I recently read a book titled “FREAKONOMICS”, on which my verdict is that it worth reading once. That is of course if you have not read the same material in the authors’ columns in the New York Times. The book has a chapter about drug gangs and their inner working. The valuable information has been collected by an Indian PHD student called Sudhir Venkatesh who had himself embedded with a crack cocaine gang for 6 years during which he witnessed everything including the turf wars, and even watched people being shot dead in front of him. The gang that Venkatesh had fallen in was one of about a hundred franchises of a larger Black Disciples organisation.
Venkatesh’s good luck in receiving the accounts journal of the gang from a member who was fearing for his own life (and proved right), showed that the whole organisation was ran like any other American corporate and perhaps none more so than McDonald’s.
Each gang leader paid 20% of his revenue to the Black Disciples board of directors for the right to sell crack in a designated area. Beneath the gang leader were three officers reporting directly to him. At the lower level were the street-level dealers known as the foot soldiers. The goal of a foot soldier was to one day become an officer, and the gang had anywhere from twenty five to seventy five foot soldiers at any given time. At the bottom of the organisation were around 200 rank and file members who were not employees at all and were paying the gang their dues for the chance to eventually earn a job as a foot soldier.
Foot soldiers were in most danger and in the case of any turf war they would form the easy targets for the rival gangs. They still welcomed the wars as it gave them an opportunity to ask for higher wages.
When it came to income, there was a very big gap between the gang leader who scooped $8,500 a month (excluding other benefits) that translated into an hourly wage of $66, and the rest of the gang. Each officer took home $700 a month ($7 an hour) whilst foot soldiers earned $3.30 an hour, in fact less than the minimum wage. Each member of the board of directors on the other hand took home circa $500,000 p.a.
The burning question is that why the foot soldiers worked for such miser wages in the face of the daily threats of death and imprisonment?
There is a simple answer to this question; “dream of making it to the top”. That’s what motivates the crack cocaine foot soldiers and the foot soldiers in every other walk of the life. That’s what motivates the Basijis and thugs who support the IRI. Dream of making it to the top to enjoy the same wealth as those at the top. This is the main reason for their support and not the belief in Islam, Allah or Vali Faghih. There may be a small minority who support the despot out of blind faith, but that must be a negligible minority. The recent division between the Muslim clerics and violence against some grand Ayatullahs reveals the true nature of this regime to even the most unquestioning supporters of the Velayat. The supporters however seem completely unaffected by the disrespect and the violence that is levelled against the once revered clergy because it’s not about Islam, it’s about money. It’s about reaching the top to enjoy the dream wealth that is only enjoyed by the few at the top. That is why those at the top of the pyramid keep the gap as wide as possible. The wider the gap, the more incentive for the foot soldiers and the officers on the bottom to sacrifice everything that they have, including their souls and conscience.
We have blamed Islam for long but it’s not Islam alone that has wreaked havoc in our country. It is in fact a combination of materialistic nature, dishonesty, lack of principals and dictatorial tendencies that has devastated our society. Blaming and fighting Islam as the sole cause of our misfortune, will only blur our vision and stop us from seeing the root causes of our misery.
This is not to say that we should not challenge Islam. Islam has not been anything but a tool for suppression and the rein of fear since its inception. It’s a corrupt ideology just like any other discredited doctrine. Destruction of this tool however will not put an end to the despotism in our society.
You cannot negotiate with the Mafia, you cannot plead and you cannot embarrass them, you can only force them to abandon their criminal activities. When we ignore this principle, we write to Hassan Nasrallah and ask for his help in bringing justice to the Iranian people. A gesture as useful as writing to a pimp and asking for his assistance in reducing prostitution. He is none but a beneficiary of the Mafia, and has nothing but the interest of the Mafia in mind.
The sharp decrease in the violence perpetrated by the crack cocaine gangs came about by decreases in the price of the crack cocaine that made the risk unappealing. We too can only fight our own Mafia by hitting its economical interests. Pleading, cursing, calls for justice and desecration of Islam will only fall on deaf ears and at best preaches to the convert.
To hit our Mafia’s incentives, we need to engage with its business partners. We have to criticise the two faced policies by the EC and show our support for crippling sanctions that hurt the economic interest of the ruling Mafia. We need to demonstrate against the Turkish government’s betrayal of a neighbouring nation by assisting the ruling dictatorship. Russia, China and any other nation who cares about its image in the world and still cooperate with the IRI should be embarrassed in innovative ways.
Most of all, we must start treating the ills of our dictator breeding society now, before enduring another thirty years of dictatorship in the name of crown, labour, sacred cow or even secularism.
Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?, FREAKONOMICS, Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J.Dubner, Penguin Books 2006
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