I wrote a series of four pieces recently, exploring gang violence, but really a perspective on the power structures, and mechanisms of coherence, that underly community (and mechanisms for diffusing, or countering, toxic culture). It is all fairly early stage, work, part of my own articulation of understanding really, but i have been meaning to add some illustrations, providing an overview of the core concepts from the last pieces.
The original articles considered how gangs form, looking at their rituals, internally validated narratives (the story of ‘us’ versus ‘them’), emergence of social hierarchy, and the ways that the oppositional power of ‘others’ (other gangs, wider society, and law enforcement) reinforce and validate internal coherence.
As with any social structure, i ultimately took the view that the powers that hold it together are ultimately common: the same structures of power apply, be it a church, or a far right gang. Broadly, It’s the construction of shared narratives, which reinforce, or match, individual worldview.
In the final part of the series, i considered how we can look at e.g. violent gangs and seek to engage to diffuse power, rather than simply seek to dominate it, but to do so requires a humility to tolerate diverse narratives: we cannot expect to form globally coherent and identical views of the world, and nor should we. Our diversity is a strength. The ‘win’, if that is what we can call it, is to diffuse, not to dominate, the toxic expression. We do not need saints, so much as a lack of serious sinners.
I found the original pieces hard to write, in fact, quite exhausting to think through, and the new illustration is far from complete: i suspect i will revisit this in time, to rework, or break it down, further. I quite fancy trying to illustrate the full cycle of formation and disruption.
In case it wasn’t clear, these pieces are of relevance not specifically around gangs, but in any Organisational context: it’s a story equally applicable to change as it is to violence. Indeed, all change is, to an extent, violence against a shared and prevalent narrative of ‘now’.