Monday, November 1, 2010

Sad State of Affairs

Recently it appeared that shootings here in Chicago had slowed down. Or at least the reported ones anyway. I was also seeing less arrests for aggravated battery as well. This is what a suspected shooter is initially arrested for. If indicted later, it's usually for attempt murder.

A reduction in violent crime usually arrives with cooler weather. Summer is long gone. But it's still warm enough to be outside. 

This last weekend saw the violence return. And it was all over the city. Well, mostly. I think no less than 30 people were shot this weekend and about 7 of them died. These were just the ones reported. From past discussions with area detectives, I know that usually only 50% of violent crimes get any press. An Area 2 detective (Calumet Area) told me they catch about 6 bodies on a warm weekend. Area 1 and 5 have to be similar but I bet Area 5 (West side) has to get more.

We also had some fatal car accidents. And one 23 year old teacher fell to her death while trying to slide down a stairway at a downtown Hilton hotel before a Halloween party Saturday night.

The families of the murdered will get no compensation. The murderers may never be brought to justice. But I have a feeling the family of the deceased teacher will find a lawyer who will sue Hilton for having unsafe stairways in their hotel.  But I am not commenting on either situation. Perhaps the stairs were indeed unsafe. I don't know.

Is any one death more tragic than the rest? I think everyone who died was under 30 years of age. A couple were even teenagers. Sad all the way around, I think. But I know that some people will think the death of the white, pretty, blond teacher with a great smile was a greater travesty. She was obviously college educated and employed. Surely she's worth more than some 19 year old South side black male with no hope or future, right?

The problem is that, somewhere, thinking like this lurks. And it's not widely scattered. It's real. Just as racism is real. And it scares the hell out of me because people who think like this have the right to vote.

Meanwhile Chicago police made 35 South side arrests in a narcotics enforcement sweep. They also confiscated 18 guns, $18,000 worth of narcotics, and $11,000 in cash. Go Blue. I wonder if I will be hired to represent any of the 35 recently arrested? Or if I might be hired to defend someone arrested for one of the weekend shootings or murders?

How many illegal guns are here in the streets of Chicago? I bet the number would blow me away. Have you ever heard how many insects could be found in a square mile of dirt? Isn't it like 4 billion or something ridiculous?

How many illegal handguns are in the city blocks between Central Park & Austin from East to West and say Jackson & North Ave from South to North? It has to be in the thousands.

The only difference I see between our current city streets and the Old West is that way back then, guns were not often concealed. They were carried in holsters on the hip so everyone could see it. It was cowardice to shoot a man in the back. But some men were still blood thirsty. Not much has changed.

Neitschze wrote that our violent dreams are a reminder of our violent past. But he was speaking in terms of human social development, not about an individual. Thus, violent dreams were merely a relic of the human condition thousands of years ago. I think logically, he felt humans had become more civilized over time. I agree. Mostly.

I don't know why some people are just violent. I was never a kid that liked fist fights. Getting punched in the face hurts and punching someone with a fist hurts the hand. Sure, I was in fights as a child and young adult. But I never enjoyed one.

I have known people who love fighting. And I tried to never go out drinking with them because a bar fight was never too far away. I didn't go to bars to get in fights. I went to talk to girls. Duh.

Though our legal system discourages violence, our social system applauds it. Think about that for a minute. Think about movies. Think about video games. Think about music.

You might think I am going to go off on some purity crusade that would make a Quaker or Mormon proud. But you're wrong. I am just calling an Ace an Ace. So much of American culture is about hurting and/or even killing others. As a country that's not terribly old, we have a violent past. Our country was established by way of violence. And clearly, we like a good war every 10 years or so.

When I was a kid we had video games like Pac Man and Asteroids. There was no simulated death via video game. Killing humans was not entertainment. Movies were violent, however. The Taxi Driver was about as violent as it got when I was a pup.

But our music certainly wasn't violent like today's. Why are we celebrating being a Thug? Why was 50 cent worshiped because he had been shot several times and been to prison? Why did we as a country collectively allow this to be socially acceptable? Why are suburban white kids talking like they're black and from the inner city?

Do black people as a whole get royalties from white impersonation? No. What happened is that once again, blacks, in part, were exploited by white people for financial gain. The record companies recognized a huge market for hardcore hip hop. And I have been here for the entire show.

I remember hearing NWA's Straight Outta Compton for the first time. It was 1989. I was in the Army stationed in Hawaii. I met a couple of girls from Los Angeles in Waikiki one day. They told me about this new rap group and wanted to play me the tape.

I couldn't believe what I heard. Fuck The Police. Really? No, they didn't say that. Oh yes, they really did say that. A couple years later, Ice T came out with Cop Killer. That one caught some attention. And I think it was eventually pulled from future pressings of the album.

But clearly this new rap was a bit different from Run DMC and the Fat Boys. These guys were rapping about being armed and pissed. Not a good combination. The lyrics were so real. Drug addiction, welfare, police brutality, murders, gang life, no education, despair. It was things I knew about but had never heard put to music before.

These artists had something to say and it was real but very sad. Instead of society as a whole attempting to help people who experience the type of life that spawned such lyrics, some made money off of it.

About the same time Straight Outta Compton was being made, the movie Colors was released. Produced by Dennis Hopper, it starred Robert Duval and Sean Penn as Los Angeles police officers working in a gang enforcement unit. It largely introduced America to the Crips and Bloods street gangs. It was a controversial film that I think was largely ignored. Most of middle America thought the violence was way overplayed in the movie. Ironically, the violence was actually underplayed. The streets are way worse than that film portrayed.

The condition of the inner city black male was exploited for profit. But, at the willingness of the black inner city artists. They got paid too, but no where near as much as the record companies. Yes, the artists were willing participants in the exploitation of their brothers.

Overnight gangsta rap was IT. I remember a Christmas from my past so clearly. It had to have been 1993 because Dr. Dre's The Chronic had already been out for a while. That was released in December of 1992.

I was in Athens, IL. It's outside of Springfield. Though Springfield is the state capital, it's pretty hick compared to Chicago. Athens is even more white bread, if that's possible. I had a young cousin living in Athens who would have been about 16 or 17 at the time. I hadn't seen him in a couple of years.

I walked into his room. My other cousin was in there too. He was the same age. On the wall were posters of giant Marijuana leaves and hip hop artists like Dre and Snoop Dogg. I found it a tad disturbing, but I had The Chronic and liked it. I am not a hypocrite.

When these kids opened their mouths, however, I was stunned. All I heard was "Nigga" and "Bitch" sprinkled between "F bombs". They were wearing pants that were pulled down to their knees and I could see their boxers. They looked ridiculous and sounded even worse.

I grew up in a black neighborhood. I had been around black people my entire life. I had more black culture instilled in me than some blacks. And here were my two ignorant white cousins who would never drive a car through my old neighborhood, acting like hardcore street thugs.

After about 5 minutes, I turned around, walked out, and shut the door behind me. I was completely disturbed. I had wanted to smack the crap out of both of them. More than once each too. Though neither of those cousins is dead or in prison, they have both had their share of run-ins with law enforcement. Whereas myself, who grew up in crime-ville, has never been arrested and has had 2 speeding tickets in 23 years of driving.

From there it just got worse. Hip hop became mainstream and the artists just got more Thuggish. Then the East Coast/West Coast crap started. Tupac was murdered. Biggie Smalls was gunned down. The Source awards got nasty in 2000. And even Jam Master Jay from Run DMC got killed in 2002. 

The two main record labels producing hardcore rap and central in the West/East rival, were Suge Knight's Death Row Records and Sean "Puff Daddy" Comb's Bad Boy Records. Both Knight and Combs are black. Knight went on to go to prison. Combs is in movies. So it wasn't just whites profiting off of blacks. Brothers were pimping brothers and getting rich in the process.

What happened to Atlantic and Motown?

All the while mainstream American youth is gobbling up this stuff unchecked. People in the music business got richer and richer. But inner city blacks, from where all of this originated, remained poor, disenfranchised, and stricken with violence.

What kind of world do we live in where it becomes acceptable and cool to mimic and even profit off those that have it the worst? Why are children across the country, of all races, idolizing people who couldn't get a job at McDonalds? Where has our sense of value gone? Have our morals evaporated suddenly?

What the hell is going on?

If anything the thug/gangster culture has exposed the country to the real problems of many inner cities. But who is doing anything to solve them? No, we just keep producing more videos with more rappers with more gold teeth and more tattoos and more scars and more money and more women and more felony convictions.

But the music is so watered down and uninspiring. I like old hip hop when the artists had a message. And the message was on point and relevant. Now it's just about money, the great spoiler of genuine noble intention. 

In a very roundabout way, this brings me back to our street violence here in Chicago. If a hugely profitable market could be created by producing commercial media based on inner city plight, why can't we fix it?

I don't think the kids stuck here in the streets think they have a cool or glamorous life. Most of them carry guns to keep from getting murdered. And if you have mouths to feed and slinging dope is the only way to earn money, is there really a choice?  A man does what he has to do to handle his business. And sometimes what he has to do runs afoul of the law.

I am not giving a blanket pass to people I work for. But I will be damned if I just label them all as lawless villains who have no respect for authority. My work is extremely sad because I see the tough choices so many of my clients are forced to make. And too often I have to admit to myself that, if in their shoes, I probably would have done the same thing. There is no right or wrong. It's which shade of wrong do you prefer.

The real problems are drug addiction and poverty. One feeds the other in an endless cycle that effects the community as a whole. Until those that control the power of the purse really make an effort to relieve these problems, there's no end in sight. I will have a job forever.

And that, is a sad state of affairs.


1 comment:

  1. Good post, Markus. Your frustration jumps of the pages! I love that as sad as the topic is. But I need to add something that I call entitlement. What do I mean with that? I often see children not doing their homework. We are not just talking about math here but even the simplest assignments like "read every day for 20 minutes" does not get done.

    If you ask why, many claim that they do not need to read. They can be anything they want. They have the American Dream. The world is theirs and they can be anything they put their mind to. This year alone, I have had to tell at least four boys that unless they can read, they will not be able to sing the lyrics of the song that could have been a hit. Without that hit, no money, no limousine and no "party like a rock star!"

    Where is this going? Drug addiction and poverty are no solely responsible. Many children grow up in situations where taking education serious is "not cool" or "useless" for a variety of reasons. Those families do not see that unless that cycle is broken indeed, you are not going anywhere. But education can break that cycle and a child should be encouraged to take that route.

    Just gambling that you are going to be a super model or rock star is sheer ignorance but we allow it because we do not want to disturb the status quo. And to me, the status quo is that many feel they are entitled to an American Dream without working for it. They feel that it is their right.

    America only provides you with possibilities but unless you grab them and know how to use them, you will not be living the dream.


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