Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Your Identification, Please

The story sounds familiar at first. Militias are fueling urban warfare -- but in Rio de Janeiro, not Baghdad. The Washington Post describes the struggle to control 100 slum districts where "militias" are simultaneously the "protectors" and the source of trouble. The men who started the militias were off-duty police officers and residents themselves. But now the militias have become a law unto themselves.


The Rio das Pedras militia, one of the oldest in the city, was formed in the late 1980s when neighbors banded together to kick out a group of local drug dealers. As the militia evolved, off-duty and retired police officers began taking over its leadership positions. Some residents say that today the militia helps to fill the gap left by the government's inattention to the neighborhood's social needs. ...

Allan Turnowski, the state director of special police operations, said the militias recruit members from a police corps that pays low-tier troopers about $450 a month. ... Leonardo Pontes, a hotel security guard in a Rio tourist district ... said residents pay the militia about $14 a month for an illegal cable television connection, whether they want it or not, and in return get a neighborhood free of drug gangs. He said he thinks it's a good bargain. ...

But their critics claim the militias supplant one kind of gang with another and official statistics claim to show no difference between militia-ruled and gang-controlled slum districts.

Commentary

One way to recognize a failing state is to examine the extent to which its cities are subdividing into gated communities. This article from Wikipedia provides an overview of the booming phenomenon of fortified villages in the modern age.

In more recent times, a much larger number of gated communities has rapidly developed in various regions throughout the world ... In 2000, eight million U.S. residents lived in gated communities ... American gated communities generally exist more for purposes of prestige than for practical security needs. In most cases, the gate is unmanned and automated and is opened by a resident from their vehicle by entering a code on an electronic keypad. ...

In Brazil, the most widespread form of gated community is called "condomínio fechado" (closed housing estate) and is the object of desire of the upper classes. Such a place is a small town with its own infrastructure (backup power supply, sanitation and security guards). Some even have schools for the children so that they will only need to leave the community after the first five years of elementary school. The purpose of such a community is to protect its residents from outside violence. ...

In post-apartheid South Africa gated communities have mushroomed in response to high levels of violent crime. South African gated communities are broadly classified as "security villages" (large-scale privately developed areas) or "enclosed neighbourhoods". Some of the newest neighborhoods being developed are virtually entirely comprised of security villages, with a few isolated malls and other essential services (such as hospitals). A common mode of development of the security villages involves staking out a large land claim, developing a high wall surrounding the entire zone, then gradually adding roads and other infrastructure. In part, property developers have adopted this response to counter squatting, which local residents fear due to associated crime, and which often results in a protracted eviction process. Crime syndicates have been known to acquire property in some of these security villages to be used as a base for their operations within them. ...

In Saudi Arabia, gated communities have existed since the discovery of oil, mainly to accommodate Westerners and their families. After threat levels raised since late 1990s against Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, gates have become armed, sometimes heavily, and all vehicles being inspected. Marksmen and SANG armored vehicles appeared in certain times, markedly after recent terrorist attacks in areas nearby, targeting Westerners.

The Wikipedia article probably understates the actual prevalance of gated communities by focusing only on the readily recognizable forms. The Poor Man's gated community is secured by creating a neighborhood watch, often manned by former military men, as happens in Baghdad. The Rio militias that the Washington Post describes are just simply one way poor people pull up the drawbridge around their patch of turf. They chose a local warlord and in some respects transfer allegiance to him, while maintaining a separate relationship to a High King in the capitol.

Nor is this the only form of enclosure of the once national common. Subdivision can also take the form of the separation of ethnic communities from the larger nation into closed societies. Mark Steyn watches it happen in England.

The flight routes from Pakistan to the United Kingdom are now the most important ideological conduit for radical Islam. The London bombers last summer were British subjects of Pakistani origin. Last week, two more were arrested in connection with the Tube bombings at Manchester Airport as they prepared to board a plane to Karachi.

Meanwhile, flying back from Karachi and Islamabad to Heathrow and Manchester are cousins, lots and lots of them. In his detailed study of the Mirpur district in Pakistan, Roger Ballard estimates that at least half and maybe up to two-thirds of those living in Britain of Mirpuri descent marry first cousins. This is a critical tool of reverse-assimilation: instead of being diluted over the generations, tribal identity is reinforced; in effect, Pakistani tribal lands are now being established in parts of northern England.

It is often forgotten that the Dark Ages were also the heyday of multiculturalism. Each valley held its petty lord and it was possible for places separated only by a few miles to speak totally different languages. But it can't happen again, can it?

16 Comments:

Blogger NahnCee said...

If we can ever convince our government to finally put a fence along our Mexican border, we'll be the first national gated community.

Then we'll just have to cast our beady eyes northward to make sure Canada is behaving itself and if worst comes to worst, cease all inbound air traffic. You want to come to America, you do it the way immigrants have traditionally done it, by a slow boat and saluting the Statue of Liberty.

3/28/2007 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

We gotta be real nice to the Canucks, Nahncee:
Then we seize their Oilfields.
---
Sydney Zoo
12 Week Old Pandas

3/28/2007 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Dennis Miller Radio Show
Thursday, March 29
Today's guests will included former ambassador to the UN
John Bolton;
Congressman Peter King (R-NY);
Ben Stein, the economist, actor, comedian and former TV show host; and
Victor Davis Hansen, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Professor of emeritus at California University, Fresno and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services.

Also on KRLA:
http://www2.krla870.com/listen/

3/29/2007 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger warhorse said...

nahncee said:

"If we can ever convince our government to finally put a fence along our Mexican border, we'll be the first national gated community."

I think the Israelis may have beaten you to that punch ... not to mention the old USSR ...

3/29/2007 04:01:00 AM  
Blogger NooYawkah said...

Er, wouldn't China be considered the first national gated community?

3/29/2007 05:43:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

nooyawkah: Er, wouldn't China be considered the first national gated community?

I'm thinking it was the German "Democratic" Republic. Brandenberg Gate and all that.

3/29/2007 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger fred said...

One can distinguish between gated or walled states that fence out an enemy--ie, The Great Wall of China, or a wall along Mexican border for illegals. But then there are gated communities within a state, as in many places in Florida. What these communites do is to fence out those they consider potential treats (thieves etc) and what it comes down to is that those who can afford it (the Haves) fence out the Have Nots. What is of a bit of interest is that the haves and have nots both want to live in that area for what it seems to offer.

3/29/2007 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger PapaBear said...

Fred,

Too many of the "Have nots" wish to go to the area of the "Haves" in order to steal what the "Haves" have.

The Dark Ages occurred when the Roman Empire's army was no longer able to keep the productive citizenry safe from roaming bandits. The way the Roman army would accomplish this was to hunt down the bandits and execute them. The method of execution was chosen as a means of discouraging others from going into the banditry business.

Once bandit bands were allowed to survive, the productive citizenry had to retreat into defendable, secure areas, and the Dark Ages happened

3/29/2007 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger Griswel said...

Also lost in the discussion of gated communities is the fact that many who decry horizontal gated communities life in vertical gated communities.

Liberals who live in big-city condos often turn their noses up at suburban areas, but the condos are merely gated communities with one residence on top of the other rather than gated communities laid out flat.

The only real difference is that the conservatives have trees.

3/29/2007 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

When looking at several styles of gates & fences, it might be helpful to ask the following question: are the gates being used to keep folks out, or in?

3/29/2007 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

fred, "What is of a bit of interest is that the haves and have nots both want to live in that area for what" seems to have been built by the denizens. With the newcomers not realizing that the citizenry provide the base of the desired prosperity, not the locale.

3/29/2007 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

In the fragmented, anarchic North America of the future in Neal Stephenson's _Snow Crash_, gated communities were called "burbclaves."

3/29/2007 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger jane long said...

Guarded, gated communities in the States feel a bit stagnant- guess it’s because there isn’t a lot of through traffic and the residents must like it that way. Can’t blame them, but the developments look defensive and garrisoned, even with their lovely landscaping. Will moats around fortified neighborhoods be the next thing? Guess glass shards on the walltops would be too much of a liability issue in the US.

OTOH, I am in the market for a Texas farm with some kind of a fence, even though there would be little chance of crime (I hope). Guards will be unsalaried dogs and peacocks.

3/29/2007 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Glass shard-topped walls were an early development in the Third World, but they are widely regarded as inadequate today. Everyone knows the way over it is to use an old mattress.

Things are far more advanced today. If I could get someone to spot me an writer's advance I'd do a coffee table book on gated community architecture in the Third World.

It will be lavishly illustrated with photos of designer bollards, serpentine approaches. Razor wire. Roving patrols. Embedded steel nails. Thirty foot walls. Attack dogs. And internally subdivided houses; bulkheaded homes to contain any penetration to a partial area.

I really do wish someone would do a coffee table book. Maybe we are watching a new kind of Dark Age architecture developing before our eyes. Just think of how famous we'll be in two millenia, if anyone can still read.

3/29/2007 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger jane long said...

“Just think of how famous we'll be in two millenia, if anyone can still read.”

But that’s the beauty of those architecture table tomes- they’re mostly pictures. Our descendants who emerge from this century’s nexus of medieval barbarism and the singularity will only have to figure out how to turn the pages. Anyway, I’ll gladly volunteer for the book project since arkitekcher’s my field and I love to travel and collect buildings on film, and only ask that a US battalion, Wolverine and Maximus be part of the expedition for some places.

Years ago I had to scale a shard-topped wall when I got locked into a little museum’s grounds in Guatemala City. Thank goodness for a nearby box and one spot on the wall top with fewer pieces of that really pretty glass than the rest.

3/30/2007 05:47:00 AM  
Blogger jane long said...

Wretchard, how in the world could a writer's advance be a problem for you? Seems you could dovetail work on several book ideas with the same 'round the world travel and research. Your family could meet up with you at ports of interest and a trusty laptop would ensure your continued hook-in with the First World and its media take on the Third, as you walk their talk--

3/30/2007 06:03:00 AM  

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