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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Dear Friendsby divaneh on Fri Oct 29, 2010 05:25 PM PDT
Thanks for reading and your comments.
I disagree. I think that was true about the early days and some of those who died in the war with Iraq. Today's Basijis are low level criminals who want to make a living and eventually make it to the top.
Red Wine Jaan,
It is an honour to have your approval. Thanks for the kind comment.
I think we are in agreement. Yes, we must challenge the Islam and push it back to its rightful place in the mosques for those who wish to practice it.
Thanks for your compliment. I am not sure, but I think this gang discouraged its members from getting addicted, although they believe selling drugs would keep the black money in the black community.
You have also raised a very good point. The mental pleasure that some of these Basijis get from destroying the values that they hate, and the people who hold to those values. I think that group is easier to beat than the group with commercial interest.
Michael was not joking, it's strictly business. Thanks for the relevant and interesting information. I did not mean this to be a referral because I did expect a little more when I started to read the book. It however worth reading once if only to give non economist another view of the world.
I also think that these people are beyond salvation and should be put away. Above that perhaps we can start on transformation of our society to prevent such criminals rule the country ever again. I know people who live in the West and are completely against the IRI value system but benefit from large business dealings with the IRI and in the course of their deals promote bribery and corruption in Iran. Iranian mindset has to change before its society and government style can change.
Strictly Businessby Faramarz on Fri Oct 29, 2010 09:12 AM PDT
Michael Corleone: "It is not personal Sonny. It's strictly business."
Thank you Divaneh for the book referral and a great blog. It is amazing how large enterprises, both legal and illegal, operate the same. Interestingly enough, the slave-masters from the time of the Romans all the way up to the not-so-distant Deep South in the US, all used the same playbook to make the rank and file see their well-being aligned with that of the top boss.
I do however believe that in addition to cutting off the flow of money (oil) to the mafia bosses, you need to take them out and put them away. They are beyond salvation.
divaneh jan, just thought of one more thing...by Monda on Fri Oct 29, 2010 07:43 AM PDT
Besides how blessed I feel each time I read your very well-written, accurate observations.
Relating to The burning question, imho: The foot soldiers' motivation also includes their dependence on/ addiction to, the drugs which the MAFIA manufactures/ imports or sells... again, Not unlike Basijis' dependance on HATE for and Destruction of humanity.
(i read Freakonomics too as soon as I heard the authors on our public radio, you did good divaneh jan by promoting it : )
Divaneh jaanby Mehrban on Fri Oct 29, 2010 08:26 AM PDT
Political Islam is certainly just the outer layer of our onion, but we have to start peeling somewhere.
Thank you for your always thoughtful contributions. Yes, cutting off of economic incentives to the members of the regime, seems to me also to be an important part of dismantling this government as in my opinion, most of its members have economic attachments to the regime and not a moral one.
...by Red Wine on Fri Oct 29, 2010 07:07 AM PDT
I like how you write...One of the few english blog which i read.
Thank you for sharing.
Have a lovely weekend my dear Friend.
I think the foot soldiers work so hard for so littleby Multiple Personality Disorder on Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:28 PM PDT
... because they "dream of making it to the
heaven" one day and get themselves 70 virgins, along with the other fringe
benefits like drinking alcohol without getting a hangover.