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Gangs and thugs

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Gangs and thugs

The violence continues in Kingston Jamaica as police fight gangs. In the meantime, Toronto is bracing itself for the influx of thugs and hooligans who descend on meetings of the G8, G20 and others involving the U.S. and other western countries.

So who are worse – gangs or thugs?

The Jamaican gangs at least are supplying products – marijuana and guns – that are in demand. They have established an apparently successful, multinational organization to serve the demands in many countries. On the other hand, they do resort to extreme violence to protect their business interests. As well, the leaders provide role models for young men in urban ghettoes – not exactly the best role models. But then, neither do pimps nor most rock stars and athletes.

The thugs who have become a part of international conferences do not serve any useful function. They just attend to engage in acts of violence, although not yet as violent as the gangs, and destruction of property. Apologists for these hooligans ( at least the soccer hooligans support bars, pubs and the beer industry) might claim that they are publicizing the gross inequities across and within countries. However, the very few that do this offer no practical solutions. All they can do is criticize the U.S., capitalism and imperialism. Interestingly, they do not show up at conferences involving only the real criminal countries in the world. Thus, they are not interested in human rights, freedom and democracy.

I believe we should deal with both groups.

Legalizing drugs of all types is the starting point for weakening the powers of gangs, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, and their appeal in urban ghettoes. Better to have regulated, real multinationals control this industry than the gangs and their guns.

Yes, I know there are significant costs to society and the economy of legalizing drugs, as we can see from the multiple problems associated with alcohol and cigarettes. But I believe there are even larger costs associated with making the production and distribution of drugs illegal.

Legalizing drugs should greatly reduce the incomes and influence of gang leaders. Being a corporate executive is not as cool as being a gang leader. If we can create good role models to replace them, the the battle against systemic poverty in some western countries, especially the U.S., might begin to show sings of success.

The thugs, on the other hand, are minor league terrorists. They do not really have an agenda other than their own personal enjoyment and fulfillment, and their tactics, while not as extreme as other terrorists, are not fundamentally different. So off with their heads!

No one has yet explained where these people get the money to travel the world to disrupt life for others. And the costs to protect civil society from them are becoming astronomical, as the $1 billion price tag for security at the June G20 meeting in Toronto attests. But there must be sources of money supporting these thugs. Thus, to get rid of them, governments will have to cooperate and cut off their money supply. To eliminate the major league terrorists, governments will have to do the same – cut off their funding, which tends to come primarily from oil and illegal drugs.

I do not condone either gangs or thugs, but I have much less tolerance for the thugs.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.


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