Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who Own's My Town

Nov. 10: A satellite photo shows a giant, 87,000 square foot version of KFC's new logo in the Nevada desert.

Last week, a Santa Fe mini-mall sign advertising Albertsons, Office Max and various other stores burned. If you slow down enough, while driving, the dried drips of flame retardant foam are still visible. I don’t know how it lit, I’m sure it was probably something non-descript like a common electrical fire; but the first thing I thought of was Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang.

Back in my old American Heartland stomping grounds, someone may need to “pull an Abbey” to save the rolling hills and prairies from commercial destruction. For all the quaint down-home simplicity claimed by many in the Midwest, it is a haven for ratty, tearing billboards. I recently read that Missouri, alone, has nineteen times as many billboards just on I-70 than found in the entire state of Colorado.

Probably the one item that causes me the most disgust in New Mexico is the graffiti. I used to live in downtown St. Louis, where stereotypes tell me that a 70% African-American population will lead to looting, shooting and GRAFFITTI; but St. Louis can’t hold a candle to the destruction found throughout this state. A few months ago, a number of Santa Fe Plaza galleries were covered with property destroying gang graffiti. My daughter’s school (considered one of the best in the area) was recently vandalized with spray paint, along with the neighboring community library. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, it is impossible to travel through Santa Fe without facing some kind of destruction caused by either gangs or commercialism. I spent the weekend in Taos and was revolted by the manner in which the once heavenly artist abode had commercialized – rolling in a fresh band of graffiti artists with its tourist dollars, as well. Don’t get me started on Albuquerque – the bigger the city… the worse the problem gets.

So what am I talking about here? Am I upset about commercialism or graffiti? Ironically, to quote one of Kubrick’s last commercially-successful films: What’s my major malfunction? (Full Metal Jacket)

I believe the two go hand in hand. Although sociologists try and make us pity the modern street gangs from the perspective of screwed-up-pseudo-families where multiple individuals join together as some freaky family-unit (that is notoriously incestuous and abusive); the true underlying reason for gangs before and gangs now is – MONEY. Overt-commercialism can not exist without a strong buying public and gangs cannot exist without a readily available source of targets. People are often surprised by the high-incidence of gang violence in the picturesque capital city. Let me tell you, people, it’s only going to get worse. At this moment there is not a public middle or high school in Santa Fe, Albuquerque or Taos that is not heavily infected with gangs. The median home value for a 3-bedroom in Santa Fe is topping $450k; the more expensive this place gets the more of a draw it will become for outside criminals – the more it will become a necessity for local members of the typically peaceful middle class to turn to burglary and the like to survive. The vandals around my fair city are not just taking pride in their skills with a spray can, their marking their territory and they don’t seem to care that someone else owns the deed. – DN

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Danny Boy,
You should read: "Suburban Gangs: The Affluent Rebels" by Dan Korem. "For the first time in American history, youth gangs are forming in persistent numbers in suburban and affluent communities across the US. Since the 1980's kids from upscale neighborhoods have been forming their own gangs and committing crimes. This is an international trend." I like to quote someone's book. Money as in they need it or that they don't care for it? Maybe it is both depending on which side of the track you come from? Is it drug induced, or is it just bad upbringing in these modern times? I think it is all the above.