Re: Oppressed Minorities (was: Social Engineering)

Gerold Firl (
13 Feb 1995 13:41:46 -0800

In article <3hkhj8$> (Rick Cook) writes:
>>Gerald Firl wrote:

>><In an anonymous urban environment, in a money-based
>>economy, there is no need to maintain the goodwill and support of fellow
>>members of the underclass. In centuries previous, brigands often needed to
>>have a base of support among the poor, upon whom they could rely for
>>information and food. This restriction no longer applies. Perhaps some
>>historical parallels, and illuminating distinctions, can be gained by
>>contrasting the current american criminal subculture with previous
>>episodes of banditry.>

Tom Billings commented:
>>That comparison could be made with a little thought about the publicity
>>given by gulled journalists to drug gangs "trying to reform" in various

I think you may underestimate the extent to which gangs such as the
Medellin may actually operate as an organic component of the rural
community. To see them as completely cynical autonomous agents is, I
suspect, an oversimplification.

Many of the rural poor, in various parts of the world, not just south
america, plant crops such as coca or opium poppy because they can get a
better price for illegal recreational botanicals than for any other crop.
The "drug gangs" buy their crop, and must act as an honest broker to keep
the small holders in production. It is in the interest of the "gangs", the
refining and distribution end of the business, to have a large number of
small producers grow the raw materials, since centralised and concentrated
agricultural holdings are so much more vulnurable to interdiction. If the
farmers are not treated fairly, they can always go back to other crops.
There is a true commonality of interest, and a cooperative relationship,
rather than a parasitic or exploitative interaction.

>The parallels I see are more with disintergrating cultures. Stable
>cultures, even very poor ones, do not seem to display the level of random
>violence we see in some areas. This is true even for cultures noted for
>their level of violence.

Stable vs. disintegrating - there does seem to be some validity to that,
though perhaps not ironclad. What about the yanomamo? Aren't their homicide
rates far above those of washington d.c.? This doesn't seem to be a result
of any kind of cultural disintegration, but to be a long-established

I think you are right that cultures which are in dissolution will tend to
have higher rates of crime and violence. After all, one of the functions of
culture is to regulate human interactions in such a way as to keep the
society functioning as a viable entity; for most cultures, this means
minimising violence and conflict within the society. A disintegrating
culture can lose the ability for such regulation.

The high rates of crime seen in american urban areas, particularly among
blacks, could be seen as a consequence of _integration_; as blacks make the
transition from a specifically black culture, the product of segregation,
to a multi-racial integrated american culture, some of the restraints on
selfish exploitative behavior may be lost _before_ new regulatory
mechanisms are adopted. As integration proceeds, the ethics and customs of
the mainstream culture will be adopted by previously excluded minorities,
but in the interim some individuals are caught between-cultures...
interesting possibility.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf