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Don Pinnock, in his book ‘Gang Town’ noted that proposed solutions to gangsterism are general, unworkable, and lack analytic precision.
Post-apartheid South Africa continues to be riddled with poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse – factors which impact negatively and disproportionately on the country’s black youth, making them especially easy to persuade into gang activity.
The fascination and eventual initiation into gangs lull young people into a false sense of security, belonging, and power, only to ultimately end their lives.
Requests for the South African Defence Force (SANDF) to enter into gang-infested areas have gone out (itself a problematic request) and is still being deliberated.
Meanwhile, gang rehabilitation interventions, as noble and necessary initiatives as they are, have low impact on the reformation of those who enter gangs.
There had been two stabbings and a fatal shooting in one week where I live.
Word-of-mouth warnings to avoid certain spots at particular hours spread.
Within a chaotic context of drugs, guns and sparse opportunities, young men seek to recreate broken social networks, or ‘brotherhoods’ which, unfortunately, legitimise toxic expressions of masculinity.
In his paper on the intersections between masculinity and gangsterism, Adam Cooper conducted 25 interviews with multiple young men on gang violence, and how they position themselves and their ideas of masculinity in relation to gangsterism.
Furthermore, Cooper noted the marginalisation of these young men who used the gang institution to compensate for the disempowerment of their socio-historical context.
The topic of masculinity is one I revisit time and again because it affects the very lives of other, often marginalised identities, and because it is such a long-running enigma for many men.