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If you read up in Wikipedia on the history of gangs in America and throughout the world, you may come to the conclusion that we are still living primarily in the age of gangs. The gang mentality infects not only the street criminal scene in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, it controls illicit trade on a national scale in drugs, firearms, and other valuable goods. Its reach may extend far beyond what the unwary citizen realizes. It erodes the basic living conditions in small nations where gangs run rampant, killing indiscriminately, as we see in the flow of refugees from Central America. It characterizes those few who control the wealth of those nations, leaving the rest barely in subsistence conditions that spawn terrorist gangs.
But it does not stop there. How do you distinguish the cruelty and killing by gang warfare from that of religious fanaticism, as we see throughout the Mideast today? And is it just religious fanaticism? The joining of religions and heads of state in that region, as in Saudi Arabia and Iran, is like a truce among gangs, forming dynasties of gangs in eternal conflict based largely upon hatred and ignorance.
The gang mentality has many disguises. Some of the covert criminal gangs of Italian, Russian, Jewish Mafia, etc., over many decades and centuries have assumed the guise of pseudo respectability as they became more profitable. Their fields of enterprise may include not only gambling, but corporations and finance on a global scale. The financial perpetrators of the 2008 market plunge were not merely victims of market caprice. They exemplified the gang instinct to collude with others to benefit themselves at the expense of the general public.
We see the gang instinct invading our government at the highest levels. When the senate votes strictly along party lines to pass legislation benefitting a small select group to the disadvantage of the general welfare of the public, how does that differ from the gang mentality? The president, with all his business interests entangled in government affairs, as evident in particular in the recent tax reduction, shows all signs of gang-party mentality and virtual membership. This gang virus infects even our Supreme Court. And certainly, the tampering with voting machines, voter ballots, and voter eligibility follows gang mentality. These acts are all criminal in nature, regardless of legal definitions.
In political terms, how do you distinguish between gang mentality and valid disagreements among segments of the population representing the diversity of our culture? The gang mentality reflects the primitive archetypal division in societies between self and collective interests. History is full of wars and hostility between individual states and factions of gang mentality seeking to protect or extend their influence and wealth at the expense of others and to the detriment of progress in civilization. Progress in civilization has come about by positive discourse and peaceful contributions by civil, broad-minded individuals and cooperative societies, based upon a sound educational foundation.
The essence of this subject is more beautifully explored in the chapter on "The American Experience" in "Living, Leading and the American Dream", a collection of speeches and essays by John W. Gardner.