Monday, May 15, 2006

Sao Paulo (where I ... erm ... was thinking of moving to) explodes.

The beeb has a quick overview of the gangs. Including the PCC which apparently started as a prisoners' defence movement after (presumably, although not specified by the BBC) the Carandiru massacre. It's worth watching that film to get an idea of Brazilian prisons.

That emphasis on the interaction between political and criminal activity is important. It is the "Global Guerrillas" analysis (which I referenced in my discussion of the Euston Manifesto) You'll misunderstand the whole thing if you see "islamism" as some kind of sui generis unique evil. What we're seeing is the switch in people's loyalties and sense of who they are, to their membership of religious sects, tribes, gangs etc and away from their loyalty to the nation-state. This happens when the state is either a) repressive to this group, b) too weak to provide the group with the security it needs or c) the group are immigrants from another culture who have difficulty assimilating.

That's not new. There have been epochs of warring "gangs of New York" of ethnic Irish, Jewish and Italians. It's not new that such gangs are started with a mixture of community defence vigilantism and other political ideals, but soon extend the violence and adopt crime as tactics for financing themselves, protecting their own integral structure and the positions and lifestyles of their leaders.

What's, maybe, new is the degree of empowerment that new technologies like cell-phones bring. And also, the degree of spontaneous / opportunistic co-operation and information sharing between different groups. Criminal gangs in Haiti have copied the beheading tactic of Iraqi groups. Nigeria has car-bombs. In Rio, gangs pioneered the burning of busses with their passangers on-board. Although, thankfully, this doesn't seem to have been repeated in Sao Paulo (yet).


John Powers said...

After you're brief hiatus it seems you're on a tear. Your recent activity has been very interesting, but there's a whole lot to process.

I'm confused by this: "You'll misunderstand the whole thing if you see "islamism" as some kind of sui generis unique evil." It seems to me that "islamism" is a subset of a broader phenomena, so I'm not sure what part is sui generis?

John Robb's post on this

Talks about the pressure which may be brought to bare against the city's business class to wrestle power over the favela. So then the gangs will have to govern? What will that look like?

Obviously I don't have a handle, so I hope you'll take my ramblings in your stride. But going through today's posts there are a couple of others that connect in some way--I haven't figured out how--to this.

First Dave Pollard's look at the coming Great Depression and Fourth Turning predictions. Pollard predicts the collapse of the Internet as fallout--shocking.

Second in re USA domestic politics ABC writing about the massive NSA database of phone records and how they are being used to monitor journalists

A commenter made a good observation: "What is even scarier, is who is doing the monitoring. It's not just the NSA, NRO, DIA etc... Look who is working for these govt agencies. There's been a lot of outsourcing of intelligence jobs."

I guess what makes me scratch my head is how global corporations will interact with governments and the gangs. Robb's enthusiasm for private militaries isn't something that goes down easily for me.

Goodness knows I don't expect a response to my random musings. I simply mean to state that you've really been getting to the root of things.

So one final bit. Pollard noted that when punching into Google Trends
0002007/2006/05/13.html#a1525 popular blog memes they don't raise a blip.

In the face of big systems changes clearly individuals can only do a little. Nevertheless the instruments of peer production are extraordinarily important. The peerosphere doesn't Google, but I hardly imagine it doesn't exist.

Timothy said...

Hi Phil,
Surfed in from Global Guerillas.

Well I think that the fixation on primary loyalties and the "decline of the state" is interesting, but misses a larger point.

What's really happening is more like a realignment. I'm not too familiar with Brazil (beyond their jujitsu which is fantastic).

What I am familiar with is California, specifically the Bay Area. And what I see here is the evolution of a new shared culture, one with significant non-European (Chicano/Asian etc) influences. This is threatening and in some ways completely incomprehensible to a certain type of intellectual (think Sam Huntington) who sees it as destroying "the state," when really what is happening is the formation of a new consensus.

Where the previous consensus marginalized and systematically excluded non-whites, the new one includes those influences. I happen to think it's a good thing.

This is not the same as the "multi-culturalism" as practiced in Europe, where, crucially there is a much tighter linkage to blood-and-soil as the basis of a national identity.

In law, the US doesn't have that, and honestly, in tradition neither, considering how many people in the States are , at best, the grandchildren of immigrants.