Saturday, August 27, 2005

Gang Warfare In The D.C. Suburbs

Less than four blocks from my house, located in a sedate and established neighborhood, stands a community of affordable garden apartments. There, in June of 2005, an elderly couple was mugged by a group of young Latino males. The attackers' description fits that of gang members.

The robbery of that elderly couple did not receive much publicity. In fact, only we locals knew the sketchy information as the newspaper didn't give the attack anything beyond a brief mention. We locals have no doubt, however, that the attack was indeed gang-related.

For a few years, all of us in my neighborhood have seen gang graffiti on the sides of buildings and on the bike paths, as well as on the interstate overpasses and underpasses which crisscross this portion of our county. We have also noticed the occasional pair of running shoes dangling from the overhead telephone lines. Only recently did I know that such dangling shoes can be a sign of gang activity--a bit of information I mentally filed away for later use.

Within the last few weeks, attacks by gang members have become material for headlines. And as I suspected, at least some of these gang members are illegal immigrants.

In the Sunday, August 14, 2005 edition of the Washington Post, above the fold appeared the headline "Anti-Gang Strategies Lack Unity: Regional Data Urged as Threat Rises." The article begins as follows:
"Six months after he served more than a year in jail for disposing of a body in a gang-related killing in Montgomery County, Nelson Bernal was back on the streets, lying in wait outside a county high school-- preparing, police say, to attack members of a rival Latino gang.

"Police say he stabbed David Gamero in the head, chest and abdomen and Juan Quito Jr. in the lower back in the parking lot of Springbrook High School on Aug. 5. According to a county prosecutor, the attackers shouted, 'Mara Salvatrucha!'

"Bernal, 24, is back in jail, along with seven other suspects in the high school stabbing, and immigration authorities said they plan to deport him. They didn't take that step in 2004, when local officials alerted them that he was a convicted felon and in this country illegally.

"Bernal, an El Salvador native, lived and committed crimes in Maryland and Virginia....

"Bernal's case shows that gang members can slip through the hands of law enforcers. 'In 2004,' [Montgomery State's Attorney] Gansler said, 'federal immigration officials were notified that [Bernal] was an illegal alien who had been convicted of a felony. Federal agencies informed local authorities that he was going to be deported. Clearly he was not.'

"Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Dean Boyd, informed about Gansler's assertion late Friday, said, 'There is no way I can verify or disprove the allegation.' He added, however, that the division routinely detains and deports illegal immigrants who violate the law.

"He said that since Bernal's arrest last week on attempted murder and other charges, federal authorities have filed an immigration detainer for Bernal and plan to deport him after his legal proceedings in Maryland are completed."
Now the federal authorities plan to deport Bernal? After his legal proceedings for the recent charges? What wasn't he deported during that one-year stint in jail--a stint at the taxpayers' expense?

The Washington Post article concludes with these words:

"In the sweltering heat of the construction site, Bernal, also known as Alfredo Sanchez, occasionally would take off his T-shirt to cool down. That's when Francisco Rodriguez saw the letters tattooed across his stomach: 'MS.'

"During the last few years that Sanchez worked for Rodriguez framing houses, that was all the boss knew of his employee's affiliation with Mara Salvatrucha. Sanchez never talked about his gang life, Rodriguez said, or about much else in his private life.

"'He was quiet; he didn't talk much. He worked hard,' said Rodriguez, 38, of Hyattsville. 'He was never disrespectful to me or anyone else who worked here.'"

How wonderful that Bernal was cooperative on the job! Perhaps he did not want his employer to check on his immigration status. But elsewhere Bernal was more than uncooperative. Remember how the Washington Post article began? Bernal has a conviction for the illegal disposal of a human body. And if recent reports are correct, he also has a penchant for wielding a knife.

From the same edition of the Washington Post come these figures from a few jurisdictions in the D.C. area:
"Alexandria [city in Virginia]: Twenty gang crimes reported from January 2004 through July 31 [2005]. The offenses have been felonious assaults...

"Arlington [county in Virginia]: In 2004, there are 200 gang-related criminal incidents, the majority of which were thefts and destruction of property, followed by assaults, woudings and cuttings. Through June [2005], there were 91 gang-related incidents.

"Fairfax [county in Virginia]: 316 gang-related crimes in 2002; 595 gang-related crimes in 2003.

"Montgomery [county in Maryland, where Bernal was arrested]: 314 [gang-related crimes] in 2004; 122 for the first half of 2005."
Statistics are unavailable for Washington, D.C. I guess that the D.C. statisticians are busy tabulating their data.

I have a bit of personal experience with gang activity in my neighborhood. In the mid-1990's, my neighbor's son, as evidenced by bandanas and other garb, became involved in a gang, though not a Latino one. My husband and I had to put up with goings-on such as nuisance vandalism, petty thefts, liquor bottles strewn along our property line, drug deals on the street corner and outside our bedroom window, and a bullet's puncturing the headlight of my show-quality, candy-apple-red 1985 Chrysler Fifth Avenue. That last caused me to arm myself on a daily basis, just to walk back and forth from my house to my vehicle.

When my neighbor's son, whom I have known since the day he was born, finally decided that gang life wasn't the lifestyle he wanted--the turning point was witnessing the gang murder of one of his best friends at the local high school during the course of the school day--he turned in some of his gang buddies to the police. He was whisked away to a safe house, and police patrols became a regular presence on my street until the case came to trial. My neighbor's son, now an adult, has since been in trouble with law enforcement, but as far as I know, he's free of participating in the gang scene which now plagues even middle-class and elite developments.

From what I have read in the daily newspapers and have heard on the evening news, problems with gangs, primarily MS-13 and the South Side Locos, affect communities all across our nation, with some areas having more problems than others. How long before someone you know gets hurt or murdered, or is otherwise impacted?

According to this D.C.'s Channel 9,
"There are an estimated ten-thousand [MS-13 gang] members in the U.S. many in the Washington suburbs."
Ten thousand? In just the D.C. suburbs? What an astouding number!

The week of August 22, the Washington Times reported that federal authorities have made numerous gang-related arrests in the D.C. metro area:
"Early morning police raids yesterday in Silver Spring and parts of Prince George's County netted nine of the 19 MS-13 members who have been indicted in the most serious federal crackdown on the street gang to date.

"The case marks the first known time that the federal government has prosecuted members of MS-13 for being part of a criminal organization, using a law that was created to break up the Mafia.

"'MS-13 is an organized crime gang group," said Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. attorney for Maryland....

"At least seven of the MS-13 members are thought to be illegal aliens, because they did not have Social Security numbers, a law-enforcement official said. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials placed detainers on at least three of the gang members so that if they are ever released they will be deported.

"ICE took 14 illegal aliens who were associates of the gang members into custody during the raids yesterday and began the deportation process.

"The youngest gang member was 18, and a law-enforcement official said most of the gang members indicted were in leadership positions within MS-13 in Maryland.

"All 19 face the same charge of 'conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.' They all face the same maximum sentence of life for crimes including six murders, five attempted murders, beatings, kidnappings, drive-by shootings and obstruction of justice.

"U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said, 'The violent activities of MS-13 represent a serious threat to the safety of our communities. We're going to fight violent gangs with the same proven strategies and partnerships that have been successful in our efforts to confront organized criminal enterprises in the past....'"
Again quoting from the article in the Washington Times:
"Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said the federal charges are superior to the state charges because in a state case, a jury often cannot be told if a defendant is a gang member, because it would be considered prejudicial."
In previous trials, revealing that the defendant is a gang member has been considered prejudicial? No wonder, then, that the trials of gang members have been such charades. In many such cases here, the trials of gang members have been nothing but revolving doors.

According to this August 26, 2005 article in the Washington Post,
"Many of the pending local charges -- including a state murder charge against Zelaya -- have been dropped in deference to the federal prosecution. Others, including a first-degree murder charge pending in Prince George's Circuit Court against Everec Alvarez-Chacon, 28, might be dropped for the same reason, law enforcement officials said."
With the recent steps taken this week, we now have what may be an effective start on reining in gang activities here in the suburbs. But members of these gangs are often juveniles, and some attend the public schools here; with some frequency, parents who are notified by the school administration do not respond because of inadequate English skills or out of fear regarding the parents' immigration status. Furthermore, convicted juveniles usually serve their time (in jail or on probation) and have their records expunged upon release. At least some who are released resume their activities in gangs. ICE also needs to monitor what goes on in juvenile court.

Two questions:
(1) Is this new strategy on the part of federal authorities too little, too late?
(2) Since many of these gangs have roots in Latin America, what is this nation going to do about controlling our borders?

Note: For additional information on gangs in the D.C. area, please see Northern Virginiastan.

27 Comments:

At 8/27/2005 1:53 PM, Anonymous Cao said...

Gosh that is so disturbing. I didn't know about the shoes on the telephone wire thing. I've seen that quite a bit and wondered how does one get those shoes up there? Now the frequency of it and the realization of what it represents gives me the creeps. Disturbing.

 
At 8/27/2005 6:48 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Cao,
I didn't know the significance of the shoes on the wire for a long time. I see that sign in many neighborhoods. If the wires are underground, I don't know what the "marker" might be, but I'm guessing there is one--perhaps street or sidewalk grafitti. Outward signs are very important to gang members, so as to mark territory.

 
At 8/27/2005 6:59 PM, Blogger Esther said...

I didn't know about the sneakers thing either. Yikes.

I'm totally freaked out that Springbrook was involved. I attended Blair, not too far from there. We were known as the tough school -- not Springbrook. While we had the reputation, very little ever happened there. But it's a different time, I suppose. Sadly.

 
At 8/27/2005 7:07 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I couldn't locate the exact link, but I read that gangs are present in every single high school in Fairfax County. When I talk to involved parents, I learn that there is gang presence in elementary schools as well--even in what one would call "elite" areas. Not good! Gang presence is huge in lower-income areas.

The worst of the recent gang rumbles have been in Montgomery County. Events not definitely identified as gang related are also occurring in Prince George's. But I suspect that, in some months' time, we'll hear that many of this summer's cuttings and stabbings were indeed gang related. The authorities don't want to start a panic or to put the housing market into a nose dive.

 
At 8/27/2005 7:33 PM, Blogger beakerkin said...

Crime is up here in the middle of nowhere. The police asked me if I noticed the drug dealers. I told them I did and it made me home sick.

 
At 8/27/2005 11:00 PM, Blogger Mustang said...

Lets begin with answering your questions, AOW.

(1) All federal programs are "too little, too late."

(2) The United States of America will do nothing about controlling our borders until the American people rise up and demand better from their elected representatives.

Several years ago, I taught high school in the Rio Grande Valley. After an off-duty police officer was accidently murdered when he happened to be in standing in the killing zone between two gangs, the "city fathers" developed a survey that was circulated to citizens, religious leaders, teachers, and business owners. It was a multi-page survey written by a moron.

My comments on the survey were essentially this: No government can fix the problems associated with single parentage that is so prevalent in border area cities. Absent a "father figure" to guide young men, they tend to gravitate to gangs because that is where they learn about becoming a man (even if they are learning the wrong things). For this reason, the gangs will stay with us, but it is possible to change their behaviors. Let's focus on that.

My suggestion went directly in to someone's circular file because not dealing with a problem is much easier than confronting it and finding meaningful solutions. By the way, these same attitudes explain why our educational system is so screwed up.

 
At 8/27/2005 11:04 PM, Blogger Cubed © said...

Well, all of this gives us a clue about who will win the next presidential campaign. The successful candidate will convince the American people that 1) as President, the candidate will carry out his oath of office by protecting our national sovereignty by dealing with the illegal alien/border problems, and that 2) as President, the candidate will not hesitate to identify and name the enemy, and to do whatever is necessary to win, whether the enemy is here at home or abroad.

Most Americans aren't unhappy with the war in Iraq per se; most are unhappy because they think our politicians are serious about winning.

 
At 8/27/2005 11:06 PM, Blogger Cubed © said...

Oops. "...most are unhappy because they thing our politicians are NOT serious about winning."

Sorry.

 
At 8/27/2005 11:10 PM, Blogger Cubed © said...

"...think..."

It's been one of those days.

 
At 8/28/2005 5:18 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

I didn't know there was any meaning to shoes over the phone lines and I've seen it just a few blocks away.I'll have to go along with Mustang on your 1st question. I don't feel any of our elected officials that are now in office will do a thing to secure our borders. Both of the two major parties are worried about losing votes by offending Hispanic voters.
This weeks Question Of The Week deals with immigration, I hope you will stop by for that.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

 
At 8/28/2005 9:27 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Mustang,
Mentoring is the only technique which I've noticed has some success. Unfortunately, most school administraitons don't effectively promote mentoring. The teachers who try to implement mentoring are often squelched--if not directly, then by dint of a load of unnecessary paperwork. And--I hate to say this--but some teachers just don't care about the students. Makes me sick!

Today, August 28, the Washington Post presented a long article on gangs in the schools. The article is nearly three pages in length. I'll be wading through it to see if any solutions are presented.

BTW, you are exactly correct about the mother-only families. Such was the case with my neighbor, who booted her husband out so as to continue her affair with a loser (a building contractor) who eventually went bankrupt after fleecing a whole bunch of people.

 
At 8/28/2005 9:41 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Esther,
I hate to tell you this, but your home turf back here is overrun with gangs. It's not pretty!

 
At 8/29/2005 7:50 AM, Blogger LASunsett said...

I remember the El Rukin trials back in the 80s. For those that don't remember, this gang was tried and convicted for activity with Libya.

Now if, we knew that street gangs aligned themselves with terrorist states back then, one has to ask, who are they involved with now?

Good job AOW.

 
At 8/29/2005 8:15 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

LA,
Now that you mention that fact about El Rukin, I recall it now. Thanks!

I've read that MS-13 has been "infiltrated" by Al-Qaeda. If so, we're in for big trouble.

 
At 8/29/2005 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plato didn't have much faith in the "police" (wardens) being around to solve problems. He empowered (and demanded under threat of being held an accessory) the citizens to "arrest" offenders, even "metics" (foreigners). He also required these foreigners to be "punished" before being deported. From Plato's "Laws"...

"Wherefore it is a foul thing and hateful to the Gods to see an elder man assaulted by a younger in the city, and it is reasonable that a young man when struck by an elder should lightly endure his anger, laying up in store for himself a like honour when he is old. Let this be the law: Every one shall reverence his elder in word and deed; he shall respect any one who is twenty years older than himself, whether male or female, regarding him or her as his father or mother; and he shall abstain from laying hands on any one who is of an age to have been his father or mother, out of reverence to the Gods who preside over birth; similarly he shall keep his hands from a stranger, whether he be an old inhabitant or newly arrived; he shall not venture to correct such an one by blows, either as the aggressor or in self-defence. If he thinks that some stranger has struck him out of wantonness or insolence, and ought to be punished, he shall take him to the wardens of the city, but let him not strike him, that the stranger may be kept far away from the possibility of lifting up his hand against a citizen, and let the wardens of the city take the offender and examine him, not forgetting their duty to the God of Strangers, and in case the stranger appears to have struck the citizen unjustly, let them inflict upon him as many blows with the scourge as he was himself inflicted, and quell his presumption. But if he be innocent, they shall threaten and rebuke the man who arrested him, and let them both go."

-FJ

 
At 8/29/2005 9:28 AM, Blogger The MaryHunter said...

Seriously bad stuff. And, with local politicians such as Montgomery County, Maryland's bonehead Executive Douglas Duncan proclaiming the need for local officials to "sympathize with the plight of illegal aliens and concentrate on providing them with services," how are we going to cure this huge soccietal ill?
I posted on Duncan a week or so ago, and MD Gov. Ehrlich's get-tough response to this kind of idiocy:

http://www.tmhbaconbits.net/2005/08/21/ehrlich-tough-on-illegal-immigration/

 
At 8/29/2005 12:16 PM, Blogger G_in_AL said...

Maybe we could help solve some of the Latino gang problems by buying a fleet of plain sedans, putting INS decals on them, and driving them around. Then pay some children to run around yelling "EMMO-GRA-SEE-ON!" all day.

Or we could just control our borders and actually enforce illegal immegrent laws.

 
At 8/29/2005 1:55 PM, Blogger Shah Alexander said...

Your blog is amazingly prolific. Well, I have two blogs. You have two blogs as well.

Too many gangs in DC. Fortunately, I did not come across any dangerous guys when I visited Washington. I walked around late at night to go to Seven-Eleven. The plane arrived there very late.

Gangs and terrorists are serious problem in migration. Have you heard of the "Britishness" test after 7-7? This test examines knowledge in British politics and culture, and proficiency in English. Is it effective? It remains to be seen.

 
At 8/29/2005 2:59 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

TMH,
The idiotic political-correctness of certain elected officials never ceases to amaze me. With this matter of gangs and illegal immigration, stupidity is dangerous.

Instead of our officials' trying to UNDERSTAND criminals, how about enforcing the law? It is not the job of the executive branch to try to understand, but rather to enforce. Leave the attempts to understand to those with qualifications to do so.

BTW, this year just as classes are about to resume for the new term, the schools all around this area are offering inservice workshops on the situation with gangs. I don't have much hope on that front, either. Teachers cannot do the job of policing the schools and continue fulfilling their primary job requirement of teaching.

 
At 8/29/2005 3:17 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

FJ,
So good of you to stop by!

So, Plato advocated something similar to citizen's arrest of foreigners? And foreigners were to be punished before deportation? Not being well-read in the philosphers, I found this information new.

The "wardens" in my jurisdiction don't want to be bothered with misdemeanors committed by immigrants (legal or otherwise). I had personal experience in that regard with my car accident of May 17. Despite the Ghanian cab driver's having given false information at the scene, the police declined to press charges for that particular violation; two attorneys also advised me that taking the cab driver to court would yield no satisfactory result and would be a waste of my time.

As far as I'm concerned, assault on an elderly person is particularly evil. Many times, the elderly are easy marks for violent, young thugs--as are the young and innocent. Just a few weeks ago, a young girl was brutally beaten and raped by an illegal who was working for a construction company. No word as if this particular illegal was a gang member, but it is known that adult members of gangs work by day and obtain their day stints by using sites for the gathering of day laborers.

To date here, most of the assaults perpetrated by gang members have been gang-on-gang attacks. But crime experts suspect that the stats are skewed because many attacks go unreported out of fear of worse retaliation.

Furthermore, some gangs are involved in other illegal activities, including burglaries and drug-dealing.

 
At 8/29/2005 3:21 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

G,
I favor control and enforcement.

Locally, many tax bases cannot afford much more for law enforcement. If the courts would quit functioning as revolving doors, some problems could be solved.

Those of us paying local taxes are getting mighty tired of seeing the erosion of our personal safety.

 
At 8/29/2005 3:24 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Shah,
I'm glad to hear that you didn't run into any problems when you visited D.C. As a matter of fact, we rarely hear of "tourists" being assaulted.

I won't be as prolific with my blogging when I resume work in September. Wish I could, though.

 
At 8/29/2005 4:41 PM, Blogger G_in_AL said...

AOW, the top part was supposed to be funny... :(

 
At 8/29/2005 4:54 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

G,
I know that YOU, an sensible human being, meant the top part to be funny. But the idiot "experts" here are actually advocating an increased police presence. I'm all for the police to be present, but they can't be all places at all times.

Today, the police in D.C. made their presence known at every single school in D.C.--even at the elementary ones. Can you believe that? Kids need the police on hand to go to school? It boggles my mind!

BTW, I now drive a former undercover vehicle. Got it in auction from local law-enforcement. This police car of mine still says "interceptor" on the side windows, and I've added a little antenna to the trunk lid. Let me tell you, this vehicle came in handy during the D.C. snipers period in 2003; people pulled over and assumed the position when I rolled into parking lots. Funny!

Not so funny...I actually rounded a corner in D.C. and busted up a drug deal.

 
At 8/29/2005 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On punishment... effective and non-effective forms - Nietzsche "Geneaolgy of Morals" 2nd Essay, Section 14:

"Obviously punishment is overloaded with all sorts of useful purposes—all the more reason why people infer from it an alleged utility, which in the popular consciousness at least is considered the most essential one. Faith in punishment, which nowadays for several reasons is getting very shaky, always finds its most powerful support in precisely this: Punishment is supposed to be valuable in waking a feeling of guilt in the guilty party. In punishment people are looking for the actual instrument for that psychic reaction called "bad conscience" and "pangs of conscience." In doing this, people still apply reality and psychology incorrectly to present issues—and how much more incorrectly to the greater part of man's history, his prehistory!

Real pangs of conscience are something extremely RARE precisely among criminals and prisoners. Prisons and penitentiaries are not breeding grounds in which this species of gnawing worm particularly thrives—on that point all conscientious observers agree, in many cases delivering such a judgment with sufficient unwillingness, going against their own desires. In general, punishment makes people hard and cold. It concentrates. It sharpens the feeling of estrangement and strengthens powers of resistance. If it comes about that punishment shatters a man's energy and brings on a wretched prostration and self-abasement, such a consequence is surely even less pleasant than the ordinary results of punishment—characteristically a dry and gloomy seriousness.

However, if we consider the millennia before the history of humanity, without a second thought we can conclude that the very development of a feeling of guilt was most powerfully hindered by punishment, at least with respect to the victims onto whom this force of punishment was vented. For let us not underestimate just how much the criminal is prevented by the sight of judicial and executive processes from sensing the nature of his action as something reprehensible in itself, for he sees exactly the same kind of actions undertaken in the service of justice, applauded and practised in good conscience, like espionage, lying, bribery, entrapment, the whole tricky and sly art of the police and prosecution, as it develops in the various kinds of punishment—the robbery, oppression, abuse, imprisonment, torture, murder (all done as a matter of principle, without any emotional involvement as an excuse). Such actions are in no way rejected or condemned in themselves by his judges, but only in particular respects when used for certain purposes.

"Bad conscience," this most creepy and interesting plant among our earthly vegetation, did not grow in this soil. In fact, for the longest period in the past no notion of dealing with a "guilty party" penetrated the consciousness of judges or even those doing the punishing.. They were dealing with someone who had caused harm, with an irresponsible piece of fate. And the man on whom punishment later fell, once again like a piece of fate, experienced in that no "inner pain," other than what came from the sudden arrival of something unpredictable, a terrible natural event, a falling, crushing boulder against which there is no way to fight."

-FJ

Criminals do NOT have the consciences of civilized men. They are "primitives". They cannot function in society, and should be "expelled". Any attempt to assimilate them leads to their "intense unhappiness". Like the Native Americans in the eighteenth century, there are driven to alcohol and seek "escape" from the bonds of civilization. They should be given their escape though "exile".

Today's drug addicts suffer from precisely the same malady. They cannot function in civilized society. They don't have the requisite "self-control" over their emotions and instincts. They were not "raised" properly... in normal "civilized" households with enforced and exacting standards of behavior.

-FJ

Our prison/justice system is a failure. It worked better when we had "stocks", "whipping posts", "brandings" and "hangings" (i.e. - Like in "Colonial" times.) If the criminal cannot be made to feel remorse, he should at least be made to feel "something else". But "exile" would be the best means of dealing with them, for the criminal himself, and for the protection of "civilized" society.

 
At 8/30/2005 6:40 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

FJ,
I, too, believe that punishment, particularly incarceration, does not promote feelings of remorse. Most crimes are not of the Jean Valjean sort--i.e., desperate attempts to avoid starvation; Valjean didn't have feelings of remorse either, for that matter. Does the prisons' inability to foster remorse mean that I don't believe that criminals should be imprisoned? No! Incarceration removes undesirables from society and thereby protects society from becoming prey.

Predators of any sort do not a conscience in the sense that we understand conscience as being "the good voice." Conscience can be warped, by feelings of power and by drug addiction. Also, there is a group mentality involved--a brotherhood, if you will--with those who participate in gang activities. The warped values system becomes the guiding factor, and those of us who have a "normal" values system cannot understand that type of thinking whereby an alternative values system has become the overwhelming influence. What educators refer to as "peer pressure" can cut both ways, for both evil and good.

As far as drug addiction goes, the chemicals themselves alter brain chemistry. Even if addicts one had normal emotions and instincts, what drugs do to dopamine receptors, and thereby to thinking patterns, may result in permanent alteration of the addict's personality. Stephen King (not a philosopher by any means) has spoken of his experiences with drug addiction. "An addict is the biggest liar in the world." And the addict lies not only to those around him but also to himself. Rational Recovery, a bit of a different approach than AA's, speaks of "the lizard brain," which alludes to the almost irresistible desire to fulfill one's pleasure center. From those I have known, some addicts were "raised properly," but that rearing came to naught when chemicals took over.

Of course, drugs and alcohol are not really an escape from reality. Rather, they are a chemical numbing of reality; the reality is still present when the high wears off.

Does chemical interference warp conscience? No question in my mind. I grew up during the 60's and saw plenty of drug abuse. Some users were products of poor rearing; others began using so as to fit into a peer group. Sometimes drug addicts remind me of those with brain lesions, or with other physical maladies of the brain, in that their perceptions are drastically changed and no amount of reasoning can reground them.

What we term "savages" have as their primary goal the fulfillment of what they deem "pleasure." Once savages sink to predators, the only values system is one of self-gratification.

Don't misunderstand me. I believe that, for the good of society, certain types need exile, as you put it; rehabilitation in prison is notorious for failure. And I also believe that, early on, public punishment can act as a deterrent. But once the conscience is warped, the only return to normalcy comes through a spiritual awakening; I believe that the author of Children At Risk wrote of how to teach conscienceless children to submit their will to normal "civilized" values. That author notes that, past a certain age, the conscience cannot be restored.

Human beings are masters of self-justification. Once they believe that conformity to society's values is "not a cool thing to do," big trouble ensues. Counter-culturalism is self-perpetuating, in my opinion, because it is a form of empowerment. The desire for power seems to override values for many, many people.

BTW, I now have a copy of The Right Brain and the Unconscious by R. Joesph. I hope to wade into that book soon. Will that book also speak of the subject we've been discussing in our comments here?

 
At 8/30/2005 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not having read the book, I couldn't say, but having read some of Joseph's on-line articles and papers, I suspect it will.

-FJ

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home