with certainty: "Yes, I am!" But Johnson, who is the very model of Progressive education, cannot. For her, as blogger Rob Tarr noted, her identification with the collective as a primary trumps everything; as does her complete inability and unwillingness to make any moral judgements whatsoever.

Johnson is a perfect product of modern Progressive education, in which moral relativism and socialisation -- ie., identification with the collective -- are taught almost from birth as values that trump everything. As Glenn Woiceshyn explained after the Jonesboro shooting, Progressive education is "Socializing Students for Anarchy":

According to the founder [of Progressive education], John Dewey, "The school is primarily a social institution," whose central purpose is not "science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography . . . but the child's own social activities." Our schools certainly embrace both parts of this doctrine: teachers now attend to the child's "social" needs as devoutly as they dismiss his intellectual ones. Why, then, is social conflict--rather than social harmony--escalating?

The answer is: precisely because of this doctrine.

The Progressive philosophy maintains that the cause of social strife is the unwillingness of an individual to sacrifice his convictions to the group. Dewey maintained that it is the insistence on distinctions such as "true versus false" and "right versus wrong" that generates social conflict. If only children did not hold strong ideas, disagreement and conflict would evaporate in the sunshine of social harmony. Truth, therefore, is socially fractious--while ignorance is bliss.

Hence, what the Progressives mean by "socialization" is the surrender of one's mind--of one's independent knowledge and judgment--to a "group consensus."

As you can see, moral relativism is only one part of modern failure, and Johnson isn't the only perfect product of modern Progressive education in the news. So too are school shooters, drive-through party killers, and gang members -- they're all part of the same coin. The overwhelming need to belong, the identification with a collective -- any collective -- is part of what explains the rise and rise of gangs; it is part of what makes them so attractive to members, and it is what Progressive education has succeeded in teaching these poor saps. That most gangs are tribal, and their members often Maori, is just a further aspect of that collectivism, a message of tribal socialization that would no doubt have resonated for young Maori.

For young hoods who shoot their fellow students or who mow down fellow party-goers with their cars, I think there's a similar thing going on: the collective and the need to belong trumps everything -- for these destructive bastards rejection by that collective is worse even than murder. At least murder gets them recognised.

As blogger Gus van Horn notes, to understand such an outlook, to get an inkling of how such an attitude is possible -- an attitude incubated in the Progressive education system delivered in the state's factory schools -- one need go no farther than this essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education that discusses US school shootings [emphasis has been added]:
[R]ampage school shootings are never spontaneous. Before they loaded a single weapon, [shooters] let fly with dozens of hints, ranging from vague comments like, "You'll see who lives or dies on Monday," to more-specific warnings to friends to "stay away from the school lobby." Those warnings started months before the shootings themselves. ...

Why do
school shooters broadcast their intentions? They are trying to attract the attention of kids whom they hope will embrace them as friends but who have typically denied them the social status they crave. Michael [Carneal, for example] desperately wanted the acceptance of the "goth" group in his high school, which barely tolerated his presence. He posed as a delinquent when he was actually quite intellectual, passing off CDs he owned as stolen property. He stole pistols from his home and brought them to school as gifts for the most charismatic of the goths. "Not good enough," was the response. "We want rifles." No matter how hard Michael tried to change the way his peers saw him, nothing worked until the day he started fantasizing out loud about taking over the school and shooting people. That did work. He began to get attention. And once he had announced his intention, he risked social failure if he declined to go through with it.

School shooters are problem solvers. They are trying to turn the reputations they live with as losers into something more glamorous, more notorious. Seung-Hui Cho, a student of creative writing, probably didn't get a lot of "street cred" for his artistic side. Young men reap more social benefits from being successful on the football field. When their daily social experience -- created by their own ineptness, and often by the rejection of their peers -- is one of disappointment and friction, they want to reverse their social identities. How do they go about it? Sadly, becoming violent, going out in a blaze of glory, and ending it all by taking other people with them is one script that plays out in popular culture and provides a road map for notoriety.

So the answer to that last question posed above should now be simple enough. What the hell is happening to this country? Answer: Progressive education.

Progressive education has been socializing students for anarchy now for at least half-a-century, so why should we be surprised that it is succeeding? It is exactly as Rob Tarr says, that for such misbegotten products of Progressive education, identification with the collective as a primary trumps everything else.

The antidote to this collective nihilism is course is the promotion of rational individualism, and an urgent change in the values taught that are taught every day in those factory schools -- or else, perhaps, the destruction of those schools.

And that's surely worth a thought?


  1. An interesting post. You failed to mention drugs though - kids do not use drugs on their own and this is an important part of teen culture. Adults need to lead by example, which sadly many of your associates do not. You cannot expect teens not to use drugs if you are a user, and support the 'right' to use drugs yourself.

    Teens are risk takers - they need excitement and gangs often provide this.

    Howick police are hard-out prosecuting cannabis buyers at present. They are also doing a study about why kids join gangs.

    If kids emotional tanks are filled at home they have no need to take drugs, get drunk and violent, or pack pistols.

    This flies in the face of your pro guns, pro corporal punishment and smacking views however. But we do our best.

  2. Adults need to lead by example, which sadly many of your associates do not. You cannot expect teens not to use drugs if you are a user, and support the 'right' to use drugs yourself.

    You can't expect teens not to use drugs if you aren't a user, either. So what's your point?

  3. We've got some great photos here of my wife's godson doing his tour of duty in Afghanistan.
    I doubt whether the Bamians were half as scared of terrorists as the NZ Army when they arrived at a village with their needles. They inoculated everything, the men, the women, the kids, the dogs and the cattle.

    Same in Africa with the great Dr Albert Switzer. He didn't care what the social status was, or their race, tribe, religion or whatever.. he simply injected them against disease whether they liked it or not.

    And the same with NZ kids. It doesn't matter who or what, the little buggers need to be taught some good shit and to hell with the niceties. In short, schools are for teaching academic subjects and much less of the other.


  4. "You can't expect teens not to use drugs if you aren't a user, either."

    Oh yes you can. Do not under estimate your influence on your kids. If you are a good parent at heart they do not want to disappoint you.

    Drugs are a tragedy for our young people. Ask any police officer, social worker, or high school teacher.

    You disgust me.

  5. And you disgust me, Ruth. You are someone who advocates persecuting people for minding their own business.

    You cannot expect teens not to use drugs if you are a user, and support the 'right' to use drugs yourself.

    Do you mean your own teens only, or other people's, too?

    What is wrong with setting an example of responsible, adult drug use? It's what most parents do.

  6. Ruth said...
    Howick police are hard-out prosecuting cannabis buyers at present.

    Ruth, that is what the police are suppose to do. Your point is?

    This flies in the face of your pro guns, pro corporal punishment and smacking views however. But we do our best.

    Who's WE ?

  7. What is the Maori Party's position on all this gang business? They are notable for thier silence!

  8. Ruth said...
    "Drugs are a tragedy for our young people. Ask any police officer, social worker, or high school teacher."

    I am a high school teacher - and I'm telling you that drugs are not a tragedy. Broken homes, violent step-parents, welfare dependency and convicting my students of victimless crimes are tragedies.

    If you really want to screw up today's youth, how about throwing them in a police cell and giving them a criminal conviction for puffing on a joint? How about bringing young people into contact with gangs because in an illegal market the gangs have the market sewn up?

    Young people are always going to experiment with drugs. If you actually cared about young people, then a legal market where they can be sure of exactly what they are buying, don't have to buy them from gang members and can use them in a responsible, non-clandestine way without fear of prosecution is the safest option.

  9. craig, there is no safe way to use drugs. That's utter nonsense. Even cannabis has enormous health risk.

    I'm open to debate whether prohibition works or not, but on the facts that drugs do not have significant side effects, there can be no debate. That's either fact or not.

    Altering the chemical balance of your brain has effects. That's the reason why you do it in the first place. And science can tell us if those effects do damage.

    If you still want to go ahead, that's another matter.

  10. Ruth, for someone who purports to loathe the libertarian perspective, you sure spend a lot of time at this site.

    I was interested in your post.

    "If kids emotional tanks are filled at home they have no need to take drugs, get drunk and violent, or pack pistols."

    I couldn't agree more. I believe in the concept of "filling emotional tanks"; I use that terminology myself; and try to practise it in my home/work/social environment. My mother talked to me about drugs when I was 8; really young; but it arose on a TV prog we were watching. I never did them. Never wanted to, nor did I want to disappoint her. My choice.

    Which brings me to this: "kids do not use drugs on their own and this is an important part of teen culture".

    To hell with 'culture'. I'm tired of that word; it's an excuse for many maladies. Teach libertarian principles of individualism, respect for self, respect for others and individual thought - as opposed to the culture collective - and you'll see fewer problems.

    AFAIC, so many social problems escalate because you and your fellow travellers fail to differentiate between (i) adult and child, and (ii) rights and responsibilities.

  11. Berend said "there is no safe way to use drugs"

    Fair comment. However, that was not my point. I did say that getting rid of drug prohibition would be the safest option given that young people are using them anyway.

    For people under 18 in my neighbourhood, pot is far easier to access than alcohol or tobacco - hence it is widely used. However, there is no guarantee about the quality or relative safety of what they are buying because it is an illegal market (you can't sue a drug dealer for false advertising of their drugs.)

  12. Berend de Boer said...
    there is no safe way to use drugs. That's utter nonsense. Even cannabis has enormous health risk.

    I beg to differ. Berend's remarks (and the article he links to) are arrant prohibitionist drivel.

    Anyone who said, "There is no safe way to invest, that's utter nonsense, even investing in property has enormous financial risk," would be regarded as hysterical, and the analogy is apt.

    Berend, if cannabis has "enormous" health risks, perhaps you would like to suggest a word to describe the health risks of drugs which are far more dangerous than cannabis, according to the scientific evidence.

    Should I expect the sky to fall next time I crack open a Mac's Gold?

  13. I just sent this to TV1 Agenda

    Regarding Gangs and general crime.
    Why is it that the Minister Annette King keep flogging a dead horse by continuing to advocate measures that are a Failure?
    Why so much focus on the symptoms rather than the causes?
    In my view the chief causes are found in the very system Annette King represents.
    The causes are ethical, not chemical.
    Her government policies have destroyed the integrity of ethics with their policies.
    They have corrupted the concept of justice by filling our jails with the perpetrators of
    ‘victimless crimes’ like smoking pot. This not only wastes police time and jail space, this injustice works in the gangs favor by making it easy to prove the police are corrupt, thus they have no problems recruiting members and the black market in pot is a lucrative means to finance your criminal organization.
    Prohibition does not work. All the serious so called P crimes are committed by career criminals! Many people drink and do drugs but don’t commit crimes because they have ethics!
    The government has banned the use of fire arms for self defense, thus creating a safe environment for criminals to operate (who simple ignore these absurd Gun laws)
    Armed criminals are enjoying terrorizing unarmed victims.
    The state has promoted disrespect for private property via it’s own disrespect of that right.
    The state has promoted primitive tribalism and racism re it’s Waitangi apartheid doctrines which make White people out to be oppressors of brown victims.
    The state has promoted unwanted children and bad parents by financing the whole problem through social welfare.
    The state schools teach children they are apes via the of evolution!
    The solutions are then.
    Legalize drugs.
    Legalize fire arms for self defense.
    Dump the welfare state.
    Privatize schools.
    Uphold private property.!
    Parents need to teach their kids libertarian ethics and take them to church!
    Tim Wikiriwhi


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