Gerding: People will keep joining gangs despite long-term prospects

In the wake of the shoot-up at the Delta Grand Hotel on Aug. 14, one of the recurring questions people ask me is the ‘why’ one: Why would someone put themselves in such danger by joining a gang?

In the wake of the shoot-up at the Delta Grand Hotel on Aug. 14, one of the recurring questions people ask me is the ‘why’ one: Why would someone put themselves in such danger by joining a gang?

That question extends from the tragic consequences of the gangland slaying here in Kelowna—Jonathan Bacon is dead, a full-patch Hells Angel was badly wounded, and a young woman who was in the targeted vehicle is paralyzed for life after being shot in the spine.

And for what? Surely, anyone wanting to join a gang would realize their long-term future prospects for promotion are bleak—they face either a lengthy prison term or being shot either by a rival gang or the Mafia-style in-house cleansing when a change of command occurs.

But this is nothing new. People have been joining gangs ever since we humans started to multiply in larger numbers. Today, there are many reasons why young people join a gang and they’ve all been well documented—to satisfy a sense of belonging; the ‘bling’ lifestyle that comes with it; associating with others on a shared cause even if it is a life of crime.

But still the ‘why’ question gets asked, and that got me to thinking about two movies from my youth that attempted to answer that question.

Their themes have been copied repeatedly in movies ever since, but have done little to change our attitude towards gang life. If anything, they unintentionally served to romanticize it more.

One of those films was The Godfather, the first of a trilogy of movies about the infamous Corleone crime family. That movie explored the themes of loyalty and of family and how they were tied to life in the Mafia. Getting out of that lifestyle was much harder than getting in to it.

Those themes continue to resonate today in modern gangs, even though the prospects of living long enough to collect a pension remain bleak.

The other movie that came to mind was a 1959 western called The Magnificent Seven, which told the tale of seven gunfighters who seek personal redemption for their pasts by trying to rid a small Mexican village of its marauding bandits. While the meek and weak villagers look upon the gunfighters with awe, the hired guns see their existence as a lonely one with no long-term prospects beyond trying to stay alive.

The themes in those two movies made for great cinema, but exposing the realities of living on the edge has done little to detract people from that lifestyle.

Bacon and his brothers are little more than modern day gunfighters who had no interest in redemption, only emboldening themselves with their self-created power in the gangland world and all the spoils that come with it.  A death sentence if ever  there was one.

But it won’t stop others from following in their path, leaving the rest of us to continually wonder: Why?

Barry Gerding is the managing editor of the Kelowna Capital News.

 

bgerding

@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

Kelowna Capital News

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