intersectionality

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Unformatted text preview: Image courtesy of THINK AGAIN 2006, www.agitart.org “We Are Not Women” Even those biological factors that do correlate with increased rates of murder, such as age and sex, are not primary determinants or independent causes of violent behavior. They do not sponta- neously, in and of themselves, create violent im- pulses; they act only to increase the predisposition to engage in violence, when the individual is ex- posed to the social and psychological stimuli that do stimulate violent impulses. In the absence of those stimuli, these biological factors acting alone do not seem to stimulate or cause violence spon- taneously or independently. That is good news; for while we cannot alter or eliminate the biological realities of age and sex, which are made by God, we can bring about fundamental changes in the social and cultural conditions that expose people to increased rates and intensities of shame and humiliation, since culture and society are made by us. In this chap- ter I will analyze some of the cultural patterns, values, and practices that stimulate violence, and how they might be altered to prevent violence. When these conditions are altered the ex- posure of human populations to shame is dra- matically reduced—and so is violence. Those economically developed democracies all over the world that have evolved into “welfare states” since the end of the Second World War, includ- ing all of Western Europe, Japan, Canada, Aus- tralia, and New Zealand, offer universal and free health care, generous public housing, unemploy- From Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, Vin- tage Books, pp. 225—239. Copyright © 1996 by James Gilligan, M.D. Reprinted by permission of the author. James Gilligan Culture, Gender, and Violence: ment and family leave policies, and so on. Every one of those countries has a more equitable (and hence less shame-inducing) socioeconomic sys- tem than the United States does. There is a much greater sharing of the collective wealth of the so- ciety as measured, for example, by the smaller gap between the income and wealth of the most and least affluent segments of their populations. Our rate of violent crime (murder, rape) is from two to twenty times as high as it is in any of the other economically developed democracies. This is precisely what the theory presented in this book would predict. Other cultures have also altered their social conditions so as to protect their members from exposure to overwhelming degrees of shame and humiliation, and have experienced the dramatic diminution in rates of violence that the theory es- poused in this book would lead us to expect. They demonstrate the degree to which rates of violence are determined by social, cultural, and economic conditions. One example would be those societies that practice what has been called “primitive Christian communism,” and are truly classless societies whose economic systems are based on communal sharing—Anabaptist sects such as the Hutterities, Mennonites, and Amish. One remarkable feature of these societies is that the incidence of violence in them is virtually zero. The Hutterites, for example, do not appear to have had a single confirmed case of murder, rape, ag- gravated assault, or armed robbery since they ar- rived in America more than a hundred years ago. They also practice a strict and absolute pacifism, which is why they had to emigrate to America 542 P A R 'r r E N Violence and Masculinity from Europe in the last century—to escape be- coming victims of genocide at the hands of gov- ernments there which were persecuting them. While that aspect of their experience is one rea- son why I do not propose them as a model for our own society to emulate in any concrete, literal way, they do demonstrate that violence does not have to be universal; and that altering social, cul- tural, and economic conditions can dramatically reduce, and for all practical purposes eliminate, human violence from the face of the earth. One apparent exception to the generaliza— tions I am making here is Japan, which has often been cited as a “shame culture.” If frequent ex- posure and intense sensitivity to shame (in the absence of a correspondingly powerful exposure to guilt) stimulates violence toward others, then why does Japan have a relatively low homicide and high suicide rate—the same pattern that char- acterizes those societies that have sometimes been called “guilt cultures,” namely, the European and other economically developed “welfare state” democracies? There are two answers to that ques- tion, one that refers to the period before World War II, and the other, the time since then. During both periods, Japan has been de- scribed by those who know it best as an intensely homogeneous and conformist society, with strong pressures against individual deviations from group norms and behaviors. That social pattern had, and still has, a powerful influence on the patterns of Japanese violence. Until the end of the Second World War, Japan was an extremely violent society—indeed, one of the most violent in the history of the world; they have been described, both by themselves and by their neighbors, as “a / nation of warriors” since they first emerged as an independent nation two to three thousand years ago. However, that violence was directed almost entirely toward non-Japanese. Some cultures, such as Japan’s, have been more successful than others in channeling the homicidal behavior of their members toward members of other cultures, so that it is labeled warfare or genocide, rather than toward members of their own culture, which is called murder. Thus, the Japanese engaged in a degree of violence toward their Asian neigh- bors from 1930 to 1945 that was just as genocidal as what the Germans perpetrated in Europe. When compared to the number of suicides that Japanese citizens committed during the first half of this century, the number of homicides that they committed (in the form of warfare) during that same period was astronomical—exactly as the theory proposed in this book would predict. However, since 1945 the social and economic conditions in Japan have changed remarkably. Japan today has the lowest degree of economic inequity among its citizens in the world (as judged by the World Bank’s measures of relative income and wealth). So it is not surprising that Japan also has aremarkably low frequency both of violent crime and of structural violence. For if socioeco- nomic inequities expose those at the bottom of the ladder to intense feelings of inferiority; if rel- ative equality protects people from those feelings; and if inferioritytfeelings stimulate violent im- pulses, then it is not surprising that Japan’s cur- rent socioeconomic structure would be marked by a low level of violence toward others, as in- deed it is—even if the Japanese are unusually sensitive to feelings and experiences of shame, and even if (as some observers have claimed) they are not especially sensitive to or likely to ex- perience guilt feelings. For their socioeconomic system, even if it does revolve primarily around sensitivity to shame rather than guilt, actively protects most individuals from being exposed to overwhelming degrees of shame, and also pro- vides them with nonviolent (e. g., economic) means by which to prevent or undo any “loss of face” that is experienced. If the main causes of violence are these so— cial and psychological variables (shame versus honor), an apparent anomaly lies in the fact that men are and always have been more violent than women, throughout history and throughout the world. If shame stimulates violence; if being treated as inferior stimulates shame; and if women have been treated throughout history as inferior to men, then why are women less violent than men? (And they are indeed vastly less likely than men are to com _ I , arfare, and assault, ineVery’ 5 every period of history.) ' The [Making of “Manhood” and the Violence of Men To understand this apparent anomaly, we must examine the cultural construction of masculinity and femininity, and the contrasting conditions under which the two sexes, once they have been cast into patriarchally defined “gender roles,” are exposed to feelings of private shame or public dis- honor. To understand physical violence we must understand male violence, since most violence is committed by males, and on other males. And we can only understand male violence if we under- stand the sex roles, or gender roles, into which males are socialized by the gender codes of their particular cultures. Moreover, we can only un- derstand male gender roles if we understand how those are reciprocally related to the contrasting but complementary sex or gender roles into which females are socialized in that same culture, so that the male and female roles require and rein- » force each other. Gender codes reinforce the socialization of girls and women, socializing them to acquiesce in, support, defend, and cling to the traditional set of social roles, and to enforce conformity on other females as well. Restrictions on their free- dom to engage in sexual as well as aggressive be- havior is the price women pay for their relative freedom from the risk of lethal and life-threatening violence to which men and boys are much more frequently exposed (a dubious bribe, at best, and one which shortchanges women, as more and more women realize). The outpouring of scholarship across disci- plines on the asymmetrical social roles assigned to males and females by the various cultures and civilizations of the world, including our Own, has included works in history, economics, literary theory, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psy- chology, science, law, religious studies, ethnic studies, and women’s studies. One thing all this work has made clear to me (and to many others) is that listening to women (for the first time), and opening up a dialogue between men and women, rather than merely continuing what has through- out most of the history of civilization been primarily a male monologue, is a necessary pre- requisite for learning how to transform our civi- lization into a culture that is compatible with life. And to do that requires that men and women both learn to interact in ways that have simply not been permitted by the gender codes of the past. My work has focused on the ways in which male gender codes reinforce the socialization of boys and men, teaching them to acquiesce in (and support, defend, and cling to) their own set of so- cial roles, and a code of honor that defines and obligates these roles. Boys and men are exposed thereby to substantially greater frequencies of physical injury, pain, mutilation, disability, and premature death. This code of honor requires men to inflict these same violent injuries on oth- ers of both sexes, but mOSt frequently and severely on themselves and other males, whether or not they want to be violent toward anyone of either sex. Among the most interesting findings reported by social scientists is the fact that men and women stand in a markedly different relationship to the whole system of allotting honor in “cultures of honor.” For example, one observation that has been made recurrently is that men are the only possible sources, or active generators (agents), of honor. The only active effect that women can have on honor, in those cultures in which this is a central value, is to destroy it. But women do have that power: They can destroy the honor of the males in their household. The culturally de- fined syrnbol system through which women in pa- triarchies bring honor or dishonor to men is the World of sex—that is, female sexual behavior. In this value system, which is both absurd from any rational standpoint and highly dangerous to the continued survival of our species given its effect of stimulating male violence, men delegate to women the power to bring dishonor on men. That is, men put their honor in the hands of “their” 544 PART TEN Violemzeandfllascullnityp. women. The most emotionally powerful means by which women can dishonor men (in this male construction) is by engaging in nonmarital sex, i.e., by being too sexually active or aggressive (“unchaste” or “unfaithful”) before, during, or even after marriage. These themes are prominent in one well- I known “culture of honor, ” for example, the Amer- ican South. Bertram Wyatt-Brown illustrated this by quoting from a letter Lucius Quintus Cincin- natus Lamar wrote to Mary Chesnut in 1861, in which he compares the men of the South to Homer’s heroes, who “fought like brave men, long and well,” and then went on to say “We are men, not women.” The real tragedy for Lamar, as Wyatt-Brown saw, was that “for him, as for many, the Civil War was reduced to a simple test of manhood.” And women can adopt those same views of manhood, as Mary Chesnut recounts in her diary: “ ‘Are you like Aunt Mary? Would you be happier if all the men in the family were killed?’ To our amazement, quiet Miss C. took up the cudgels—nobly: ‘Yes, if their life disgraced them. There are worse things than death.’ ” These atti- tudes are exactly the same as those of the men I have known in maximum-security prisons. That the same relative differences between the two gender roles can be found in many civi- lizations throughout history and throughout the world emphasizes the importance of understand- ing that it is men who are expected to be violent, and who are honored for doing so and dishonored for being unwilling to be violent. A woman’s worthiness to be honored or shamed is judged by how well she fills her roles in sexually related ac- tivities, especially the roles of actual or potential wife and mother. Men are honored for activity (ultimately, violent activity); and they are dishon- ored for passivity (or pacifism), which renders them vulnerable to the charge of being a non-man (“a wimp, a punk, and a pussy,” to quote the phrase that was so central to the identity of the murderer I analyzed in Chapter Three). Women are honored for inactivity or passivity, for not en- gaging in forbidden activities. They are shamed or dishonored if they are active where they should not be—sexually or in realms that are forbidden (professional ambition, aggressiveness, competi- tiveness and success; or violent activity, such as warfare or other forms of murder). Lady Mac- beth, for example, realized that to commit mur- der she would have to be “unsex’d,” i.e., freed from the restraints on violence that were imposed on her by virtue of her belonging to the female sex; and even then, she was unable to commit murder herself, but had to shame her husband into committing murder for her, so that she could only participate in violent behavior vicariously (just as she could only gain honor vicariously, through the honor she would obtain through being his queen when he became king). Further evidence that men are violence ob- jects and women, sex objects, can be found by ex- amining the kinds of crimes that are committed against each sex. Men constitute, on the average, 75 percent or more of the victims of lethal physical violence in the United States—homicide, suicide, so-called unintentional injuries (from working in hazardous occupations, engaging in violent ath- letic contests, and participating in other high-risk activities), deaths in military combat, and so on. And throughout the world, men die from all these same forms of violence from two to five times as often as women do, as the World Health Organi- zation documents each year. Women, on the other hand, according to the best available evi- dence, seem to be the victims of sex crimes (such as rape and incest) more often than men are. Both men and women seem to feel that men are more acceptable as objects of physical violence than women are, for both sexes kill men several times more often than they kill women. Even in exper- imental studies conducted by psychologists, both men and women exhibit greater readiness and willingness to inflict pain on men than on women, under otherwise identical conditions. Studies of child abuse in those countries in which reason— ably accurate statistics are available find that boys are more often victims of lethal or life—threatening violent child abuse c ual abuse (being treated/astsembjectsy—with few exceptions. Virtually every nation that has had a military draft has decided either that only men should be drafted, or that only men should be sent into combat. Again, none of this should surprise us, given the competition between men for status, valor, bravery, heroism—and honor—in patriar- chal societies. We cannot think about preventing violence without a radical change in the gender roles to which men and women are subjected. The male gender role generates violence by exposing men to shame if they are not violent, and rewarding them with honor when they are. The female gen- der role also stimulates male violence at the same time that it inhibits female violence. It does this by restricting women to the role of highly unfree sex objects, and honoring them to the degree that they submit to those roles or shaming them when they rebel. This encourages men to treat women as sex objects, and encourages women to conform to that sex role; but it also encourages women (and men) to treat men as violence objects. It also encourages a man to become violent if the woman to whom he is related or married “dishonors” him by acting in ways that transgress her prescribed sexual role. Since culture is itself constructed, by all of us, if we want to take steps to diminish the amount of violence in our society, both physical and sex- ual, we can take those steps. To speak of elimi- nating the sexual asymmetry that casts men and women into opposing sex roles is to speak of lib- erating both men and women from arbitrary and destructive stereotypes, and to begin treating both women and men as individuals, responding to their individual goals and abilities, rather than to the group (male or female) to which they belong. There is a deep and tragic paradox about civ- ilization. On the one hand, it has been, up to now, the most life-enhancing innovation the human species has created. The sciences have made it possible for more people to live, and to live longer em, Aié mat Women” 545 lives, and to live better lives, freer of pain and ill- ness, cold and hunger, than was ever possible be-, fore civilization was invented; and the many forms of art that could not and did not exist ex- cept under conditions of civilization are among the main things that make life worth living. But the paradox is that civilization has also increased both the level of human violence, and the scale of the human potential for violence, far beyond any- thing that any precivilized human culture had done. In the past, the primary threat to human survival was nature, now it is culture. Human suf- fering before civilization was mainly pathos; since the creation of civilization, it has become, in- creasingly, tragedy. In fact, it would not be going too far to say that violence is the tragic flaw of civilization. The task confronting us now is to see whetherwe can end the tragic (violent) element of civilization while maintaining its life-enhancing aspects. Why has civilization resulted in the most enormous augmentation of human violence since the human species first evolved from its primate forebears? I believe that that question can only be answered by taking into account the psychol- ogy of shame. Shame not only motivates de- structive behavior, it also motivates constructive behavior. It is the emotion that motivates the am- bition and the need for achievement that in turn motivates the invention of civilization. But—and this is the crux of the matter—this same emotion, shame, that motivates the ambi- tion, activity, and need for achievement that is necessary for the creation of civilization also mo- tivates violence. And when the enormous increase in technological power that civilization brings with it is joined to the enormous increase in vio- lent impulses that shame brings with it, the stage is set for exactly the drama that the history (that is, the civilization) of the world shows us namely, human social life as an almost uninter- rupted, and almost uninterruptedly escalating, series of mass slaughters, “tot ” and increasingly genocidal wars, and an unprecedented threat to the very continuation not only of civilization itself 546 PART TEN ViolenoeandMascuunieyz (which brought this situation about, it cannot be emphasized too strongly) but much more impor- tantly, of the human species for the sake of whose survival civilization was invented in the first place. Through my clinical work with Violent men and my analysis of the psychodynamics of shame and guilt, I have come to View the relationship between civilization and violence in a way that is the diametrical opposite of Freud’s. Freud saw violence as an inevitable, spontaneously occur- ring, natural, innate, instinctual impulse, and civ- ilization and morality as attempts at “taming,” neutralizing, inhibiting, or controlling that violent impulse. I see violence, in contrast, as defenSive, caused, interpretable, and therefore preventable; and I see civilization, as it has existed up to now (because of class, caste and age stratification, and sexual asymmetry), as among the most potent causes of violence. ' One of the puzzles of this century is the phe- nomenon of Nazism: how could one of the most civilized nations on earth have been capable of such uncivilized, barbaric behavior? (One could ask the same question about Japan’s record in World War II.) But from the perspective being elaborated here, genocide is not a regression or an aberration from civilization, or a repudiation of it. It is the inner destiny of civilization, its core tendency—its tragic flaw. Genocide has charac- terized the behavior of most of the great world civilizations, from ancient Mesopotamia to Rome, to medieval Europe, to the African slave trade and the conquest of the Americas, to the Holo- caust and atomic weapons. How to deal with violence, then? The moral value system (which I will call “shame-ethics”) , that underlies the code of honor of those patriar- chal cultures and subcultures in which behavioral norms are enforced primarily by the sanctions of shame versus honor, such as the Mafia, urban street gangs, and much of the rest of American culture, rationalizes, legitirnates, encourages, and even commands violence: it does not prohibit or inhibit it. . The kind of morality that I am calling guilt- ethics (that says “Thou shalt not kill”) is an at- tempt at a kind of therapy, an attempt to cure the human propensity to engage in violence, which is stimulated by shame-ethics. And that was a noble attempt, which one can only wish had been suc- cessful. Why has it not worked? I think that the analysis of violence presented in this book can enable us to see the answer to that question. The reason that guilt-ethics has not solved and cannot solve the problem of violence is because it does not dismantle the motivational structure that causes violence in the first place (namely, shame, and the shame-ethics that it motivates). Guilt, and guilt-ethics, merely changes the direction of the violence that shame has generated, it does not prevent the violence in the first place. It primar- ily redirects, onto the self, the violent impulses that shame generates toward other people. But it does not prevent violence, or even inhibit it. Suicide is no solution to the problem of homi- cide; both forms of violence are equally lethal. Masochism is no solution to the problem of sadism; both forms of pathology are equally de- structive and painful. Neither shame nor guilt, then, can solve the problem of violence; shame causes hate, which becomes violence (usually toward other people), and guilt merely redirects it (usually onto the self). But to say simply that we need more love, and less shame and guilt, is vacuous. What we really need is to be able to specify the conditions that can enable love to grow without being inhibited by either shame or guilt. And it is clear that shame and guilt do inhibit love. Shame inhibits people from loving others, because shame consists of a deficiency of self-love, and thus it motivates peo— ple to withdraw love from others and ration it for the self. Guilt, on the other hand, inhibits self- love, or pride, which the Christian guilt-ethic calls the deadliest of the seven deadly sins. Guilt mo- tivates people to hate themselves, not love them- selves, because the feeling of guilt is the feeling that one is guilty and therefore deserves punish- ment (pain, hate), not reward (pleasure, love). If we approach violence as a problem in pub- lic health and preventive medicine then we need to ask: What are the conditions that stimulate shame and guilt o , a 'ologi- cally significant seal _ ,mndifiOns that are most important are relativepoverty, race and age discrimination, and sexual asymmetry. Ifwe wish to prevent violence, then, our agenda is political and economic reform. The social policies that would be most effec- tive in preventing violence are those that would reduce the amount of shame. To reduce the amount of shame, we need to reduce the intensity of the passive, dependent regressive wishes that stimulate shame. And to reduce the intensity of those wishes, we must gratify those wishes; by taking better care of each other, especially the neediest among us—particularly beginning in childhood, when the needs for love and care are most intense and peremptory. To quote again the phrase that Dostoevsky put in the mouth of Fa- ther Zossima, we then would recognize that “all are responsible for all.” We have a horror of dependency in this country—particularly dependency on the part of men. No wonder we have so much violence—es- pecially male violence. For the horror of depen- dency is what causes violence. The emotion that causes the horror of dependency is shame. Men, much more than women, are taught that to want love or care from others is to be passive, depen- dent, unaggressive and unambitious or, in short, unmanly; and that they will be subjected to sham- ing, ridicule, and disrespect if they appear un- manly in the eyes of others. Women, by contrast, have traditionally been taught that they will be honored if, and only if, they accept a role that re- stricts them to the relatively passive aim of ar- ranging to be loved by men and to depend on men for their social and economic status, forego- ing or severely limiting or disguising activity, am- bition, independence, and initiative of their own. This set of injunctions decreases women’s vul— nerability to behaving violently, but it also inhibits women from participating actively or directly in the building of civilization, in part by reducing them to the role of men’s sex objects. We Americans, as a society, appear to be hor- rified by the thought that a man could be depen- m, Are Not mm 547 dent on anyone (other than himself), and that a woman could be dependent on anyone (other than “her man,” that is, her father or husband). The ex- tent of our horror of dependency can be seen in our horror of what is somewhat misleadingly called “welfare dependency”—whether it is the “depen- dency” on society of an unemployed or disabled man, of an unmarried mother, or of a child with- out a father. This conceals, or rather reveals, that we as a nation do less for our own citizens than does any other democracy on earth; less health care, child care, housing, support to families, and so on. So that we end up shaming and blaming those whose needs are exposed. Therefore it is not surprising that we also have more violence than does any other democracy on earth, as well as more imprisonment—since we shame some peo- ple for having needs that all people have. For needs that are repressed do not get met, nor do they just disappear. The return of repressed needs, in unconscious, disguised form, is what the various symptoms of psychopathology consist of. One form in which repressed needs for care return is chronic institutionalization—that is, long-term imprisonment or mental hospitalization—which allows us as a society to punish massively, while we gratify grudgingly, those needs of which we are so intolerant. ' In fact, the violence of our society reveals our shame at being less “independent” than we “de- clared” ourselves to be two centuries ago. In con- temporary America, to want love, to depend on others, to be less than completely self-sufficient, is to be shamed by all the institutions of our society, from welfare offices to mental hospitals to pris— ons. One can pretend that one is in an institution only because one__is so tough and dangerous and scary, so active and aggressive, and so indepen- dent of the community’s standards, that the courts insisted on locking one up against one’s own wishes. But nevertheless, it is true that for many men in our society it is only in prison that one is given three meals a day, a warm bed to sleep in at night, a roof over one’s head, and people who care enough about one to make sure that one is there every night. 546 PART TEN ViolenoeandMascufinityi: (which brought this situation about, it cannot be emphasized too strongly) but much more impor- tantly, of the human species for the sake of whose survival civilization was invented in the first place. Through my clinical work with violent men and my analysis of the psychodynamics of shame and guilt, I have come to View the relationship between civilization and Violence in a way that is the diametrical opposite of Freud’s. Freud saw violence as an inevitable, spontaneously occur- ring, natural, innate, instinctual impulse, and civ- ilization and morality as attempts at “taming,” neutralizing, inhibiting, or controlling that violent impulse. I see violence, in contrast, as defensive, caused, interpretable, and therefore preventable; and I see civilization, as it has existed up to now (because of class, caste and age stratification, and sexual asymmetry), as among the most potent causes of violence. ' One of the puzzles of this century is the phe- nomenon of Nazism: how could one of the most civilized nations on earth have been capable of such uncivilized, barbaric behavior? (One could ask the same question about Japan’s record in World War II.) But from the perspective being elaborated here, genocide is not a regression or an aberration from civilization, or a repudiation of it. It is the inner destiny of civilization, its core tendency—its tragic flaw. Genocide has charac- terized the behavior of most of the great world civilizations, from ancient Mesopotamia to Rome, to medieval Europe, to the African slave trade and the conquest of the Americas, to the Holo- caust and atomic weapons. How to deal with violence, then? The moral value system (which I will call “shame-ethics”) , that underlies the code of honor of those patriar- chal cultures and subcultures in which behavioral norms are enforced primarily by the sanctions of shame versus honor, such as the Mafia, urban street gangs, and much of the rest of American culture, rationalizes, legitirnates, encourages, and even commands violence: it does not prohibit or inhibit it. . The kind of morality that I am calling guilt- ethics (that says “Thou shalt not kill”) is an at- tempt at a kind of therapy, an attempt to cure the human propensity to engage in violence, which is stimulated by shame-ethics. And that was a noble attempt, which one can only wish had been suc- cessful. Why has it not worked? I think that the analysis of violence presented in this book can enable us to see the answer to that question. The reason that guilt-ethics has not solved and cannot solve the problem of violence is because it does not dismantle the motivational structure that causes violence in the first place (namely, shame, and the shame-ethics that it motivates). Guilt, and guilt-ethics, merely changes the direction of the violence that shame has generated, it does not prevent the violence in the first place. It primar- ily redirects, onto the self, the violent impulses that shame generates toward other people. But it does not prevent violence, or even inhibit it. Suicide is no solution to the problem of homi- cide; both forms of violence are equally lethal. Masochism is no solution to the problem of sadism; both forms of pathology are equally de- structive and painful. Neither shame nor guilt, then, can solve the problem of violence; shame causes hate, which becomes violence (usually toward other people), and guilt merely redirects it (usually onto the self). But to say simply that we need more love, and less shame and guilt, is vacuous. What we really need is to be able to specify the conditions that can enable love to grow without being inhibited by either shame or guilt. And it is clear that shame and guilt do inhibit love. Shame inhibits people from loving others, because shame consists of a deficiency of self-love, and thus it motivates peo— ple to withdraw love from others and ration it for the self Guilt, on the other hand, inhibits self- love, or pride, which the Christian guilt-ethic calls the deadliest of the seven deadly sins. Guilt mo- tivates people to hate themselves, not love them- selves, because the feeling of guilt is the feeling that one is guilty and therefore deserves punish- ment (pain, hate), not reward (pleasure, love). If we approach violence as a problem in pub- lic health and preventive medicine then we need to ask: What are the conditions that stimulate shame and guilt: , V a 'ologi- cally significant 1 maditions that are most important are relatiVepoverty, race and age discrimination, and sexual asymmetry. If we wish to prevent violence, then, our agenda is political and economic reform. The social policies that would be most effec- tive in preventing violence are those that would reduce the amount of shame. To reduce the amount of shame, we need to reduce the intensity of the passive, dependent regressive wishes that stimulate shame. And to reduce the intensity of those Wishes, we must gratify those wishes; by taking better care of each other, especially the neediest among us—particularly beginning in childhood, when the needs for love and care are most intense and peremptory. To quote again the phrase that Dostoevsky put in the mouth of Fa- ther Zossima, we then would recognize that “all are responsible for all.” We have a horror of dependency in this country—particularly dependency on the part of men. No wonder we have so much violence—es- pecially male violence. For the horror of depen- dency is what causes violence. The emotion that causes the horror of dependency is shame. Men, much more than women, are taught that to want love or care from others is to be passive, depen- dent, unaggressive and unambitious or, in short, unmanly; and that they will be subjected to sham- ing, ridicule, and disrespect if they appear un- manly in the eyes of others. Women, by contrast, have traditionally been taught that they will be honored if, and only if, they accept a role that re- stricts them to the relatively passive aim of ar- ranging to be loved by men and to depend on men for their social and economic status, forego- ing or severely limiting or disguising activity, am- bition, independence, and initiative of their own. This set of injunctions decreases women’s vul— nerability to behaving violently, but it also inhibits women from participating actively or directly in the building of civilization, in part by reducing them to the role of men’s sex objects. We Americans, as a society, appear to be hor- rified by the thought that a man could be depen- m. Are Nd: Women” 547 dent on anyone (other than himself), and that a woman could be dependent on anyone (other than “her man,” that is, her father or husband). The ex- tent of our horror of dependency can be seen in our horror of what is somewhat misleadingly called “welfare dependency”——whether it is the “depen- dency” on society of an unemployed or disabled man, of an unmarried mother, or of a child with- out a father. This conceals, or rather reveals, that we as a nation do less for our own citizens than does any other democracy on earth; less health care, child care, housing, support to families, and so on. So that we end up shaming and blaming those whose needs are exposed. Therefore it is not surprising that we also have more violence than does any other democracy on earth, as well as more imprisonment—since we shame some peo- ple for having needs that all people have. For needs that are repressed do not get met, nor do they just disappear. The return of repressed needs, in unconscious, disguised form, is what the various symptoms of psychopathology consist of. One form in which repressed needs for care return is chronic institutionalization—that is, long-term imprisonment or mental hospitalization—which allows us as a society to punish massively, while we gratify grudgingly, those needs of which we are so intolerant. ' In fact, the violence of our society reveals our shame at being less “independent” than we “de- clared” ourselves to be two centuries ago. In con- temporary America, to want love, to depend on others, to be less than completely self-sufficient, is to be shamed by all the institutions of our society, from welfare offices to mental hospitals to pris— ons. One can pretend that one is in an institution only because oneis so tough and dangerous and scary, so active arid aggressive, and s0 indepen- dent of the community’s standards, that the courts insisted on locking one up against one’s own wishes. But nevertheless, it is true that for many men in our society it is only in prison that one is given three meals a day, a warm bed to sleep in at night, a roof over one’s head, and people who care enough about one to make sure that one is there every night. a» 548 P A R 1' 'r E N Violence and Masculinity Those are among the reasons why the most * effective way to increase the amount of violence and crime is to do exactly what we have been doing increasingly over the past decades, namely, to permit—or rather, to force—more and more of our children and adults to be poor, neglected, hungry, homeless, uneducated, and sick. What is particularly effective in increasing the amount of violence in the world is to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. We have not restricted that strategy to this country, but are practicing it on a worldwide scale, among the increasingly impov- erished nations of the third world; and we can well expect it to culminate in increasing levels of violence, all over the world. Relative poverty—poverty for some groups coexisting with wealth for others—is much more effective in stimulating shame, and hence vio- lence, than is a level of poverty that is higher in absolute terms but is universally shared. Shame exists in the eye of the beholder—though it is more likely to exist there if the beheld is per- ceived as richer and more powerful than oneself. In that archaic, prescientific language called morality, this gap is called injustice; but most people throughout the world still think in moral terms, and the perception that one is a victim of injustice is What causes shame, which in turn causes violence. From the standpoint of public health, then, the social psychology of shame, discrimination, and violence becomes central to any preventive psychiatry. The causes and consequences of the feelings of shame as well as their psychodynamic parameters have become more urgently com- pelling as a focus of investigation, given the po- tential ultimacy of violence in a nuclear age, as well as the continuing high rate of violence in American society. In my analysis of the psycho- logical consequences of the feelings of shame, I have set out to show how such seemingly trivial events as personal experiences of chagrin or em- " barrassment can explode into epidemics of vio- lence, just as the physical consequences of ' organisms as insignificant as microbes can have the gravest implications for public health. As Rudolph Virchow, who helped to lay the founda- tions of preventive medicine and public health more than a century ago, put it, “Medicine is a so- cial science, and politics is simply medicine on a larger scale.” If cleaning up sewer systems could prevent more deaths than all the physicians in the world, then perhaps reforming the social, economic, and legal institutions that systematically humiliate people can do more to prevent violence than all the preaching and punishing in the world. The task before us now is to integrate the psychody- narnic understanding of shame and guilt with the broader social and economic factors that inten- sify those feelings to murderous and suicidal ex- tremes on a mass scale. Ways of the Badass In many youthful circles, to be “bad,” to be a “badass,” or otherwise overtly to embrace sym- bols of deviance is regarded as a good thing. How does one go about being a badass? How can that become a compelling project? One can develop a systematic understanding of the ways of the badass by distinguishing among three levels or degrees of intimating aggression. Someone who is “real bad” must be tough, not easily influenced, highly impressionable, or anx- ious about the opinions that others hold of him; in a phrase, he must not be morally malleable. He must take on an existential posture that in effect states, “You see me, but I am not here for you; I see you, and maybe you are here for me.” The second stage in becoming a badass is to construct alien aspects of the self. This construc— tion may be achieved barbarically, by developing ways of living that appear hostile to any form of civilization, or by inventing a version of civiliza- tion that is not only foreign but incomprehensible to native sensibilities. If being tough is essentially a negative activity of convincing others that one is not subject to their influence, being alien is a more positive projection of the world in which one truly fits. The existential posture of the alien states in effect, “Not only am I not here for you, I come from a place that is inherently intractable by your world.” The foreigner may often be charming; the alien is unnerving. Managing the difference between appearing to be interestingly foreign and disturbingly alien is a subtle business; much of the work of the adolescent badass plays on the fine- ness of the distinction. From Seductions of Crime by Jack Katz. Copyright © 1988. Reprinted by permission of Basic Books, a mem- ber of the Perseus Books, LLC. Jack Katz Either alone or in combination with a pos- ture of toughness, the perfection of an alien way is not sufficient to achieve the awesomely deviant presence of the badass. Toughs who set off sparks that call for attention but never explode risk being regarded as “punks.” And many who elaborate alien ways achieve nothing more than the recog- nition of being “really weird. ” In addition to being tough and developing an alien style, the would-be badass must add a measure of meanness.1 To be “bad” is to be mean in a precise sense of the term. Badasses manifest the transcendent superiority of their being, specifically by insisting on the dominance of their will, that “I mean it,” when the “it” itselfis, in a way obvious to all, im- material. They engage in violence not necessarily sadistically or “for its own sake” but to back up their meaning without the limiting influence of utilitarian considerations or a concern for self- preservation. At this level, the badass announces, in effect, “Not only do you not know Where I’m at or where I’m coming from, but, at any moment, I may transcend the distance between us and de- stroy you. I’ll jump you on the street, I’ll ‘come up side’ your head, I’ll ‘fuck you up good’—I’ll rush destructiver to the center of your world, Whenever I will! Where I’m coming from, you don’t want to know!” To make vivid sense of all the detailed ways of the badass, one must consider the essential project as transcending the modern moral in- junction to adjust the public self sensitively to sit- uationally contingent expectations. The frequent use of phallic metaphors is especially effective for making this process bristle with sensational moves. At the end of the chapter, I will clarify the distinctive relevance of masculine sexual symbols 566 P A R 1' 'r E N Violence and Masculinity the primer for gang kids. . . . When he’s down, kick for the head and groin. . . . gang warfare is typified by a callous disregard for Marquis of Queensbury rules, or for that matter, rules of simple decency. When they fight, they are amoral . . . totally without mercy . . . almost inhuman. A cat that’s down is a cat who can’t bother you, man! Stomp him! Stomp him good! Put that lit cigarette in the bastard’s eye! Wear Army barracks boots—kick him in the throat, in the face, kick him where he lives. Smash him from behind with a brick, cave in his effm’ skull! Flat edge of the hand in the Adam’s Apple! Use a lead pipe across the bridge of his nose—smash the nose and send bone splinters into the brain!52 Paraphernalia of Purposiveness All manner of weapons contribute to the badass’s project of being mean. From a Philadelphia black gang leader, Krisberg recorded this spontaneous expression of affection: I love shotguns. . . . And if anybody ever bother me, that’s what they better look out for. Cause I’m going to bring it. . . . Cause I know I ain’t going to miss you.53 In adolescent “bad” society, weapons and their incidents are matters for sacred ritual. In the South Bronx in the early 19705, the Savage Nomads were ordered by their leader to clean their guns meticulously twice, sometimes three times, in weekly, group sessions.54 In Chicago, Ruth Horowitz observed Mexican-American gang members’ fascination with the special instruments of violence. One afternoon I was sitting on a bench talking with the Lions. Suddenly all conversation stopped and attention was focused on Spoof and Fidel, two Senior Nobles in their mid- twenties. Spoof flipped his keys to the nearest Lion and told him to get his lounge chair from the trunk of the car. His orders were carried out silently. Spoof settled comfortably in his chair. He proudly produced three bullets: one had a cutoff head, one had a flattened head, and the third was unmodified. He carefully described just how each of the bullets reacted inside the body. Everyone listened quietly and a few asked technical questions. No one was allowed to hold the bullets. . . . Then we were treated to a show and history of their scars while the Lions nodded their approval and were properly awed. Even after the two departed, the Lions discussed nothing else for the rest of the evening.55 As Ellison observed in Italian gangs in 19503 Brooklyn, “the weapons of the gang kid have a charm all their own.” In this setting, the charmed objects resembled a medieval knight’s battery of arms: garrison belts with razor-sharp buckles to be wrapped around fists, raw potatoes studded with double-edged razor blades, zip guns, bar- racks boots with razor blades stuck between toe and sole, and Molotov cocktails.56 One fellow drew special attention for possessing a flare- shooting Navy Very pistol. As Robert DeNiro ef- fectively captured in the movie Taxi Driver (after he asks the mirror, “Are you looking at me?”), would-be badasses may spend hours practicing the rapid production of a knife or a gun with a special flourish.57 Among Chicago’s Vice Lords, a three-foot sword was, for a time, a popular weapon for robbing passengers on the El. A gang member named Cupid recalled the time “my mother came up and busted me with six shot- guns!” including a buffalo gun, and Cupid will never'forget It was . . . crazy ass King Solomon, [in a fight with the Comanches] he had one of these little Hookvilles. It’s a knife, a linoleum knife. Got a hook on the end. . .. [which he used when he caught “Ghengis Khan” and] Cut the stud’s whole guts out!58 Among the fighting teams in Glasgow, a member named Baggy kept a “sword” in his scooter and would often recount how, in a battle with the‘ Milton Tongs at a bowling center, he had rushed to his scooter, taken up his sword, cut one boy, and watched the rest scatter. When stopped by bouncers at a dance hall, members of the Young Team were required to give up a con- cealed hatchet and bayonet, but one got by with a hidden, open razor. In a fight outside a dance open razor, but k V that he broke on the his hand badly. Later, Tim embroidered his account of the fight, adding an air rifle. “The open razor and the bro- ken wine bottle he had carried were apparently not sufficient to create the image he hankered after.”9 In the United States today, we might find the objects of awesome charm to be Uzi machine guns and Ninja stars. V Fascinated, charmed, seduced—the badass is completely taken by the paraphernalia of his purposiveness. Note that although some of these objects might fit presumptions about the power of phallic imagery, others (stars, garrison belts, and linoleum knives) surely do not. Note also that the fascination persists apart from any envisioned practical context of the use of these objects. Just to have these things, to hold them, inspect them, and observe them swiftly introduced into the focus of the moment is exciting. These objects suggest that others will have to take seriously the intentions of the badass who controls them, what- ever those intentions may be—that he will mean it, whatever he may make of “i .” - We might attribute the significance of these things to the power they represent, but “power” is an impoverished metaphor for this world of ex- perience. “Being mean” picks up the evil under- tones set off by the diSplay of these objects. Many of these weapons are notable not just for their power but for their brutish, sadistic character; others, fitted for covert possession, are notably il- licit in design. In contrast to “power,” “being mean” captures the project at stake: to assume a tough, alien posture beyond all danger of mock- ery and metaphysical doubt that ensures that one will be taken seriously. These things excite by at- testing to a purpose that transcends the material utility of power. Mind Fucking In various languages, badas'ses have a special afl'mity for the culture of “fuck you!” Chas, an East Los Angeles graffiti writer, recounted his transformation from “Chingaso.” ,vnmr:rie«126«rv- 4-9 enraysaéithe Badass f A friend gave me that nickname. Started call- ing me that about three years ago. . . . Now it’s furmy. I don’t like “Chingaso” any more be- cause it’s too “bad,” it’s too heavy. “Chingaso” means the one who’s a flicker. Not a stud, just one who fucks people up. I don’t like that. I feel like I’m not saying the right thing out there. I like it, but I think I’m telling the right people the wrong thing. So I write “Chas” now."’0 In Glasgow, both the police and the street toughs they attempt to control are deeply in- volved in the same culture. In the follong ac— count, Patrick, Tim, and Dave from the Young Team were at Saracen Cross, on their way to a dance hall: Tim was prevented from moving forward by the approach of two policemen, one of whom shouted across at him: “So fuckin’ Malloy is oot again? Is yir fuckin’ brothers still in fuckin’ prison?” Tim’s answers also made liberal use of Glasgow’s favourite adjective. The second po- liceman turned to Dave and me, and, noticing the marks on Dave’s face he began: “So ye goat fuckin’ scratched, trying’ tae get yir fuckin’ hole.”61 The c0nfrontation ended when one of the police- man said, “Weil, get aff this fuckin’ Cross, or Ah’ll fuckin’ book ye.” Used gramatically in myriad Ways and con- veyed thrOugh posture and conduct perhaps more generally than in explicit verbal form, the dis- tinctive thrust of the “fuck” culture is captured nicely in the English form, “fuck you!” Although it may seem obvious, it is worth a moment’s pause to articulate just what makes this phrase so effec- tively “bad.” To wish sex on another is not nec- essarily negative, but this is clearly not an alternative form for “Have a nice lay. Nor is the use of “fuck” for denoting sex necessarily nega- tive; the phrase is universally “bad” while crude sex is not.62 At the essence of “fuck you!” is the silent but emphatic presence of the “1.” “Fuck you!” im- plies the existence of the speaker as the key actor (compared to “get fucked!” and the appropriately feminine form, “fuck offl”). It is the assertion of 568 PART TEN ViolenoeandMasculllIity an anonymous insertion—a claim to penetrate the other in his most vulnerable, sensitive center, in his moral and spiritual essence, without reveal- ing oneselfto the other. “Fuck you!” thus achieves its force through projecting an asymmetry of the most extreme sort between the fucker and the fucked; I will force myself to the center of your existence, while you will not grasp even the most superficial indication of my subjectivity. In its essence, then, “fuck you!” is a way of being mean as a transcendent existential project. “Fuck you!” equals “I’ll thrust my meaning into your world, and you won’t know why, what for, what I mean; I’ll hide the ‘I’ from you as I do it.” Of course, in context “fuck you! ” may connote anything from a dare to a muted message uttered on retreat. But with the existential significance of “fuck you!” in mind, we may more readily grasp, as devices for mind fucking, several widespread, practical strategies of would-be badasses that are otherwise deeply enigmatic. The Bump Consider the “accidental” bump, used either to begin a fight or to force a humiliating show of deference. Manny Torres recalled from his ado- lescent years in Spanish Harlem, walking around with your chest out, bumping into people and hoping they’ll give you a bad time so you can pounce on them and beat ‘em into the goddamn concrete.63 In the literature on adolescent street vio- lence, there are innumerable analogous examples of fights beginning from what in one light appears to be accidental and minor physical contact. Sometimes the badass is the one arranging the ac- cident, sometimes he is the one who is accidentally bumped. Thus, when some laborers accidentally nudged Pat at a Glasgow bar, he challenged them to a fight, immediately moving his hand into his jacket as if he had a weapon. Wee Midgie hit the laborers on their heads with a lemonade bottle, Pat and others kicked them in the face, and Tim cracked a bottle over their heads. The fighting team suddenly exited when someone shouted, “Run like fuck. "64 To understand specifically what is happen- ing in these scenes, it is insufficient to interpret the attackers as “looking for a fight.” The enig- matic aspect is the dramatization of a “bump”~ an accidental physical clash—as the necessary condition or catalyst of the violence. Pat and his friends seemed so intent on attacking these la- borers that one wonders why they waited for the chance, unintentional nudge. Nor will it do to project onto the attackers a felt necessity to neutralize moral prohibitions against unwarranted attacks, that is, that the at- tack would make no compelling sense to them until and unless they had the “excuse” of a bump. The same young men can be seen at other mo- ments proudly attacking without the moral ne- cessity of any excuse or justification, as when the party attacked is treated simply as one who “needs his ass kicked. ”65 Attackers often arrange bumps that are publicly, self-consciously transparent. Why do they bother to feign accidents? Because their focus is not on physical de- structionor moral self-justification, but on the transcendent appeal of being mean. The feigned accident is not a moral necessity for attack; it is, however, a delightful resource for constructing from the attack the stature of the attacker as a badass. Manny and Pat did not “have to have an excuse” to attack. Nor were they compulsive sadists “getting off” on physical destruction. They were seduced by the bump. They rejoiced in the special reverberations that could be given the iri- teraction by making the attack the product of a transparently “accidenta ” bump. At its first, most superficial, level of appeal, the bump clarifies and enhances the meaning of a subsequent physical attack as the work of a badass. After a bump, an attack inevitably reflects the spatial metaphor, the existential dilemma of “here” and “there” with which all the ways of the badass are concerned. The badass does not invent the revolution- ary moral potential in the bump; he simply seizes . bers of ,flzrerersatonce a literal and of the tough- ness of each of us. Wishing to avoid giving of- fense, with bated breath we race each other to the stage of apology. Through my apology, I drop any possible pretense of toughness, showing you that I am morally responsive to your well-being. In apologizing, I enact a shameful recognition that the bump occurred because, as far as I could tell, our phenomenal worlds had been indepen- dent; I had practiced an apparent indifference to your existence. In the bump, what had been “here” to you, bounded off from me, penetrates my phenomenal isolation and becomes “here” to me, and vice versa. As quickly as polite members of civil soci- ety scurry to avoid the moral tensions that they sense have suddenly become potential, so can the badass flood the situation with awful possibilities. By treating the accidental bump as an obdurate, unforgettable fact of history, the badass opens up a glorious array of nasty courses of action. No matter who was at “fault” for the bump, once the “bump” has occurred the badass can ex- ploit a precious ambiguity to charge the situation with the tensions of a moral crisis. Any fool can see and only a coward would deny that the bump takes each into the other’s phenomenal world. In the bump, you become “here” for me and I be- come “here” for you. The bump provides the grounds for each to wonder, Was it accidental? Or were you “fucking” with me, thrusting your- self into my world for purposes I could not possi— bly grasp? At this stage, the least the would-be badass can do is obtain public testimony to his badass status. If the other tries to ignore the bump, the badass can easily make this attempt an obvious pretense for repeating the bump. He may stop at any point in this process, taking as his sole booty from the situation the victim’s evidently artificial posture that “nothing unusual is happening.” More enigmatically, immediately after he has produced an intentional bump or received an obviously accidental bump, the badass may launch an attack without waiting for an apology, whether sincere or pretended. This, an even tougher, “badder” move, plays off the metaphor of mind fucking. Once we have accidentally bumped for all to see, everyone knows that you must wonder whether I will let it go as an accident or charge you with an intentional attack. Everyone knows that you are wondering about my purpose and spirit and that merely by wondering, you are tak- ing me into your world of moral judgment and putting me at risk of negative judgment. In other words, the bump suddenly raises the momentous possibility that “you are fucking with me.” I can now, without more provocation, strike out phys- ically to “fuck you up” as a transcendent response to your publicly visible “fucking with me.” Before examining elaborations on this inter- action, we should take special note of the pro- found explosion of meaning that has already occurred. Through the most inarticulate, most minor physical contact between two individuals, without any apparent plan, intention, or reason, without any forewaming any man could detect, a small moral world has suddenly burst into full- blown existence. Once the bump has occurred, for whatever original Cause or antecedent reason, everything has forever changed; the bump cannot be removed from moral history. A chain reaction can then sensibly follow in a spirit of coherent determinism. The badass, as it were, struts out as the Great Creator, capable of arranging the most transcendent cosmological experience from the chance encounters of everyday life; with a little bump, he has occasioned a moral Big Bang. But this is only the first theme of significance that may be drawn by the badass from the “acci- dental” bump. That the accidental quality of the bump should be put in quotes is not only obvious to the would-be badass; he may arrange the bump so that it is obvious to all that the fictive acciden- tal character of the bump is obvious to him, to the victim, to all. And with this move into universal moral transparency, the would-be badass moves 570 P A R T 1' E N Violence and Masculinity the drama to the level of what might be called on the streets, “royal mind fucking.” “Whachulookinat?” In perhaps all subcultures of the badass, there is a homegrown version of a mind-fucking strategy that is deeply rooted in the danger of eye contact. It is recognizable with the opening phrase, “Whachulookinat?” A badass may at any moment treat another’s glancing perception of him as an attempt to bring him symbolically into the other’s world, for the other’s private purposes, perhaps to “fuck with” This may be treated as a visual bump. As with the physical bump, the badass may allow the victim to cower his way out of danger by en- acting a transparently artificial display of defer- ence, for example, through offering profuse excuses and literally bowing out of the situation. ‘ Of more interest are those situations in which the badass wishes further to exploit the po- tential to construct a transcendent theme of evil. Victims of “Whachulookinat. ” frequently answer “Nothing” with this response, they open up what sometimes seems to be an irresistible opportunity to fill the air with awesomely threatening mean- ing. “You callin me nothin?” is the well-known reply. Just as he thought he had regained a mea- sure of self-protective control over the situation through an effusive display of deference, the vic- tim realizes that he has damned himself, for he has been caught in a lie. He is now the immoral party. Everyone knows that he had glanced at the badass. “Nothing” was intended as a ritual of def- erence, but the badass will not go along with the fiction. The badass suddenly adopts the posture of the only honest man in the transaction: he’s being lied to, as all can see. But, he now has the right to ask, why? What malevolence moves the victim to lie and answer, “Nothing?” Has he been fucking with the image of the badass in the pri- vacy of his mind? What is he covering up? From this point, the badass can readily build tension by playing for a while with the victim, tossing him from one to the other horn of his dilemma. Now the badass treats the victim’s “Nothing” as a lie, a fiction designed to cover up a shameful or hostile perspective. Next, the badass insists on a literal interpretation, that the Victim’s response should be taken as a claim that the exis- tential value of the badass is really “nothing.” Then, the badass mocks his own metaphysical stance; everyone knows that the badass knows that the “Nothing” was artificial and, therefore, that the badass’s indignation is artificial. All know, as they have known all along, who is the victim and who is the badass—who is attempting to avoid any association with evil and who is em- bracing it. In short, all recognize that by feigning vic- timization, the badass is really mind fucking the victim. Theuniversal transparency of the badass’s moral posturing makes it “royal mind-fucking”— a high art that may be practiced through a variety of analogous strategems. Thus, analogous to the simple mind fucking of attacking after a bump is the strategy described by Yablonsky of a New York boy who will approach a stranger with the taunt, “What did you say about my mother?” An assault is then delivered upon the victim before he can re- spond to the question.“ And analogous to the royal mind fucking con- structed from the visual bumping of “Whachu- lookinat?” is the Vice Lords’s practice of wolf packing. With several mates present, a Vice Lord begins an interaction with a stranger passing by with the formal. request, but informal demand, “Hey, man, gimme a dime!” As Keiser noted, “If a dime were given, then a demand for more money would be made until finally the individual would have to refuse.”67 Physical dominance is not the key concern, since it often seems a foregone conclusion. And, What is even more interesting is that, as some of the Glasgow incidents showed, it sometimes seems not to matter to the badasses that they might lose the battle. From the standpoint of physical power and outcome, these mind-fucking maneu- vers are gratuitous. After all, one could physically destroy victims“ V tion with them, roe ; without warning emerging from camOuflage. The ambush of a stranger might maximize one’s physical success, but it would not necessarily construct an identity as a badass. Mind fucking, however, shows the badass in control of the meaning of the situation. Bumps are accidents or intentional provocations, depending on what the badass has in mind. The badass con- trols the moral ontology of the moment. On the one hand, he may allow life its little bumps, its give and take, recognizing that, owing to imper- fections in the nature of social life for which no one is responsible, men must have at least small spaces free from responsibility. On the other hand, he may make life inexorably purposive, affording a man no rest from the moral implications of his conduct. The badass rules the moment as the mas- ter of its metaphysics. Moral pretenses become real and unreal as if by magic, at the snap of his fin- ger. At his discretion, words mean just what they say on the surface or are revealed to mask shame- fully hidden intentions. “Nothing” will mean nothing at all or everything fateful, as he chooses. Apart from physical dominance, mind fucking al- lows the badass to demonstrate the transcendent character of his meaning. Foreground and Background: The Sex of the Badass I have attempted to demonstrate that the details of the distinctive adolescent culture of the badass can be grasped as a series of tactics for struggling with what the adolescent experiences as a spa— tially flamed dilemma—a challenge to relate the “here” of his personal world to the phenomenal worlds of others who he experiences as existing at a distance, somewhere over “there.” Thus, being tough positions the self as not “here” for others. Being alien goes further, indicating that the self is not only not here for others but is native to some morally alien world, inevitably beyond the inti- mate grasp of others who are present here. And are 571 being mean produces its awful air by intimating that where the self is coming from is a place that represents chaos to outsiders and threatens con- stantly to rush destructiver to the center of their world, attacking their most intimate sensibilities. The ultimate source of the seductive fascina- tion with being a badass is that of transcending rationality. What “rationality” means to the ado— lescent, as a challenge that stimulates his seduc- tion to a world of deviance, is not primarily legal authority, institutional discipline, or social ex- pectations of an ordered and integrated compe- tence to reason. These phenomena may, at-times, become the foils for badasses of all types, but more routinely, the provocative issue is a matter of demonstrating rationality as the modern moral competence to adjust the self to situationally spe- cific expectations. To understand the seductive quality of this project and why the data have been overwhehn- ingly though not exclusively from males, we might consider what, after all, makes the phallus so powerful a symbol for the badass. Phallic im- agery is obviously prominent in the ways of the badass, from the “hardness” of the tough posture, to the “hot rodder” style, to the “cool” quality conferred on speech by random thrusts of fuck,” to the drama of “mind fucking. ” But the moti- vating, emotionally compelling concerns of the badass cannot simply be reduced to a sexual metaphor; the distinctive presence of the badass is not particularly erotic. Posed like a phallus, the badass threatens to dominate all experience, stimulating a focus of consciousness so intense as to obliterate experientially or to transcend any awareness of boundaries between the situation “here” and any other situation, “there.” And in this appreciation, the phallus has the further, so— cially transcendent power to obliterate any aware- ness of boundaries between the ontologically independent, phenomenal situations of different people. The fascination here is with the paradox— ical, distinctively masculine potential of the phal- lus: by threatening to penetrate others, the badass, this monstrous member of society, can absorb the whole world into himself. 572 P A R r T E N Violence and Masculinity Notes 1. The differences between the three stages are not on a scale of symbolism versus real action. A physical fight can be nothing more than a show of toughness, while a stare-down can accomplish a consummate act of meanness. 2. As Werthman noted, “Not all black leather jackets communicate the same quality of ‘toughness.’ . . . One almost has to be committed to a fashion in order to read the nuances of self-image that can be ex- pressed within it.” See Carl Werthman, “Delinquency and Authority” (master’s thesis, University of Cali- fornia at Berkeley, 1964), p. 118. 3. If these terms seem abstract for the realities of street life, consider the following dialogue between two Puerto Rican women who were members of a Brooklyn street gang and became uncomfortable with the tough image they embraced in their early adoles— cent years. [VVEEZA:] We ain’t really tough. We don’t consider ourselves tough—not me. [BOOBY:] Because we try to communicate with peo- ple. But when they don’t want to communicate with us, then that’s their problem, not ours. Anne Campbell, The Girls in the Gang (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984), p. 155. 4. For a treatment of such interactions, see Erving Gofi‘man, Relations in Public (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 75—77, 81. For an analysis of “How are you.” as a “greeting substitute,” see Harvey Sacks, Everyone Has to Lie,” in Sociocultural Dimensions of Language Use. ed. Mary Sanches and Ben Blount (New York: Academic Press, 1975), pp. 57—79. 5. See Harlan Ellison, Memos flom Purgatory (New York: Berkley, 1983). 6. Gus Frias, Barrio Warriors: Homeboys ofPeace (n.p.: Diaz Publications, 1982), p. 21. 7. As ethnographic observers have emphasized, toughness, as opposed to socially sensitive, deferen— tial civility, is hardly a constant feature of Mexican- American adolescent society. In the street gangs of Chicago, Horowitz noted, “Most [of these] young men have conventional social skills;” they take a woman’s arm when crossing the street and walk on the curb side, skillfully order dinner in a restaurant, and shake hands and make polite conversation when introduced to a stranger. See Ruth Horowitz, Honor and the American Dream (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rut- gers University Press, 1983), pp. 86-87. The point is that toughness is a contingent social production. 8. R. Lincoln Keiser, The Vice Lords (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1979), pp. 43—44. 9. On the last point, comments by my colleague, Emanuel Schegloff, were helpful. 10. Werthman, “Delinquency and Authority,” p. 88. 11. James Patrick, A Glasgow Gang Observed (London: Eyre Methuen, 1973), p. 69. 12. John Allen, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, ed. Di- anne Hall Kelly and Philip Heymann (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978), pp. 19, 22—23. 13. Frias, Barrio Warriors, p. 19. 14. My thanks here to Paul Price, a sociology gradu- ate student and a staff member in a Los Angeles home for delinquent boys. 15 . Patrick, Glasgow Gang Observed, p. 83. 16. Florence Rome, The Tattooed Men (New York: Delacorte Press, 1975). 17. Allen, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, p. 23. 18. Patrick, Glasgow Gang Observed, pp. 32, 33. 19. Allen, Assault with a Deadly Weapon. See, for example, the photographs of the Mar- avillos of the 19405 and 19805, in Frias, Barrio War- riors, p. 16. 21. Descriptions of dress and walk are available in Frias, Barrio Warriors; Alfredo Guerra Gonzalez, “Mexicano/ Chicano Gangs in Los Angeles: A So- ciohistorical Case Study” (Ph.D. diss., School of So- cial Welfare, University of California at Berkeley, 1981); Carlos Manuel Haro, “An Ethnographic Study of Truant and Low Achieving Chicano Barrio Youth in the High School Setting” (Ph.D. diss., School of Education, University of California at Los Angeles, 1976); and Hilary McGuire, Hopie and the Los Homes Gang (Canfield, Ohio: Alba House, 1979). 22. Gusmano Cesaretti, Street Writers:A Guided Tour of Chicano Grafliti (Los Angeles: Acrobat Books, 1975), p. 8. 23. Jerry Romotsky and Sally R. Romotsky, Los An- geles Barrio Calligraphy (Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1976), pp. 23—24, 29, 32—33. 24. See, for example, the laughing skull in Cesaretti, Street Writers, and in Romotsky and Romotsky, Los Angeles Barrio Calligraphy. pp. 58—59. 25. George C -. versity of 1958). . 26. Frias, Barrio Warriors, 'p'. 23; and Haro, “Truant and Low Achieving Chicano Barrio Youth,” p. 363. 27. Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Methuen, 1979), p. 65. 28. Ibid., p. 110. 29. Sandy Craig and Chris Schwarz, Down and Out: Orwell ’5 Paris and London Revisited (London: Penguin Books, 1984), p. 107. 30. Hunter Thompson, Hell’s Angels (New York: Bal- lantine Books, 1967), p. 253. 31. Harold Finestone, “Cats, Kicks, and Color,” in The Other Side, ed. Howard S. Becker (New York: Free Press, 1964), pp. 281—97. 32. By the 19705 in New York ghettos, being “cool” had been around for decades and had apparently lost some of its force. It was replaced by “too cool” as a superlative in the adolescent lexicon. See Campbell, Girls in the Gang. p. 183. Now “chill out” is popular. 33. Allen, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, pp. 199—200. 34. Admiration for the “ldller” is reported in David Dawley, A Nation of Lords: The Autobiography of the Vice Lords (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Press, 1973), p. 32. 35. Frias, Barrio Warriors, p. 45. 36. Being a badass is not a status obtained in a fate- fully violent moment and guaranteed for life. Like other charismatic figures, the badass is subject to the double challenge: (1) that he must always be open to challenge—there is no time off for the badass, no va— cation from this occupation, which is indeed a voca— tion; and (2) that he must never fail any challenge. Cf. Max Weber, Economy and Society (New York: Bed- minster Press, 1968), 3: 1112-13. 37. Patrick, Glasgow Gang Observed p. 49. 38. Pat Doyle et al., The Paint House: Words from an East End Gang (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1972), p. 31. 39. Richard P. Rettig, Manual J. Torres, and Gerald R. Garrett, Manny: A Criminal Addict’s Story (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977), p. 19. 40. Barry Alan Krisberg, The Gang and the Community (San Francisco: R & E Research Associates, 1975), p. 15. 41. Ibid. 42. Ibid., p.24. 43. Keiser, Vice Lords, p. 18. 44. Doyle et al., Paint House, p. 23. 45. Campbell, Girls in the Gang, p. 164. 46. Patrick, Glasgow Gang Observed, p. 43. 47. Ellison, Memos from Purgatory, p. 86. 48. Keiser, Vice Lords, p. 35. 49. Craig Castleman, Getting Up: Subway Grafliti in New York (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1982), p. 93. 50. Patrick, Glasgow Gang Observed, p. 77. 51. Doyle et al., PaintHouse, pp. 28, 30. 52. Ellison, Memosfiom Purgatory, pp. 58, 61. Note that the evidence is of a “primer,” not of a pattern of violence. 53. Krisberg, Gang and Community, p. 14. 54. William Gale, The Compound (New York: Raw- son Associates, 1977). 55. Horowitz, Honor and the American Dream, p. 92. 56. Ellison, Memos from Purgatory, pp. 48, 60, 61. 57. Cf. Ellison’s account of his practice before a mir- ror with a twelve-inch Italian stiletto in ibid. 58. Keiser, Vice Lords, p. 62. 59. Patrick, Glasgow Gang Observed, pp. 54, 56. 60. Cesaretti, Street Writers, p. 57. 61. Patrick, Glasgow Gang Observed pp. 52—53. 62. No doubt in some erotic uses, the “ba ” quality of “fuck you” is deemed delicious. As many a wag has noted, “fuck” is an especially versatile condiment in courses of conversations. An anonymous list, pro- vided to me by an engineer who found it circulating in a local metal-coating plant, includes “positive” uses, as in “Mary is fucking beautiful”; inquisitive uses, as in “What the fuck?”; and ad hoc, sometimes ambigu- ous enhancements of emphasis, as in “It’s fucking five- thirty.” “Fuck” draws attentions beyond civility, and it is therefore widely attractive as a means by which a speaker suggests he has more passion or a more idio- syncratic feeling about a matter than convention will allow him to express. Our concern here is to grasp the specifically hostile and threatening forms, the “bad” power that the phrase can achieve. ' 63. Rettig, Torres, and Garrett, Manny, p. 18. 64. Patrick, Glasgow Gang Observed, p. 54. 550 P A R 'r 'r E N Violence aMIMasculianty and suggest why being a badass is so dispropor- tionately seductive to males. I will relate Class and ethnic status to differences in adolescent cul- tures of deviance. Knowledge of the ways of the badass contributes to the explanation of the self- consciously criminal careers of hardened stickup men. Being Tough The ways of being tough may be summarized along two lines. First, a tough appearance may be, accomplished by using symbols and practical de- vices that suggest an impenetrable self. Here we can place the attractions, to those who would ef- fect a tough appearance, of leather clothing and metal adomments. Here, too, we can understand the connection of a publicly recognizable “tough- ness” with signs that unusual physical risks have been suffered and transcended; scars are an exam- ple. High boots frequently enhance a tough look, in some styles suggesting cowboys or motorcy- clists, in other styles implying that the wearer has passed or expects to pass through some sort of disagreeable muck.2 Prominent among the devices of toughness are dark sunglasses. As the street name suggests, “shades,” unlike sunglasses in general, pull down a one-way curtain in face-to-face interaction, ac- complishing nicely the specific interactional strat- egy that is toughness. On the folk assumption that the eyes are Windows to the soul, in face-to- face interaction we regularly read the eye move- ments of others for signs of the focus of their consciousness, to grasp their subjective location, and to track what is “here” to them. Simultane- ously, we manage the direction of our gaze to shape the perception by others of what is “here” to us. Thus, we usually avert our gaze from passersby after an implicitly understood interval, so that our apparent continued attentions do not suggest an improperly intimate interest; conversely, if we want to suggest that the other is intimately “here” for us, we do not avert our gaze. Shades permit the wearer to detect what is “here” to passersby, while the wearer’s focus of conscious- ness remains inaccessible to them. When this in- teractional reading does not hold, for example, when we know the wearer is blind, darkly tinted glasses will not work as a device for intimating toughness. Because toughness manifests that one is not morally or emotionally accessible, one recogniz- able style of being tough is to maintain silence, sometimes referred to as a “stony” silence, in the face of extensive questions, pleadings, comic an- tics, and other efforts to evoke signs of sympathy. As an audible analog to the eyes’ “shades,” when “tough” guys have to say something to get things from others, they may mumble or speak in a voice muffled by gum, a tightly closed mouth, or a downcast face. The symbols and devices of impenetrability are a simple ready-made way of being tough; many of them can literally be bought off the rack. What is culturally more complex and individu- ally more challenging is the requirement to offset the moral malleability inevitably suggested when one enters communicative interaction. I may eas- ily appear tough to you when I am not attempt- ing to shape your understanding to any effect other than that I am tough. But if I want to do any other sort of business with you, my apparent rigidity will, sooner or later, become a problem. If I want to communicate substantive desires, I must at- tend to whether you have correctly interpreted my messages; if not, I am constrained to alter my expression to get the point across—all of which risks suggesting that, to shape your experience of me, I am willing to shape and reshape myself and, hence, that I am not so tough.3 It is common for young people to take on the first layer of toughness without being accom- plished in the second. What appears to be a hard- and-fast toughness often dissolves in the first moments of substantive interaction. Thus, in the privacy of a bedroom, one may drape the body in leather and chains, practice a hard look in the mirror, apply apparently permanent but really erasable tattoos of skulls and crossbones, and so forth. When one enters a store to buy cigarettes, however, it may feel impossible not to wait one’s transaction wither}: ‘ , \ thanks.” The openings and - oSmgs’ of face-to—face in- teractions in public are routine occasions for in- dicating that one has the moral competence to be in society. With “How are you?” we often for- mally open and move into an interaction. The re- sponse, “And how are you?” without a pause is accepted and thus the interaction proceeds smoothly without either party explicitly respond- ing to the question.‘1 ' The primary project of the questioner is usu— ally to indicate that he is the sort of person who cares. Even though his failure to await a response might logically be taken to indicate just the op- posite, the move makes sense to the participants because it indicates that the speaker is open to moral concerns. He has used convention to indi- cate that he is open to change based on the state of the other’s being. Here is a little ceremony per- formed to ritualize the beginning of interaction, a ceremony in which each indicates to the other that he is capable of mediating his existence with others through social forms. Compare a common ritual opening of inter- action among adolescents who are attempting to be tough. When boys in American junior high schools pass each other in the halls while chang- ing classes, they sometimes exchange punches aimed at each others’ shoulders. They may then continue past each other or, even more oddly, they may abruptly abandon the dramatization of hos- tilities and pause for a short interchange of affable comments that make no reference to the opening blows. Literally, the thrust of the message is the thrust of the message. Familiarity with this ritual breeds a competition to be first in detecting the other’s presence and to land the first punch. In a little ceremony performed to, mark the initial mo- ments of interaction, each attempts to indicate to the other that he exists for the other in the first in- stance physically, independent of civility and so- cial form. Note that not only is the implicit statement the inverse of that made by the customary civil ritual, so is its irony. The tactful adult shows that he is the sort of person who cares by inquiring about the other’s sensibilities and then proceeding without pausing for a response. But the playfully combative adolescent shows that he is present most fundamentally in his socially unrestrained physical being, by more or less artfully employing a well-established social form. One of the most elemental ways of being tough is to mark the beginning and the ending of an interaction gutturally, with a sound that em- anates from deep in the body and whose form in- dicates that the. sound maker (“speaker” would not be quite accurate here) exists outside of civil conventions. Members of street gangs in Italian sections of Brooklyn in the 1950s would often signal their entrance into a streets corner assem- blage of their fellows with an “eh” (or “ay”) that would trigger a cycle of responsive “ehs.”5 This utterance is guttural, both in significance and sensual practice; the physical exertion indicates to the others that he is present for them from his stomach—not from his mind or from any social- ized sensibility. Endings of interactions are again typical oc- casions for expressing a competently socialized moral character. The strength of the moral de- mands made during an interaction is revealed by the amount of culture, and proficiency of skill re- quired to end an interaction without retrospec- tively undermining its moral framework: Such verbal and written civil endings as “Take-Care,” “Yours Truly,” and “Have a Nice Day” reaffirm the person’s competent social sensibility. Despite a near-universal awareness of the banality of these forms, they remain difficult to avoid. Such ritual endings are executed because people who have been interacting anticipate that a new threat will emerge at the end of the inter- action. This threat is not to the future of their re- lationship (these conventions are used as much, perhaps more, among strangers who may well never see each other again as among friends), but to the reinterpretation of what has just transpired. Often formally prospective (Have a nice day: I re- main sincerely yours, take care, best wishes), these devices are implicitly and more fundamentally 552 PART TE’N ViolenceafidMascul‘iIifty’ retrospective. In effect, farewells assert that even though my care for you is so limited that I can now move on to other cares—even though by ending this interaction I may suggest that I have not been authentically here for you—I really have been deeply, sensitively involved with you all the while. The misleadingly prospective direction of the form is essential to suppress awareness of the implicit retrospective doubt, the existential doubt that either participant was (and perhaps ever can be) really “here” for the other. As phenomenal worlds begin objectively to separate, civil inter- actors rush to reaffirm that those worlds really were isomorphic and that each person really was morally sensitive to the other. I anticipate your sense that if I can break off abruptly from you, you may reflect, “He never really gave a shit about what I felt in the first place! ” ‘ To produce toughness is, in part, a matter of failing to perform these prophylactic rituals on the moral health of everyday life, but it is also a matter of inventing substitutes. Consider as a striking example of a guttural exiting ceremony, the cholo’s “Shaa-haa!” In East Los Angeles, ado- lescent vatas, cholos, or “homeboys” frequently mill about in a casual mood that shows no par- ticularly malevolent spirit until the assemblage is brought to a close when one of the participants utters a forceful or cool statement of bravado to which he appends a “Shaa” or “Shaa-haa,” which the others join in. The following instance was part of a home- boy’s recollection of his first day in the tenth grade at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. He was “holding up the wall” with fellow homeboys from his barrio—a traditional practice in which groups congregate at traditional spots, lean against the wall, and look out at groups clustered in other spots. The school bell rang to call students to class. The homeboys continued to mill about, aware that, with time, their passivity would take on an increasingly deviant significance as a tacit rebel- lion against the school’s attempt to control their interaction. A vice principal came over to urge the group to go to class, and one homeboy responded, “‘Say, professor, don’t you have something better to do? If you don’t take my advice, go sit on the toilet and flush yourself down. Shaa-haal’”6 Like “eh,” “Shaa—haa” (which can be short or long and more syncopated or less, depending on the occasion) comes from deep in the body, from the very bottom of the throat, if not from the guts. It involves letting out a burst of air audibly, over a jutting jaw, with mouth open but without shaping lips to form letters, all to accomplish a broad, deep, serpentine hiss that is often succeeded by a machine-gun burst of belly laughing. Having publicly defined the interaction that preceded the termination as one in which all the boys were pre- sent in a gutturally direct, socially uninhibited way, the aggregation can disband and the partic- ipants can head toward class.7 With this utterance, a group of young men can harmoniously articu- late a common moral posture of being tough with- out fear that the medium will contradict the message. ‘ In addition to opening and closing interac- tions, those who would be tough must routinely counter the moral vulnerabilities suggested in the very nature of human existence. For human be- ings eating, for example, is a figurative, as well as a literal, opening of the self. For tough guys, eat- ing (and defecating, ejaculating, extracting mucus from the] nose and throat, and so on) must be carefully cultivated to offset the breach of self in— herent in the process. Sweating, however, should require no special ceremony for toughs: perspir- ing occurs simply in a transpiring; no act of open- ing the body is necessary to make visible these drops from inside. In adolescent cultures, toughness is com- monly displayed as a subtle negativity, barely glossed onto an otherwise morally sensitive in- teraction. Consider two everyday ironies from black street life, hand-slapping rituals and the use of “shit” to begin a turn at speaking in conversa— tion. Handshaking is a conventional form for displaying a civil sensibility when face-to-face in- teractions begin or end. It expresses a gentle man’s spirit by physically enacting a moral malleability and a moral _ h self, to feel the, ' ” ’w .. H and vice versa; we are united, social form, such that each may be influenced by the other’s Will. Young men in black ghettos have constructed from this convention a means of displaying a paradoxical form of social contract. With the hand slap, the moral malleability suggested by the handshake becomes a cooperative hitting—I hit you and I let you hit me. The moral vulnerability suggested by the offer and acceptance of physical contact is simultaneously countered by its oppo- site. The hitting or slapping, an action that in other contexts might be humiliating punishment, usu- ally passes as an unremarkable gloss of toughness. This dialectical principle is elaborated within ongoing group interactions as speakers and listen- ers seek and confer agreement. The more a listener agrees with a speaker, the harder he hits him, and conversely. As R. Lincoln Keiser noted: In general, when a hand-slapping episode occurs during social interaction it emphasizes agree- ment between the two parties. If an individual has said something someone thinks particu- larly noteworthy, he will put out his hand to be slapped. By slapping it, the alter in the relation- ship signals agreement. Varying the intensity of the slap response indicates varying degrees of agreement. A Vice Lord may say, “Five Lords can whup fifty Cobras!” and then put out his hand, palm up. Another club member re- sponds by slapping the palm hard, thus indicat- ing strong agreement. The first Vice Lord might then say, “I can whup ten Cobras myself!” and again put out his hand. This time, however, the second individual may respond with a much lighter slap.8 The more the listener indicates that he has been moved by the speaker, the more emphatically he simultaneously acknowledges and counters his malleability through enacting aggression. “Shit,” pronounced melodically over long vowel sounds (“Sheee-it”), has had an extraordi- nary run of popularity in black street life. It is a way for a speaker to begin a turn in conversation or to mark publicly the movement of his con- sciousness from one theme to another within a monologue. Compare, as the inverse in form and function, the British use of “Right” to begin a turn in conversation, for example, the Bobby’s “Right, what’s going on here?” the Mexican’s use of “Bueno, es que” to begin a response to a ques- tion; and the use of “okay” by white middle-class adolescents in the US. to begin a turn and repeat- edly to reorient a narrative account in a conver- sation. Although with “shee-it” the speaker pulls himself out of a communal moral order even as he audibly begins to enter it, “Right,” “Bueno,” and “Okay” invoke a transcendent moral order to tie people together into a conversation at moments when the coordination of their sensibilities has become problematic. With “Right,” the Bobby invokes a framework of moral approbation to begin the assertion of his authority. With “Bueno, ‘ es que,” the Mexican begins to respond to a ques- tion by formally overcoming the dim, horrific pos- sibility that the asking has inexorably alienated the speakers. With “okay, okay, okay,” the young suburban American asserts his moral commit- ment to sustain order in conversation just as he anticipates that, because of problems in the evolv- ing structuring of a narrative, it may soon fall into doubt.9 ‘ “Sheee-it” is elegantly negative, both in con- tent and in form of delivery. When pronounced in a descending melody, the phrasing gives the word, even apart from its content, a cynical, negat- ing tone. In content, shit is about as purely nega- tive an image as any that could be thrown into a conversation. The existential fact that we are, each of us, literally (if also narrowly), walking, talking containers of excrement is remarkable for its typ- ical absence from overt public attention. When used to start a speaker’s turn in conversation, “shee—it” brilliantly executes a simultaneous ex- pression of two dialectically related themes: (1) the fact that I speak to you coherently displays my ability to shape myself to fit into your under- standing and (2) the fact that I begin by tying your impression of me to shit suggests that the social again-nus 553 : 554 P A R T T E N Violence and Masculinity form I take on is but a thin veneer over a nature that is obdurately beyond social domination. The following example, which illustrates the point both in form and content, came from an interview with a member of a black street gang in San Francisco: I feel my high school education is the most im- portant thing in my hfe right now. That’s how I feel. [Interviewerz] How long have you felt this way? Shit. Maybe a year. 1" These subculturally varied devices for pro- ducing a veneer of touglmess are all counterveil— ing commentaries on the image of personal moral openness that is persistently implied in social in- teraction. To sustain interaction while remaining tough, one can repeatedly negate the continuously resurrected implication that one is sensitive to Others by‘throwing shit onto the scene, with gut— tural outbursts, by physically hitting at the image of moral sensibility, and so forth. Attacks on the conventions and cliches of civil demeanor con- stitute one of the stock ways of being tough. An account of street gang violence in Glasgow, Scot- land, provides a final illustration. According to. one retelling by members of the “Young Team” of an attack on a solitary victim, the victim, a boy aged 14, rolled himself into a ball for. self- protection and was then stabbed seventeen times in the back. Just before the attackers ran off, Big Sheila, a barmaid who was sympathetic to the Young Team, created a memorable closing line by dropping a handkerchief on the boy and offer- ing: “That’ll help ye tae mop yir brow. "11 Being Alien Being tough is essentially a process of negation, achieved either with a visual block, a symbolic sartorial shield, an audible muffle, or a maneuver that inverts the suggestions of a morally open self that are inevitably born in such everyday activities as eating, meeting friends, and conversing. Of course, being tough is not sufficient to construct a deviant identity; we admire poker players, respect businessmen, and honor political leaders who ap- pear to be “tough.” In all cases, the quality being celebrated is a negative moral capacity—an ability not to give away, not to give up, and not to give in. By developing ways of being alien, adoles- cents can move positively beyond the negativity of a tough posture without abandoning it and without embracing respectable conventions. In congruence with the statement made from the stance of toughness, “I am not here for you, ” adolescents have fashioned an ever-expanding set of subcultures in which they can style great swaths of their everyday lives with indications that they come from some morally alien place. Street Styles Across subcultures would-be badasses exploit the hermeneutic possibilities in walking. Young blacks who would strike up the admirable image of the “bad nigger” work on orchestrating their pace to, a ghetto “bop.” John Allen, a black from Washington, DC, who became a “profession ” stickup man, recalled that when he was first com- mitted to a juvenile detention facility, I learned a lot of things. . . . it was a place where you fought almost every day because every- body trying to be tougher than the next person. As a kid you pay so much attention to how a dude’s supposed to be a bad nigger, he really having his way around the joint with the coun- selors and with everybody. . . . So you wanna be like him, you wanna act like him and talk like him. I think down there I must of changed my voice about hundred times ’cause I had a high-pitched voice and was bothered being small. And I changed my walk from supercool to ultracool.12 In East Los Angeles, the night before his first day in high school, a barrio homeboy anxiously an- ticipated humiliating challenges. He debated whether to take a gun to school and practiced his “barrio stroll”: “a slow, rhythmic walk with ample flamboyant arm movement, chesty posture, and head up towards the heavens.”13 Each of these styles transforms walking from a utilitarian convention into a deviant esthetic statement made routinely in the practice of getting from here to .5 , __ M , takes some spec; , in the existential ne- cessity of putting one foot in front of the other to get ahead. Each suggests that the walker will not take a simple “straight” path through the social structure. He will take up more attention and more space in his social mobility than is called for by civil routines, perhaps, with those flamboyantly swayed arms and his side-to-side gait or slightly jumping bop causing problems for pedestrians who are attempting to pass unnoticed in the other direction. Most notably, each style of walking suggests not only that the walker is not here for the others around and “walks to a beat of a different drum- mer,” but he is from a morally deviant place. The ghetto bop and the bam'o stroll identify the walker as a native of a place that is outside and antago- nistically related to the morally respectable center of society. Similarly, the streetcomer male’s habit of repeatedly making manual contact with his genitals and hoisting up his pants is a prominent way of pointing to the walker’s animal life, a hfe carried on somewhere beyond the perception of respectable society. The currently popular “sag” look makes the same point by inverting these symbols. Pants are held by tight belts below the buttocks, where they permit the display of a “bad” ass covered by florid boxer shorts, which are often worn over a second, unseen pair of underpants. 14 From Japan to Scotland to East Los Angeles, tattoos are appreciated as devices for embracing a deviant identity. Tattoos may be used minimally to suggest toughness by drawing attention to the skin as a barrier between the tattooed person and others. They also conjure up touglmess by sug- gesting that the person has suffered and survived pain. Tattoos are not necessarily ominous, but often their content conveys an additionally “bad,” alien theme by suggesting a totemic relationship with evil. In one circle of street fighting young men in Glasgow in the early 19705, “Mick . . . sported on his forearm a red dagger entering the top of a skull and reappearing through its mouth. It was considered to be the finest tattoo in the neigh- bourhood.”15 Los Angeles cholos are partial to flit-TWEE that: wameaadass 555 black widow spiders and death skulls. Hell’s An- gels sport swastikas, German crosses, and skulls- and-crossbones. These symbols suggest that the wearer pre- sumes himself fundamentally rooted in a world of deviance and so is unresponsive to conven- tional moral appeals. What is more interesting is that the same effect is often achieved with tattoos that are traditional, respectable symbols of moral content—of “Mom,” “love,” and American Ea- gles; in the Japanese criminal subculture of yakuza, the whole body may be tattooed with Chrysan- themums.16 Beyond suggesting touglmess and al- most regardless of content, tattoos emphasize personal intransigence and are symbols of per- manent loyalty to a particular subgroup’s interpre- tation of the Good. They seem to say, “Wherever I am, whatever is going on, without my even try- ing, this will be fundamental to who I am.” Even when the moral commitment is to “Mom” or to the American flag, the tattoo will often have threatening, deviant overtones. (Contrast the morally innocuous wearing of pins bearing club or patriotic images: unlike tattoos and like college ties and tie-clips, these can be taken off.) Like walking, the would-be badass may also fashion talking into a deviant esthetic. John Allen, the professional “bad nigger” whose recollections of his street education in a juvenile detention fa- cility were quoted earlier, noted: “There was a big thing there about talking. You had to express yourself, and you saying, ‘Damn, jive, Listen man’ and going through all the motions and changes. ” 17 In Glasgow, young street fighting men use a slang, reminiscent of Cockney forms, that hides its meaning through a multistep process of alteration from conventional expression. 'Ihus, “It’s jist yir Donald” means “It’s just your luck”: “Donald” calls up “duck,” and “duck” rhymes with “luck.” “Ya tea-leaf ye!” means “You thiefl,” which, if pronounced with their accent, would sound some- thing like, tea-eef. “Ah fancy yir tin flute” means “I like your suit.”18 - The ethnographer who recorded these phrases grew up in Glasgow but was initially frus- trated in attempting to understand the young 556 P A R T 1' E N Violence and Masculinity toughs’ everyday conversations. As Allen indi- cates with regard to the United States, “jive” talk is not a natural talent of ghetto blacks.19 Within the local context of ghettoes, these argots are re- sources for taking the posture of an alien presence, a being who moves cooly above the mundane realities of others. As with being tough, being alien is not necessarily a posture taken toward conventional society. It is a way of being that may be taken up at any moment. As Allen’s quote made clear, being ultra cool is most essential in the company of other tough young men. Being alien is a way of stating, “I am not here for you,” when anyone—-friend, family, or foe——may be the “you. The ways of being alien begin to define an al- temative deviant culture. As such, they call for the study of their distinctive esthetic unities. Here, I can only indicate a few lines of analysis that might be elaborated by investigations devoted solely to ethnographic documentation. 1) The Cholo A coherent deviant esthetic unites various mani- festations of the low-income youth culture of the barrio known as la vida loca and identified with the cholo, vato loco, or Mexican-American home- boy. Language, body posture, clothing fashions, car styles, and graffiti exhibit a distinctive, struc- turally similar, “bad” perspective. As individu- als, young people in the barrio take on and shed this esthetic from situation to situation and to dif- ferent degrees, but they continuously take for granted that affiliation with it will signify, to their peers and to adults alike, the transcendence of a line of respectability and the assumption of a high- risk posture of moral defiance. In its essential thrust, the cholo esthetic as- sumes an inferior or outsider status and asserts an aggressive dominance. In body posture, this di— alectic is achieved by dropping below or falling back and simultaneously looking down on others. Thus, when Mexican-American young men wish to take up a cholo or “bad” posture for a photo- graph, they often squat, placing their buttocks just off the ground, sometimes on their heels, while they throw their heads slightly back to a position from which they can glare down at the camera. This posture is not easily sustained; its accom- plishment is at once an athletic test and an es- thetic demonstration of “bad” toughness.20 This position might be characterized as an aristocratic squat. Reminiscent of a resource known to peasants throughout the world, the cholo’s squat creates a place for him to sit when there are no chairs. But by throwing his head sharply back, the cholo takes on a paradoxically aristocratic air. Once in the lowered and reared- back position, a sense of superiority is attached to him, as it is to one who is born to privilege: natu- rally and necessarily, like a law of nature. Faced by a squatting cholo, an observer sees himself observed by a down-the-nose glance, like the stereotype of a peasant under the regard of an aristocrat. For his part, the cholo accomplishes something magical: he simultaneously embraces and transcends an inferior status. Before your very eyes and dressed in an undershirt that has no sleeves to put anything up, the cholo drops down to the ground, becoming lower to you in physical position but putting you down morally. Miracu- lously, the cholo manages literally to look down on you from beneath you. The dialectical structure and aggressive sym- bolic force of this body posture is also carried out in the classic pachuco stance and in the contem— porary “barrio stroll.” Unlike the cholo’s aristo- cratic squat, the pachucorstyle is both historically dated and well-known outside Mexican-American barrios, in part because of the popularity of the play and then movie, Zoot Suit. Although the pachuco’s Zoot Suit or “drapes” were fashions of the 1930s and 19405, contemporary cholos proudly, and sometimes self—consciously, continue elements of the pachuco style, wearing overly large, multiply pleated, sharply pressed khaki pants and pointed, brightly shined black shoes. And if the narrator of Zoot Suit took an exagger- ated back-leaning stance, the contemporary cholo is similarly inclined.21 When being photographed, a group of cho- los will often divide up into some who squat, lean . ,w their eyes down to add some who stand, maintaining .tlieswide angle between their side-pointed feet that the squatters also adopt, throwing the trunk slightly back, throwing their heads back even more, and casting their eyes down to meet the camera. This standing position is put into motion in the barrio stroll. In forward movement, the foot position adopted by squat- ting and stationary cholos is maintained, but now it becomes far more noticeable, causing a duck- like waddle. To balance out the waddle and the backward slant of the trunk, the barrio stroller bends his elbows sharply, drawing the hands up parallel to the ground. In the stationary position and in the stroll, the “being low” of the squat is replaced by a “being outside.” While the squatting cholo is in a remarkably low social position, the backward- inclined, standing and strolling cholo is remark- ably beyond reach. The magical effect is that while being emphatically beyond conventional reach, the cholo appears to be unusually aggres- sive and assertive as he strides into your world. The low position of the cholo’s aristocratic squat is repeated in the automobile esthetic of the low rider. By altering stock shocks and springs, cholos make cars ride literally low. If the rear is lowered more than the front, the driver will nat- urally incline backwards. Even without mechan- ical alterations, they may achieve the same effect by driving with their arms fully extended, their trunk and head inclined back, and their eyes cast down at the world above. The overall effect is less an approximation of the advertised modern man in an up—to-date car than a fantasy image of a prince in a horse-drawn chariot, sometimes racing with other chariots and sometimes promenading slowly through public boulevards. The cars themselves are restored and dressed up at a substantial expense. The challenge is to demonstrate a transcendent esthetic power by raising the dead and discarded to a vividly dis- played superiority. The low-rider is a distinctively American construction of alien being; foreign cars are not used, but the style is pointedly differ- ent from anything Detroit has ever tried to get Americans to buy. The form of graffiti that is popular among Mexican-American youths in Los Angeles also has an emphatically alien esthetic and a back- ward leaning slant. In New York City, graffiti, produced by blacks, Puerto Ricans, and others, is often colorful and graphic, sometimes extensively narrative, and cartoon figures are often mixed in with individual and gang names, threats, and ide- ological slogans. New York graffiti writers con- sider one of their highest achievements to be the creation of an integrated set of images running over up to ten subway cars. In East Los Angeles, graffiti is primarily monotonic calligraphy; as one writer put it, everything is in the line: Graffiti is all the same line, the same feeling, even though different people use it for a differ- ent purpose. . . . Anyway, I dig that line, I dug that line. That’s how I got involved. It’s my thing—that line.22 Experienced graffiti “writers” in New York denigrate “tags” (writing only a name or nick- name) as amateurish and unsophisticated. But in Los Angeles, graffiti is called plaqueasos—from placa, which in various contexts means a car li- cense plate, a policeman’s badge, or a plaque announcing one’s business to the world. The plaqueasos of Los Angeles are elaborated in line and adornment far beyond the “tags” derided by New York writers. Mexican-American plaqueaso writers ap- pear to be working from traditions that are so an- cient and foreign as to make the content of their graffiti routinely indecipherable to outsiders, often even to residents of their own barrios. The em- phasis in the content is on individual and gang names, phrases of bravado and threats, nightmar— ish (black widow spiders, laughing skulls) and deviant (the number 13 for the letter “M” for marijuana) iconography, and a protective curse (Con Savos or Con Safiis, often written simply as C/ S) that is reminiscent of those inscribed on Egyptian tombs. Individual letters in words, de- signed in a style that is unfamiliar to any written aim; E‘s-5“mede 557 ~' a» 558 P A R T T E N Violence and Masculinity tradition known in the barrio, are often mixed with symbols (for instance, stars between letters), as in a hieroglyphics. In a sensitive study of East Los Angeles graf- fiti, Jerry and Sally Romotsky argued that major styles of plaqueasos are based on Old English, Gothic, Diirer-like calligraphy.23 Perhaps the style that is most difficult for outsiders to decipher is what plaqueaso writers call the “point” style. Romotsky and Romotsky showed that the point style is achieved essentially by tracing the out- lines of blocky, Old English-style letters. In effect, plaqueaso writers achieve a strange, alien ap- pearance by working out of Anglo-Saxon cultural traditions in a disguised way. They achieve a dis- tinctive presence by the ingeniously simple de- vice of negation, that is, leaving out the substance of letters. A superior posture for plaqueaso is achieved by using the same dialectical technique that is used in body posture. When drawn in three di- mensions, the letters sometimes march to one side or huddle together like colorful cartoon char- acters engaged in a light, comic spirit. But in their “bad” forms—when they announce the names of gangs or make ominous declarations, three- dimensional letters often rear back and come down heavily on the observer as they declare their author’s existence.24 The same esthetic runs through clothing and language. Cholos favor armless undershirts, as if to embrace a sign of the working-class status that has been abjured by conventional fashion. Un- like garments that are manufactured to be worn as “tops,” these tops are also bottoms: tradition- ally Wom beneath shirts, their display is a nega- tion that emphasizes what is not worn. And by studiously maintaining their undershirts in bril- liant white, Cholos proclaim their transcendence of dirty work. Plaid shirts, referred to in the bar- rios as “Pendletons,” are part of the everyday uniform of many school-age Cholos. Worn over a bright white undershirt, the Pendleton recalls the cotton plaid shirts common among impoverished Mexican immigrants as well as the expensive wool shirts associated with the Oregon manufacturer. As a practical matter, the style is alien to the re- ality of the Cholos, whose first days of classes in the fall often have temperatures topping 100 de- grees. With colorful bandanas wrapped around their foreheads, Cholos look like they come from rural Indian areas rather than urban barrio neighborhoods. Homeboys in East Los Angeles speak and write graffiti with elements from Gale, a unique amalgam of Spanish and English that continues a “pachuco” argot whose roots are in pre—World War II, Mexican-American gang life.25 On the one hand, Cholos often ridicule recently arrived Mexicans who are incompetent in English.26 On the other hand, their version of Spanish is incom- prehensible to native Mexicans as well as to many of their U.S.-born parents. Pachuco or Calo is not a foreign language; it is ubiquitously alien. In sum, the cholo-pachuco style is a deviant posture of aggressive intrusiveness made from a position that is proudly outside the reaches of the various societies it addresses. Through the sta- tionary and the walking body and in clothing, cars, everyday language, and stylized writing, the pachuco-cholo-homeboy-vato loco conjures up a deviance rooted in a world that is self-consciously and intrinsically alien. The special claim of this esthetic is not just that its bearers are tough, but that they are from a spiritually rich, morally co- herent place that Anglo authorities, native Mexi- cans, parents, or conventionally styled peers may only grasp minimally and at a distance as existing somewhere over “there.” The Punk Consider next the novel way in which the punk culture locates its bearers in an alien moral sys— tem. An observer of the original British working class—based punk culture offered this summary: The punks turned towards the world a dead white face which was there and yet not “there.” These “murdered victims”—emptied and inert—also had an alibi, an elsewhere, literally “made up” out of vaseline and cosmetics, hair dye and mascara. But paradoxically, in the case of the punks, this “elsewhere” was a nowhere— _ r'r ted7'out of The alien character of punk culture has been achieved in several ways. One is to embrace as appearance enhancing the devices that, according to strong moral injunctions and contemporary fashion, ought to be kept hidden. Thus, safety and sanitary napkins are worn as adornments on shirts and skirts, lavatory chains are draped like a necklace on the chest, and makeup, is ap- plied in degrees and places that ensure that its ap- plication will be seen. And hair is not only dressed in unconventional ways but is dyed blue, green, intense red, yellows, and combinations of these colors that are not found naturally on any hu- mans. The suggestion is of an alien culture whose standards are the opposite of conventional esthetic standards. The thrust of punk culture is not only foreign 0r “weir ” but consistently antipathetic. The alien theme in punk culture has not been limited to dress and appearance. Dancing “was turned into a dumbshow of blank robotics.” The pogo—a dance style of jumping up and down, hands clenched to the sides, as if to head an imag- inary ball, the jumps repeated without variation in time to the strict mechanical rhythms of the music—“was a caricature—a reductio ad absur- dum of all the solo dance styles associated with rock music.” Bands took names like the Un- wanted, the Rejects, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Worst and wrote songs with titles like “I Wanna Be Sick on You” and “If You Don’t Want to Fuck Me, Fuck Off.” There was a “wilful desecration and the voluntary assumption of out- cast status which characterized the whole punk movement. "28 A memorable example was a sort of pet hairdo constructed by carrying live rats perched on the head.29 Another alien theme, one that was given a particular reading in punk culture but that has had broad appeal to many “bad” youth cultures, might be called, being inured to violence. Clothes display holes and rips that suggest not wear but war; hair is shaped into daggers; makeup may sug- gest bruises, scars, and black eyes. In this theme, :fifA/R fie ta I Way's offlle 559 the suggestion of an alien origin for the punk is that he or she has just come to the instant social situation, to what is going on here, from a place that is, to all in civil society, somewhere inhos- pitany “there.” Despite radical differences in the substance of their symbols, the punk and cholo cultures dra- matize a tough invulnerability and the status of a visitor in the conventional world. For the indi- vidual adolescent, the adoption of the cholo or punk style has often meant a weighty decision of moral citizenship. On the one hand, the bearer sets himself off as a member of an alien culture in the eyes of school and police authorities, parents, and conforming peers. On the other hand, the alien style enables even the loner to induct him- self, through what sociologists call collective be- havior; into a deviant community. Punk culture was manifested during its clas- sic stage in the rnid—to-late 19705 by an informal social organization underlying a strong esthetic coherence. The punk style inevitably became commercialized, softened, and sold to “norrna ” adolescents and to middle-aged adults through beauty salons, high-priced boutiques, and mass- marketed music. But for several years, tens of thousands of adolescents were working out a per- sonal style and helping to produce the emerging collective esthetic. By acquiring pieces of used clothing, costume jewelry, and miscellaneous “ju ”; altering items already in their closets; and applying makeup and assembling outfits with a care for detail; adolescents, male and female, were literally fitting themselves into a controver- sial collective movement. That the culture as a whole achieved a persistent coherence even while the details of the punk “look” constantly changed could be taken by individual members as proof both of the autodidactical, idiosyncratic creativ- ity of individual punks and of the existence of a common spiritual bond running through the age group, cutting across formal divisions of school classes, neighborhoods, sex, and ethnicity. Many adolescents live alien subcultures with far more everyday meaning than simply that of a bizarre dressing ritual. Beyond exploring the l y .2 560 P A R 1' 'r E N Violence and Masculinity reactions of conventional others, adolescents who are dressed in an alien style are recurrently challenged to behave in a distinctively cholo or punk (or “bad nigger,” or Hell’s Angel) style in routine interactions. How, for example, does one order food at a restaurant in punk style? How does one answer a teacher’s question like a cholo? Ifthe alien adolescent is in exile fiom a soci- ety that does not and never has existed, we still must appreciate the transcendent loyalties that are being evoked. Alien adolescent subcultures are collective movements on the way toward class consciousness, but they rarely reach explicit self- awareness or survive efforts to organize them for- mally. The cholos’ aristocratic squat and other elements of arch style suggest their inchoate col- lective efforts to weave themes from their unique historical reality: the Mexican peasant origins and US. agricultural exploitation of earlier genera- tions combined with a revolutionary tradition in which battles between peasants and aristocrats were joined by bandit leaders. Just as the black ghetto pimp, dressed in a white suit and a planter’s hat, defiantly embodies the stereotype of slave owners he has never known, so the cholo, looking down on his environment by taking up a stance be— neath and outside, unwittingly but defiantly gives expression to his people’s historical subjugation. The punk movement in the United States emerged in the mid-19705, coincident with the recession, rapid inflation, and the passage into political quiescence of the “sixties” generation. It emerged after the withdrawal from Vietnam, after the culmination of Watergate, and as the oil crisis was beginning to push up prices throughout the economy. Meanwhile the sixties generation, which originally gained collective self-consciousness, in part by taking over radio station formats and displacing the pop stars of the fifties, was now in its thirties, moving into higher income brackets, but still holding onto its cultural representation of youth. In rock music, the arena in which adolescents uniquely attempt to detect and define the waxing and waning of generations, scores of bands struggled for mass recognition in a youth market that was tena- ciously dominated by stars and styles nearing middle age. Styled like a militant vanguard, the punk band represented, in the market of collec- tive symbols, the distinctive historical struggle of the emerging generation. The punk movement was bitterly antihippie; rumors of attacks on six- ties youth types were constant. And the punk music and performance style was not simply rau- cous but a move back to an historical era before the sixties. It was an effort to get back to the fer- tile, earliest, crudest days of rock and roll in the fifties, as if to begin the youth culture again but in a way in which the currently young could take their place. To regard these as more than speculations is to miss the open-ended, protean quality of the subculture. What the movement is about in terms of collective material interest and historical posi- tion is necessarily unclear as long as it retains the openness to individual esthetic creativity that makes it a compellineg exciting process to its members. But not to speculate on underlying, im- plicitly sensed themes of collective class interest is to miss an essential element in the excitement of being in these movements. The alien subcultures of adolescence are vehicles for cooperative spec- ulation, means of exploring, through the reac- tions of others to clothing and new speech forms, which devices f‘work” and which do not; which fit the alien soul and which are incomprehensible in it; and which compromise the alien order by evincing a subtle sympathy to mainstream con- ventions. To the extent that young people who do not know each other can create, through indirect interactions and informality, a rich coherence among such minor details as the shape of a line in graffiti, the colors painted on hair, a rag worn around the head, a stirring accent, or a memorable phrase uttered before a class, they can sense the reality of an alien spiritual home—a place as yet concretely present in no definable geography, but surely “there.” The Animal and the Cool Cutting across the various alien adolescent sub- cultures is a dualism between the animalistic and the cool. One w“ are not just tough but es . . contemporary civilization is to, manifestian-animal incapacity for moral responsiveness. Hell’s Angels embraced this folk anthropology with their studied affinity for dirt. Inverting the practice of teenagers who shrink “designer” jeans through multiple washings before wearing them skin tight in public, Hell’s Angels would train new denim jackets through multiple baths in dirt and grease before wearing them on the road. To shock outsiders, they turned rituals of civil society into occasions for display- ing their animal natures, as when one 250-pound Hell’s Angel would greet another in a bar by tak- ing a running jump into his arms and planting a wet kiss on his lips.30 To be animal is to suggest chaotic possibilities—that, through you, at any moment, forces of nature may explode the im- mediate social situation. Being cool is a way of being alien by suggest- ing that one is not metaphysically “here” in the situation that apparently obtains for others, but is really in tune with sensually transcendent forces in another, conventionally inaccessible dimen- sion. To be cool is to view the immediate social situation as ontologically inferior, nontranscen- dent, and too mundane to compel one’s complete attentions. A common way of being cool is to re- alize or affect a moderate drug mood: the “cool cat” of black street life has its origins in the culture of the heroin world.31 In Los Angeles barrios, an analogous, drug-related phenomenon is tapaoz’sm, an air of being so into a deviant world (la Vida loca) that one cannot “give a shit” about any situational restraints. In contexts of extreme poverty, a cool version of a “bad” look may be achieved by a self- consciously exaggerated display of luxury in the form of flashy styles worn casually. In their ghet— toes, the pachuco who is “draped” in overflowing fabric and the black cat who is “dripping” in j ew- elry imply sources of wealth that must exist at a distance from conventional morality, in some un- derground realm, perhaps that of the pimp or the drug dealer.32 The two emphases of alien style have spawned different descriptions of fighting. On the animal side, in Puerto Rican street gangs in New York in the 19705, to be beaten up was to be “dogged up.” In many black ghettoes, group at- tacks on isolated individuals are described as “rat packing” or “wolf packing. ” In East Los Angeles, attempting to intimidate others with a fierce ex- pression is known as doing a “maddog” look. On the cool side, to Chicago’s Vice Lords of the early 1960s, a fight was a “humbug,” and some of the West Side branches became known as the “Conservative” Vice Lords. With “conser- vative” as with “humbug,” they were assuming a pose of calm reserve toward what others find ex- tremely upsetting. It also is cool to refer to risky deviant activities with a diminutive. John Allen, the “professiona ” stickup man, liked to talk about a period in his life in Washington, DC, that was nicely organized—a time when he could do “my little sex thing,” “my little drug thing,” and “a little stickup.”33 As used in black street culture, “shit,” “jive,” and “stone” have been used to express both the animal and the cool sides of an alien posture. To talk “jive” is to talk in a cool, poetically effective way, but it may also be to talk nonsense and to bullshit, as in the pejorative “don’t give me that jive talk!” or “you jive motherfucker!” “Jive” and “shit” also refer to a gun. In this sense they sug- gest an overwhelming force that puts the individ- ual beyond the restraints of civilized morality. To be “stoned” is, in one aspect, to be drugged be- yond competence for morally responsive interac- tion. Stone is also a cool object; metaphysically, it emphasizes a hard, unmovable reality, as in the praiseworthy, “He’s a stone motherfucker,” or in The Black P. Stone Rangers, a famous gang name in Southside Chicago in the 19605. The gang’s name was supercool, since it exploited a double entendre (“stone” played off the name of a local street, Blackstone). Actually, the phrase was ul- tracool, in that it fortuitously created a triple or quadruple entendre; the club’s name was cele- brated by poetically inserting a “P” within the street name, which audiny set “stone” apart from “black” just long enough to register racial as well as metaphysical connotations. 562 PART TEN Violence and Masculinity Finally, a lack of expressiveness is used widely to construct alien adolescent subcultures in both animal and cool forms. “Animals” in fra- ternity houses and on sports teams represent a frequently admired way of being “bad” by show- ing themselves, in loud and wild forms, as being governed by inarticulate, uncivilized forces. On the cool side is the use of silence to affect the style of the professional killer or the Mafia chief. When asked by a sociologist, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” it is cool to answer, “an assassin. "34 , More elaborately, it is dramatically “bad” style to exercise power publicly through silent codes. Turtle, “the Chicano ‘Fonz,’ ” firstverbally dressed down homeboys from another barrio in a dangerous face-to-face confrontation and next gave a hand signal and walked away; then twenty or so of his homeboys “spontaneously” attacked in unison.35 This move is “supercool” or extraor- dinarily “bad” owing to its doubly silent struc- ture. It is a silent message that mobilizes a more profoundly silent dialectic. That is, the most min— imal imaginable physical move causes a major physical attack, a momentary shift in posture pro- duces a permanent change in being, a silent sig- nal creates screaming pain, and a cool move turns on the heat and burns the victim. No attack need follow such a silent message, however. A gesture by one, apparently undiffer- entiated, man that turns all the others in a place into his servants—for instance, in a bar, at the snap of a finger, an aisle is cleared and a central table is left vacant—also shows a bad “cool.” Watch- ing the silent signal and its results, both the par- ticipants and bystanders suddenly appreciate a powerful, alien presence. The indications are not only that a structure of authority clearly exists in the group, but that it is implicitly illicit: no formal indicia demarcate thosewho act as waiters, chauf— feurs, and couriers from those who are served as customers, car owners, and chiefs. Exercised with an aura of mystery, “bad” because it cannot show its sources publicly, this power always ex- ists at a distance from the situation that obtains here and now. For those under its spell, its sources are always in some unreachable location vaguely apprehended as over “there.” Being Mean The person who would be tough must cultivate in others the perception that they cannot reach his sensibilities. Adolescents who would achieve a foreign and hostile presence in interaction must go further and participate in a collective project to produce an alien esthetic. But the shaping of a tough image and the practice of an alien sensibil- ity are insufficient to ensure that one will be “bad.” Those who would be bad are always purSued by powerful spiritual enemies who soften tough pos- tures and upset the carefully balanced cultures of alienation, making them appear silly, puerile, and banal and thus undermining their potential for in- timidation. To survive unwanted imitators, you must show that unlike the kids, you’re not kid- ding; unlike the gays, you’re not playing; unlike the fashionable middle class, you understand fully and embrace the evil of your style. You must show that you mean it. By being mean, I refer to a distinctive sensu- ality worked into the experience of interaction. To complete the project of becoming a badass, it is necessary to impress on others the apprehen- sion that, however carefully they may maintain a respectful comportment, you might _ suddenly thrust the forcesof chaos into their world. Ifhe is serious about being tough and alien, the would- be badass can inundate the routine social settings of his everyday life with this “awe-full,” ominous character. But how can he show that he means it so clearly that he is never confused with childish, playful, or otherwise inauthentic imitators? The key distinction is not between physical action and its symbolic representation. If the badass is to make everyday social situations rou- tinely ominous, he cannot, as a practical matter, depend simply on violently harming others.36 As has frequently been found in studies of street “gangs,” those with the “baddest” reputations are not necessarily the best nor even the most frequent fighters. And in the qualitative materials which follow, the u— seems always f mu: - v . «, ' Whether attack or via dramatization at a distance, the badass conveys the specific message that he means it. If we ask, what is the “i ” that he means? we miss the point. To construct and maintain an awesome, omi- nous presence, the badass must not allow others to grasp the goals or substantive meaning of his action. He must seem prepared to use violence, not only in a utilitarian, instrumental fashion but as a means to ensure the predominancexof his meaning, as he alone understands it, whatever “it” may be. To make clear that “he means it,” the badass celebrates a commitment to violence beyond any reason comprehensible to others. For example, at a dance hall in Glasgow, Tim, a dominant per- sonality in the Young Team, turned to Dave and pointed to a bystander,“ ‘Ah don’t fancy the look 0’ his puss. Go over an’ stab him fur me.’ Dave had duly carried out the request.”37 From Lon- don’s East End, an ex—skinhead recalled, “We only ’it people for reasons, didn’t we? . . . like if they looked at us.”38 . In conflicts between street gangs, there is lit- tle room for a reasoned exchange of grievances; “discussion” and “debate” risk suggesting a def- erential bow to rational order that would under- mine the project of the badass. Manny Torres, a member of the “Young Stars” in Spanish Harlem in the late 19505, recalled that in his work as “warlord,” debate was not a means of avoiding conflict but a signal that a fight was inevitable: My job was to go around to the other gangs, meet with their chiefs, and decide whose terri- tory was whose. And if we had any debate about it, it was my job to settle on when and where we would fight it out and what weapons we would use.39 Physically, badasses are always vulnerable; in US. ghettoes, someone can always “get to” them, since guns are widely available. But if they communicate that they will persevere without limitation until they dominate, then they force A‘Bfififlfiéz :Ways’ ofthe 563 others to confront the same choice: are they will- ing to risk bodily injury, and even if they escape injury, are they willing to risk arrest? Is a mo- mentary sensation of dominance worth it? The badass’s logic of domination is to mean nothing more or less than meanness. He succeeds by in- ducing others to reason, to reflect on the extrane- ous meaning of violence, to weigh the value of experiencing dominance against the fear of phys— ical destruction and legal punishment, when he will not make the calculation. Now and again, he must go at least a little bit mad. Ethnographic details demonstrate the would- be badass’s awareness of the necessity to drama- tize his transcendence of rationality. Badasses are not irrational or antirational, and they certainly are not stupid. They understand precisely the na- ture of rationality and they position themselves carefully to manifest that their spirit, their mean- ing, is not limited by their need to make intelligi- ble to others or even to themselves the purposive coherence or utilitarian sensibility of their action. Within this framework, we can understand the following comments by black Philadelphia street toughs to sociologist Barry Krisberg not as evi- dence of intellectual incompetence or moral insen- sitivity, but as the opposite. A group leader named William told Krisberg that he “wouldn’t argue with someone—just stab them.”40 There was no need to argue or explain because: “ ‘whatever comes to my mind, I know it got to be right because I’m thinking of it.’ ”‘“ Another leader, Deacon, characterized his everyday posture with: Doesn’t have to be anything, it could be just the principle of a conversation. If I thought it was justifiable, like, they was trying to, like fuck over me, I would shoot them, whatever way that came into my mind at that moment.42 Where badasses congregate, Showdowns are likely. In Showdowns, we can sometimes see the eminently rational use of seemingly irrational vi- olence to manifest a transcendence of rationality. In the following incident, drawn from R. Lincoln Keiser’s ethnography of Chicago’s Vice Lords, there is no suggestion of sadism or even of much 564 PART TEN wolenceandMascuunuy anger; rather, there is a mutual recognition of the meanness required to be a badass. The back- ground is a fight between two cliques within the Vice Lords, the Rat Pack and the Magnificent Seven. The speaker, a member of the Rat Pack, began a fistfight with Fresh-up Freddie of the Magnificent Seven: He couldn’t touch me, so I said, “I quit,” and I dropped my guard. That mother fucker, he hit me in the nose, hit me in the mouth, and my mouth started bleeding. Now Cool Fool had my jive [gun]. I said, “Fool, gimme my jive!” and F001, he gave me my gun. I said to Fresh- up, “I ought to shoot you!” Now Fresh-up got the intention of snatching the gun. He done snatched three or four guns out of different fel- lows hands, and he started walking at me. He said, “Shoot me if you want to. I don’t believe you going to shoot me. ” I knew what he’s going to do when he got close, he going to grab the gun. I didn’t want to kill him so I shot him in the arm. I had to shoot him. You see, if I hadn’t done it, he would of took my gun away from me.‘13 Fresh-up was attempting to be the baddest, first by manifestly not limiting himself by princi- ples of honor or conventional morality (he struck out at the speaker after the latter had “quit”) and second, in moving to snatch the gun away, by demonstrating the other’s moral weakness—the other’s fear not of him but of the consequences of using the gun he possessed. The speaker shot, not necessarily out of fear that Fresh-up would take the gun and shoot him, but so Fresh-up would not transform the speaker’s pretense of meanness into an evident bluff. Being mean, then, is a pristiner rational so- cial logic for manifesting that one has transcended rationality. Having grasped its paradoxical ratio- nality, we can now more readily understand vari- ous ways in which badasses breathe awesomely mean airs into everyday life. To the would-be badass, being mean is not an abstract commitment but an exciting world of distinctive phenomena. Becoming a badass becomes seductive when one senses in interactional detail the transcendent sig- nificance of manifesting meanness. I will trace three segments of esthetically and sensually com- pelling ways of being mean under the categories: “Soulful Chaos,” “Paraphernalia of Purposive- ness,” and “Mind Fucking.” Soulful Chaos The ominous presence of the badass is achieved in one respect by his ways of intimating chaos. The person who is most fearsomely beyond so- cial control is the one who does not appear to be quite in control of himself because his soul is rooted in what, to us, is chaos. The following is a poem written by an ex- skinhead. Everywhere they are waiting, In silence. In boredom. Staring into space. Reflecting on nothing, or on violence. . . . Then suddenly it happens. A motor-cycle ' Explodes outside, a cup smashes. They are on their feet, identified At last as living creatures, The universal silence is shattered, The law is overthrown, chaos Has come again. . . . 44 In this poem, chaos is represented as the force that moves one from boredom to liveliness, awakening one’s senses, providing essential energy, making the world a seductive place again. The suggestion is that chaos is at the ,very source of one’s spiritual being. If badasses are not often poets, they are most fundamentally creators of a special culture. Con- sider the explanation offered by Big L, a member of a Puerto Rican gang in Brooklyn in the 1970s, of why the Bikers have the reputation of being the baddest: Rape old ladies. Rape young girls. Kick people out of their homes. Steal. Vandalize the whole neighborhood. Burn cars and all this. And they’re bad. That’s why they consider them bad. They’re bad.‘15 Beyond the specific acts cited, the Bikers have, for Big L, a transcendent, ringing reality as bad, real bad, the b. ca. . V comes a recita ' E . , intonation of evil goes on and on,reso‘n’€1ting in choruses of awe. Rape and mayhem may sometimes be useful to construct a bad reputation, but as a routine matter, the badass will exploit a more cultured, symbolically economic means of sustaining an awful presence. He may dramatize a sadistic pleasure in violence to suggest that chaos is nat- ural to him and, therefore, that it is always his po- tential. Skinheads described cutting someone with a razor as “striping,” as if there was an es- thetic appeal, a matter of artistic achievement, in the process of destruction. In Glasgow, another place where knives have been a favorite instru- ment of group violence, “team” fighters distin- guish between being “slashed” and being “ripped” (the latter involving a special turning of the knife) and they further distinguish a method of kicking aimed at opening the wound.46 When gangs have successfully established terrifying reputations, they are often accorded myths of bestial sadism. Ellison reported that in the 19505 in Brooklyn, members of the most feared gang, the Puerto Rican Flyers, were said to drink blood.47 By celebrating hedonism as the underlying motivation for their violence, badasses avoid the interpretation that their violence is contingent on the prospect of extrinsic rewards and, therefore, ultimately controllable by others. A Vice Lord ex- plained to Keiser the essential attraction of “wolf packing”: Wolf packing—like for instance me and some other fellows go out and knock you down ’cause we feel like it. That’s what it is. I might take your money, but I really want to kick some ass anyway, so I decide to knock the first thing in my way down.48 Across various sociocultural settings, badasses sometimes seem to attack victims be- cause they “need” a beating. A graffiti writer from the South Bronx recalled a time when a few Black Spades arrived at their Clubhouse with guns, turned lights on, and discovered that some of those present were not of their group: “first - rA aircrew .49 Ways «the am 565 they took and beat up a couple of guys because, though they weren’t in a gang, they just needed a good ass-kicking at the time. "49 There is an ambi- guity in this statement as to who “needed” the beating, the attackers or the victims. In some con- texts, badasses posture virtually as altruistic ser- vants of their victims’ “need” for a beating. At other times, the “need to kick ass” is more clearly their own. In either case the suggestion is of soul- ful chaos: of a nature governed by overwhelming, destructive forces that demand release through the instrumentality of the badass or of irresistibly se- ductive weaknesses in victims that compel the badass to attack, like a priestly servant who is duty bound to preserve a certain harmony of evil in the world. x Being mean is achieved with a special econ- omy by attacks directed at especially vulnerable victims and especially respectable places. Ac- companying a Glasgow gang, Patrick described a rush into a public library. They began setting fire to newspapers in the Reading Room, knocked a magnifying glass out of the hand of an elderly man, and en route to the street, a male attendant in a green uniform was punched and kicked out of the way. “Some, behind me,” he noted, “could hardly run for laughing.”50 Ex-skinheads recalled an excursion to Lon- don’s Hyde Park: “When we got to the Park we just went wild.” Disturbing “Pakis,” for example, by putting fingers in the way of a man taking pic- tures of his wife and children, was a focal activity. At the local park, they would throw stones at ducks; go to the cafe, order food, and not pay; and hide behind bushes waiting for a boat to come by, say to the child in it, “give me a lift, mate,” and then collectively jump in, promptly sinking the boat.51 Their targets were “nice” in a conventional moral sense. The attacks had no utilitarian pur- pose; many were treated exclusively as “fun.” With these elements of context, meanness may be manifest with remarkably little physical effort. In fights, meanness may be demonstrated by exceeding moral limitations and utilitarian justi- fication. From the white ethnic gang scene of 19505 Brooklyn, Ellison recited ...
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