To claim and hold territory; this imperative has been inherited from pre-historic times. The anthropological and archaeological forays of the colonial-era European 'Academy' were attempts to find real-world answers to the philosophical problems facing those who saw a need to remake society. Intuitively grasping that the range of possibilities for the future might come by discovering the nature of humanity, they sought clues in as widely divergent sources possible; they sought to examine humanity in its primitive present and its civilized past.
One core truth which has been exposed is that the urban-political form of social life was not introduced by Athens but by Babylon. the transformation of humanity from a diaspora of tribes close-knit in their shared experience of surviving in direct communion with nature to the post-modern cosmopolitan model traverses the technocratic-legal-administrative metropolitan phase. That is, after the anti-revolution the "Illuminati" will sort out just who and what is noble amongst themselves.
This history I allude to as a preface to a certain point: the inititial transformation of humanity into its "civilized" form is that which atomized the individual into the orders of class and caste. Needless to say, the metropolitan phase covers several eras of since the rise and fall of Babylon, with Empires and states coming and going as the material reality of people's struggle for power and prosperity spurred the creation of philosophies, religions, technology, etc. The norm that has emerged is the street-level organization of heirarchy typified by gangs, tongs, and so forth. All the world over the replication of the urban form organizes itself according to the integration of social struggles for power at the street level as they mesh into the larger socio-economic class structure with its divergent norms. All this is not to say that gangs per-se are ubiquitous, but that they are a common phenomenon across national and other boundaries because of the anonymity of the individual in the large-scale flux of modern society, such as the increased urbanization correlating to the disenfranchisement of small farmers by free-trade agreements, a flux which leaves individuals in the position of negotiating an often violent and treacherous social mileux of strangers competing for limited resources and often at the disadvantage relative to those who seek to exploit this population by operating via proxy while remaining anonymous and inured to the legal and actual consequences of the conditions they create and profit from.
The movie "Gangs of New York" recapitulated this phenomenon to a modern audience. What is sometimes referred to as "dialectics" is exposed here in that the cosmopolitan nature of New York emerged gradually as the modern economy slowly took root. As the norm of the individual as a consumer took root the various ethnic groups staked out their claim to different turfs and sectors of the economy. The social mingling of the emergent middle-class proved New York as the examplar of U.S. pluralism, though of course the legacy of racial disparities resonates still today. The seperation of communities to an extent which allows their continuance as distinct from others not only no longer encompasses a majority of New York citizens but is not seen as a threat to order and peaceful growth and development. The social dynamic of the workplace finds members of different races which comprise the lower rungs of the working class employed in the downtown area comingling also in recreational zones, even as many of the same return to their homes and communities among their ethnic group such as in Harlem, the Jewish communities, the Italian neighborhoods, Chinatown, etc.
However, the contradictions of capitalism, at least insofar as it has played out in recent decades with its concentration of wealth at the top cotemporaneously with the expansion of capital as global hegemon, have not produced the same result everywhere and indeed has exacerbated it within communities across the globe, even within communities unified by ethnic identity. The example which most readily comes to mind to most when discussing this phenomenon is the reality of gangs in Los Angeles. This reality appears to outsiders, who see it well enough correctly, as a grinding banality of relentless soul-crushing brutishness punctuated by horror and proceeding to the rythm of constant belligerence. We shall not digress here into the fact that these conditions are imposed by the outside by those with an interest in maintaining terror as the stochastic norm among the working class and the dispossessed. The point here is that the individual's need to identify with a martial social unit within his community as a matter of survival is in these neighborhoods often expressed in the most rudimentary terms devoid of any logical or truly cultural meaning but instead in terms of color or geography. The color of blackness is secondary to the color of red or blue; the language or nation of origin of a person is secondary to the geographical identifier of their neighborhood (north, south, east, west; per the city or the state). Much of the same reality exists around the world, however. In Rio de Janeiro, police are providing state documentation of favela residents for the first time, in preparation for the Olympics; up until now, these neighborhoods had been abandoned by the police as they were under the control of gangs. Whole swaths of neighborhoods are controlled by the residents in London, Paris, Naples and elsewhere in Europe; while this type of social organization is not always completely benign, they are a product of institutionalized poverty continuing under the inertia of a corrupt and decadent larger society. In many places in Africa, the local warlords identify with Islam but contend for state power in the absence of a strong national or regional political order free of neocolonial effects; there as in many places in the Middle East warlordism is rooted in street-level social control (e.g. Hamas). One can find evidence of this type of phenomenon in Asian countries experiencing modernization in such films as "Young and Dangerous", which opens with a scene in an apartment-complex playground.
So, I think what needs to be looked at is the tendency of capitalism to create economic strata and the way legality and illegality are both used by members of each strata to advance their interests. In "Homies and Hermanos" Robert Brenneman makes a crucial distinction between international drug cartels ("organized crime") and youth or street gangs:
[The latter involve shadowy networks of individuals from the middle class and elites who wield considerable political and economic power and who mix legal business and illegal activities (including money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and tax fraud) in order to acquire and maintain considerable wealth (Torres-Rivas 2010). Although it is well-known that organized crime rings can and do draw recruits from the gang when in need of foot soldiers for carrying out the "dirty work" of kidnapping and score settling, politicians and the media have a tendency to conflate the two, thereby setting up a convenient smokescreen allowing them to ignore tax reform and turn a blind eye to political corruption (Martinez-Ventura 2010).]
The result is the right wing tendency to goad the public into fighting the very phenomenon it creates, reaping the reward of a police state and an obedient civilian population. The co-dependent relationship of gangs to organized crime is reflected in the transnational component of the drug trade and the political turmoil associated with it. The FARC of Columbia is a left wing group commonly said to have involved itself with the drug trade, though of course right wing paramilitaries have as well. The cartels are more often associated with luminaries, such as was the Medellin cartel which played, as so many criminals do, a sort of "Robin Hood" role. Refugees from the civil war in El Salvador are said to have infiltrated the United States and formed criminal gangs. The right wing as well is firmly associated with criminal activity, as is noted in this article about the portrayal of "the mafia" in popular culture. http://jacobinmag.com/2013/11/the-sicilian-klan/ In this documentary, the city of Houston is identified as the home of the Aryan nations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QV_001D9N9g. Many white people like to believe that white criminals do not engage in the more heinous activities of organized crime such as the pimping of minors. On the other hand, pimping adult women of different races is sometimes seen as a sort of benevolent phenomenon, such as is implicit in Hookers at the Point where black, and even a black female, pimps offer their services to a racially diverse set of working girls (a warning: cantins some graphic material): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmoEXtCvXBM. This is seen by some as evidence that despite the hard and sometimes cruel nature of the world, America is still the land of opportunity for all. The film "Romeo Must Die", featuring Jet Li and Aaliyah (who died in a plane crash), deals with the reality of black, chinese, and white criminality and underworld intrigue on a fictional basis. Victor Boute (known in Africa as "the Angel of Death"), whom the U.S. used to locate airfields in Afghanistan, was arrested in Thailand on charges related to black marketeering. "Air America" was the name used for the group of pilots who after World War 2 smuggled heroin from Southeast Asia to Europe. Khun Sa, from what is now Myanmar, survived U.S. fostered assassination attempts and was known to execute any of his soldiers caught using heroin more than once.
This digression into a little glimpse of the reality that most of the world lives with as U.S. citizens fret over upgrading their cell-phone is meant to illustrate the extent to which the street level conflicts form on the larger scale a dynamic of power-struggle which transcends national borders. Taken into consideration with other well-known facts such as those of the Iran-Contra scandal or the laundering of drug money by too-big-to-fail banks one sees the logical possibility that networks of economic and social power of influence are soon to transcend state institutions perhaps generally rendering them subservient or obsolete. Indeed, events in the Middle East especially seem to indicate that the "neoconservative" paradigm has outlived its value for the global elite. Where once strong states were considered prerequisite for the extraction of resources, it is now seen as cheaper to maintain a client base which perpetuates the endless struggles which keep its participants unable to ever achieve a victory by which they could sieze actual control of the material conditions within which they exist. The degree of brainwashing, probably aided by pharmaceutical drugs, is unknown; it should probably be considered that need rather than ideology is driving most of the fighters to participate whereas they may rather live in a stable society. The collapse of civil society in Libya, Iraq and Syria are the examples of which I speak.
In my blog post http://www.thomhartmann.com/users/nimblecivet/blog/2013/11/comparing-tod... I promised further examination of the rise of the city-state. This post is an antecedent to that, being one of the thoughts on my mind which I felt I had to put down in permanent form. This post does approach that subject partially in regard to raising the issue of the social form of organization brought about by urbanization. In my next post I will either focus solely on the idea of society having reached the point of no return in respect to the idea of the individual having a "rational option" or I will somehow combine that thought with the coming post on the post-modern city-state.

Comments

nimblecivet 5 years 34 weeks ago
#1

I had to come back to this thread because of a recent spate of articles about the struggle for control going on in Michoacan State in Mexico, which illustrates several of my points made above and brings up a few issues. I'll preface simply by stating that the extortion/protection rackets are not merely focused on illegal drugs but avocados, limes, and mangos. Now I'm going to relate the articles to you in the order I read them and make my points along the way.

First, we have this article from 8/14/13, about five months ago:

Mexican Knights Templar Drug Cartel's Bizarre Publicity Push By MARK STEVENSON 08/14/13 07:48 PM ET EDT AP

The first paragraphs introduce 4 groups; 1) Peace with Dignity for Michoacan2) the Knights Templar cartel, and 3) the federal police of Mexico and 4) local self-defense groups in armes conflict with the Knights Templar. This article discusses the relationship between the self-defence groups (which have arisen among the populations of various towns in Michoacan) and the federal police as one of an alliance. We will see that later U.S. conservative commentators will characterize the stated goal of the federal government to regain control as a gun-grab, not totally without a basis in fact. The Mexican federal police have a mandate to disarm the civilians under Mexican law, despite their statements that their goal in Michoacan is to depose the cartels.

What is thematically interesting here is the invocation of the right to self-defense. The good-faith of the self-defense groups is demonstrated by their willingness to accept the federal government's aid in fighting the Knights Templar cartel. The Knights Templar also have their supporters however in the Peace with Dignity group, and claim that they have a legitimate role in keeping order due to their history of having helped the townspeople fight off other cartels. The Templars further argue that the self-defense groups are not merely grassroots networks that have sprung up in defiance of Templars' abuses but are in fact operating in conjuntion with the Jalisco cartel. The Templars claim their services are necessary to deter theives from robbing the avocado crops, and accuse the federal police of harrassing women and scaring away tourists.

Let's move on to the next article dated 11/8/13 from the Huffington Post,
In Mexico, Locals In Self-Defense Squads Take Fight To Knights Templar Drug Gang And Win By KATHERINE CORCORAN 11/08/13 05:53 PM ET EST AP.


"We lived in bondage, threatened by organized crime," said Leticia, 40, who ekes out a living picking fruit and selling chicken on the side. "They wanted to treat people like animals."
Eight months after locals formed self-defense groups, they say they are free of the cartel in six municipalities of the Tierra Caliente, or "Hot Land," which earned its moniker for the scorching weather but whose name has also come to signify criminal activity. What's more, the self-defense group leaders, who are clearly breaking Mexican law by picking up military-style arms to fight criminals, say the federal government is no longer arresting them, but recruiting them to help federal forces identify cartel members.

The Templars had imposed a ban on the purchase of limes on the packing company the Templars had under their thumb. The article goes on to delve into the situation and the possible complications of shifting and questionable loyalties. The locals had turned to the predecessors of the Templars, La Familia, which came under heavy attack by the Calderon administration. The remnants of La Familia re-dubbed themselves the Knights Templar and began to fund themselves through protection money more than drugs, attempting to gain dominance over the agricultural sector in the area.

Even more recently according to this next article statements by Mexican federal officials reinforce the characterization of the relationship between the government and the self-defence groups as one of co-operation:
Mexican government says 'vigilantes not the target' 16 January 2014 Last updated at 07:27 ET
The Jalisco operation the self-defence groups are said by the Templars to be co-operating with is called "New Generation".

Next up is "Obama-backed Mexican Troops Disarm & Massacre More Civilians Written by Alex Newman Wednesday, 15 January 2014 18:45".
Now we have Obama worked into the equasion, but without any insight into how exactly the Knights Templar chose their name, a legitimate question given the various associations with the name including fraternaties operating within the U.S. military, especially in consideration of this idea from another conservative writer:


(Down Mexico Way; A rebellion is brewing south of the border By Justin Raimondo January 20, 2014 "Information Clearing House - "Antiwar")
An all out civil war in Mexico would have to mean millions of refugees crossing the border into the US in a veritable floodtide – one that could not be stopped by our Border Patrol, or, indeed, anything short of a massive military mobilization. The military conflict would inevitably spill over the border: for the first time since the Mexican-American war, the American southwest could conceivably become a battle zone.
Furthermore, Mexican-Americans, both citizens and undocumented, will invariably be drawn into the conflict: indeed, many of the activists involved in the self-defense groups were born in the US and have lived here for years. On the other hand, the cartels also have numerous operatives north of the Rio Grande, where they are a huge presence in the American crime scene.
Will Mexico’s civil strife be played out on the streets of American cities? This is a question our political class ought to be asking about now, but they’re too fixated on the wars in far-off Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq to fully appreciate (or even notice) the fire burning right on their doorstep.
Naturally, when they do recognize the threat they’ll respond as they’ve always responded: with brute force. Our efforts to prop up the Mexican government will no doubt result in the usual catastrophe, with the Mexican version of Hamid Karzai reveling in corruption while the rest of the country outside Mexico City falls apart. In effect, such a conflict would entail pitting the central government and the cartels against the "vigilantes." The United States, as usual, would be on the side of Evil.

On the side of Evil...wait, isn't that supposed to be a progressive meme? But just consider that (admittedly hyperbolic) scenario in tandem with the idea that U.S. citizens who went to fight in Syria are now supposed to have come back and begun posing a worry for our Gaurdians of the Homeland.

So, the right-wing spin here is that drugs should be legalized, everybody should be able to defend themselves with military-grade weaponry and the Federal Government is your enemy. Come to think of it, Orwell advocated for neighborhood-based militias.

Quote Wikipedia:
He shared Tom Wintringham's socialist vision for the Home Guard as a revolutionary People's Militia. His lecture notes for instructing platoon members include advice on street fighting, field fortifications, and the use of mortars of various kinds.

First of all, the U.S. government would not need to use too much force if any since local police departments all over the country have been going the way the LAPD has for a long time, paramilitary style. Secondly, while the gangs and cartels mentioned in reference to events in Mexico may be the predominant forces there, whatever client-based relationships they have with U.S. syndicates do not imply a World War One style domino effect of escalating hostilities drawing in the entire criminal world on both sides of the border and thereby necessitating the imposition of martial law, the utilization of FEMA camps, mass gun confiscation, etc.
Nevertheless, the information which right-wingers bring to bear is oddly similar to the criticisms of corruption pointed out by the left, and one wonders how much of the information they provide, often quite detailed, is relevant. On that note we'll get to an article about the Sinaloa cartel shortly. That story also includes connections to operation in Brazil, something to keep in mind in relation to recent revelations about wiretapping foreign nations' state office holders. U.S. involvement in "the shadows" seems to be ubiquitous around the world. Also, arguably the right-wingers are at least consistent if not correct in arguing that even in the face of superior firepower an armed populace is able to represent their own interests if necessary against corrupt institutions and criminals. Progressives should probably focus on changing the conditions overall, and embrace drug legalization, and avoid the gun issue but of course Democrats always find a way to loose.
Now, the New America article makes some interesting claims in regard to the Michoacan situation. Newman's argument is that the Knights Templar are backed by the Mexican federal government as well as, or rather by extention, the U.S. federal government. In other words, the Obama administration is running guns to Mexican criminals and then assisting the Mexican government in disarming its citizens.

Initially, Mexico City reluctantly tolerated some of the self-defense groups despite the radical gun-control regime. More recently, however, in response to locals’ efforts to restore order and security in their villages, authorities sent in hundreds of soldiers and federal police. Upon arrival, officials reportedly ordered citizens to surrender their only means of self-defense — mostly crude firearms. When villagers refused to let them pass, Mexican forces reportedly opened fire, shooting about a dozen victims and killing at least four, probably more.
“What we are doing is defending our family, our people,” said Estanislao Beltran, a spokesman for the General Council and Community Self-Defense Forces of Michoacán. “The government has not cared for 12 years for our safety. The army arrives and disarms us and our partners.... Following this, the people took to the roads to stop the army and asked for the return of the arms to the community because they were defending their communities.”
Beltran also said that citizens would “never” give up their weapons and that there would be no discussions with authorities until Knights Templar bosses are arrested. “The problem is the Caballeros Templarios of Michoacán, and the government is in collusion with organized crime,” he added. “The army is made of people without values or ethics. The military has no reason to shoot the people.” Other local residents and community leaders echoed those remarks, with some grieving over the loss of their loved ones at the hands of Mexican forces.

We need to reach back a little farther, to 2011, to see the nefarious connections which are alleged, and which are difficult to ignore outright or dismiss entirely without conceding that there is a problem. The left has been the source of activism in respect to the notorious School of the Americas, but here we find a connection in an article describing certain aspects of the Fast and Furious program:
Reports: CIA Working with Mexican Drug Cartels Written by Alex Newman Monday, 15 August 2011 17:27

Citing an unnamed CIA source, a Washington Times article theorizes that U.S. officials were actively aiding organizations such as the Sinaloa cartel with guns and immunity in an effort to stymie Los Zetas. That’s because, according to the piece, the powerful and brutal criminal Zetas syndicate has the potential to overthrow the government of Mexico — and might be planning to do so.
...
“The CIA’s motive is clear enough: The U.S. government is afraid the Los Zetas drug cartel will mount a successful coup d’etat against the government of [Mexican President] Felipe Calderón,” wrote Robert Farago and Ralph Dixon in the Times’ report, entitled “Was CIA behind Operation Fast and Furious?”
According to the article, which also cites former CIA officials and even ex-Drug Enforcement Administration boss Phil Jordan, Los Zetas has already prepared to disrupt and possibly even subvert Mexico’s 2012 national election. Ironically, many leaders of the criminal empire supposedly threatening the existence of the Mexican government were actually trained in the U.S. at the infamous military training center known as School of the Americas.

Continuing on with this article we find that Newman references an instance of a criminal exploiting the legal system for his own benefit and thereby revealing more information, and also references more whistleblowers whose statements imply a much wider-ranging attempt by the U.S. to control the dynamic in Mexico by aiding rival factions:

The accused “logistical coordinator” for the Sinaloa organization, Jesus Vicente “El Vicentillo” Zambada-Niebla, claimed that he had an agreement with top American officials. In exchange for information on rival cartels, the deal supposedly gave him and his associates immunity to import multi-ton quantities of drugs across the border.
“Indeed, United States government agents aided the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel,” the court filing states. Countless guns — via Operation Fast and Furious — also flowed to the cartel under the arrangement, according to Zambada-Niebla and U.S. officials.
But there might be even more to the story than this. Other former U.S. agents have claimed that Los Zetas is controlled and abetted by the American government, too. “There's warehouses down here [in Texas] where they're training more Zetas individuals that work for the cartels,” former DEA operative and whistleblower Celerino Castillo said during a radio interview with Alex Jones.

Let's see what another conservative writer has to say, Mr. Raimundo whom we quoted earlier. Again:
Down Mexico Way; A rebellion is brewing south of the border By Justin Raimondo January 20, 2014 "Information Clearing House - "Antiwar"
One thing that is interesting about Mr. Raimundo's explication is that he portrays an interclass alliance among those forming the self-defence groups.
Because "the cartels engage in massive extortion, collecting "taxes" from both wealthy businessmen and poor campesinos in the fields", the self-defense groups are correspondingly "groups of ordinary Mexicans, from wealthy ranchers to poor field hands, who have organized to take back their land – and their lives – from gangs of murderous thugs (whether they be the cartels’ hooligans, or those who commit the same crimes under color of State authority)". These self-defense forces have taken the initiative in driving out the cartels.
Unfortunately Raimondo digresses into a highly dubious portrayal of the historical background related to land reform in Mexico and is accordingly taken to task by one of the commentors on the site the story is posted at, but we won't go into that here.
Most recently: Mexico Knights Templar 'leader' captured in Michoacan 20 January 2014 Last updated at 12:54 ET

Mexican security forces have arrested 38 members of the Knights Templar drug cartel, as part of an operation to restore order in Michoacan state.
Jesus Vasquez Macias, 37, whom officials described as a leading figure in the gang, was among those detained.
...
However, vigilante groups say Mr Vazquez Macias is a top hit man, not a cartel leader.
...
The Knights Templar, who claim to protect the local population from attacks from rival gangs, have accused the self-defence groups of siding with the New Generation drug cartel based in neighbouring Jalisco state.
They say the fact that some of the vigilantes are carrying powerful assault weapons shows they are not local farmers but are in the pay of the New Generation gang.

Quote Wikipedia:
In spring 2011, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel declared war on all other Mexican cartels and stated its intention to take control of the city of Guadalajara. However, by midsummer, the group appeared to have been reunited with its former partners in the Sinaloa Cartel. In addition to maintaining its anti-Zetas alliance with the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel in 2011 affiliated itself with the Knights Templar in Michoacán; to counter Los Zetas in the state of Jalisco, the Sinaloa Cartel affiliated itself with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.[2]
nimblecivet 5 years 34 weeks ago
#2

Of related interest...

http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/bill-conroy/2014/01/ice-invest...

ICE Investigation Targeting Drug Planes Plagued by Scandal, Court Records Show Posted by Bill Conroy - January 19, 2014 at 8:24 pm
Was “Mayan Jaguar” a Corrupt Undercover Op or a CIA Cover?

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) undercover operation involving the sale and tracking of aircraft to drug organizations played out for nearly four years in Latin America, likely allowing tons of narcotics to be flown into the US, yet it failed to result in a single prosecution in the United States, according to federal court pleadings recently discovered by Narco News.

The ICE undercover operation, dubbed Mayan Jaguar, came to a screeching halt when one of the aircraft in its sights, a Gulfstream II corporate jet, crashed on Sept. 24, 2007, in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with nearly 4 tons of cocaine onboard. Also on that jet at the time, according to recently discovered pleadings filed in US District Court in Florida, was an ICE transponder, which was being used as a tracking device.
...

Malago, the court pleadings indicate further, is now seeking asylum in the US because he is facing the threat of deportation — ironically at the hands of the same agency, DHS, for which he worked as an informant. (Another ICE informant, in the infamous House of Death case, met with a similar fate, facing the threat of deportation after his participation in murders in Juarez, Mexico, while on ICE’s payroll, was exposed due to the near-assassination of a DEA agent and his family. See link.)
...

Law enforcers and intelligence operatives who spoke with Narco News, however, say the transponder strategy employed in Mayan Jaguar was seriously flawed — assuming that transponders were the primary means employed to track the drug planes, as the court pleadings assert.

The sources point out that the drugs onboard the targeted aircraft, unless monitored independently via a separate tracking device, could easily be offloaded prior to the plane crossing into US airspace, or shortly after — rendering the ICE transponder useless for tracking the actual drugs.

In addition, as the prosecutor in Malago’s case points out, if there is no transponder at all, then the drugs could cross into the US without setting off an alarm. In such a case, the ICE operation appears to have done little more than provide the narco-trafficking group with the means to smuggle the drugs — the aircraft itself.

And worse, intelligence sources point out, if corrupt agents or a covert intelligence operation were in play via Mayan Jaguar, or both, the transponder signal could be used as an “all-clear” beacon, assuring the aircraft was not identified as a “bogey” or suspect flight, and allowing it to land in a safe zone under the cover of being a government operation, so it’s cargo could be offloaded without scrutiny.

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