Foreword Communications

Friday, June 27, 2008

Transnational Gangs: How have gangs gone global? How does immigration facilitate the international spread of gangs?

The United States is not the only nation that has seen the proliferation of street gangs in recent decades. However, the explosion of street gang activity in other nations can, at least partially, be traced back to the U.S., where many of these foreign gang members receive their training and internship. Individuals who make their living through criminal activity cycle in and out of the United States and take back to their own country, or another country altogether, more criminal skills and network contacts than they left with.

Although there are many reasons why gangs have gone global, one of the main sources of their education comes from time spent in the U.S. Individuals enter the country either with some criminal skills already present or with the predilection toward criminal activity, and through their initiation into the U.S. crime world, they increase their skills and criminal contacts. If the individual is arrested for such activity, he or she may be deported back to his country of origin, taking everything he has learned with him, including the many contacts he has made, which, in many cases, are drug related. The United States deports thousands of individuals each year for participating in criminal activity making this a major source of the global gang member pool.

Another reason for the global spread of street gangs can be traced to the media representation and glamorization of the gang member stereotype. As far back as the many Hollywood pictures of James Dean as the romantic and misunderstood hoodlum, American culture has inadvertently idolized the gang member. What was once present only in the movies and American novels has spread to the internet and into popular music further widening the reach of the gang mystique. Interestingly, the gang members that are created by such methods probably wouldn’t even be familiar with the terms globalization or transnational, nor would they likely care. Even more interesting is the fact that these romanticized images in no way reflect the realities of gang life, which is another fact that up and coming gang members don’t know about, but probably wouldn’t care to know either since the goal is not to become one of the criminal element that lives in squalor and deals with the day to day avoidance of arrest. The idealized image of the successful criminal as having a garage full of flashy cars and a stable full of women is the image that these individuals strive for.

It is also likely that the majority of the globalization of gangs is due simply to the move toward an increasingly globalized world. As world travel became easier, and the spread of national cultures became more prevalent, it was inevitable that the movement of individuals would signal the spread of the good and the bad, including gang mentality, culture, and activity. Some of these gangs operate as a part of criminal networks and others operate independently using what they have learned in the states as a basis for their activities.

Gangs were once formed by a group of individuals who were generally short-term, temporary members. The average gang member was usually a young man who joined the gang as a sort of rite of passage. Most of these members would eventually outgrow the gang. However, in recent decades, gang activity has taken on a whole new meaning with individuals becoming more permanent members of a gang and more entrenched in gang life and gang activities. Women are becoming more involved in gangs. And the gang has become more of an organization unto itself with members as employees and the spread into the whole of the U.S. and numerous foreign countries.

Still, for the most part, it is not the gangs themselves that have gone international but the gang persona or mentality. The phenomena of the globalization of gangs has occurred because the gang culture has spread via the media, and, most importantly, the migration of individual gang members. As previously mentioned, the individual gang members takes what he has learned and incorporates it into gang activities in another country. Gang activity in the United States has increased more than four hundred percent since the 1970’s, and gang activity has been reported in such countries as France, Germany, Canada, Japan, England, Mexico and South Africa, to name only a few. It used to be said that gangs migrated in order to find new members and to acquire additional territory. However, although this does still happen occasionally, it is now thought that the international spread of gangs did not result from any intentional plan, but rather as an unintended result of the migration of individual gang members.

The international trend of gang migration has followed a similar pattern as that which has heralded the spread of gangs in the United States itself. Gangs were once a localized phenomenon. However, as the members of the gang migrated, ironically sometimes in order to get away from the gang itself, the gang member formed a new gang in the new location. At first, these new gangs were not offshoots of the former gang, but were new outfits altogether. Once gangs realized the benefits of forming actual networks of gangs and gang members, gangs went national, and then, inevitably, international. There is little difference between the international spread of gangs and the phenomenon of the spread of gangs within the United States. The majority of this type of international spread has occurred mainly among the Hispanic and Asian migrants. These former U.S. gang members then act as a connection between the new gang and the old gang back in the U.S.

Many countries report that it is these deported gang members who are linking up with other deported gang members that are responsible for the dramatic increase of gang related crime. Many of these countries are not equipped to deal with gang activity and have found that there has been a significant increase of violent crime in their nations. Some of these gang members continue to move illegally back and forth between countries transporting people and goods. This is especially prevalent between the United States and South America. It is interesting how, in an effort to decrease gang related crime in its own country, the United States has been largely responsible for the spread of gang activity into other nations. Unlike the media, such as movies and music, the U.S. policy of deporting those immigrants that have been found to be involved in gang-related crimes has spread the gangs themselves from a once relatively segregated phenomenon into a global problem. Gangs now have initiated internationally available websites that are complete with gang mottos, symbols, bylaws, and pictures. This new form of gang communication has become as complex as the internet technology that supports it. However, such communication is reserved for the privileged few gangs that can afford it. For the most part, gangs are a non-technical network of criminal activity; some far more profitable than others, but almost all of them violent. For most gangs, the best technology they can access is the cellular phone, but this method of communication has been sufficient enough to spread crime, including murder and drugs, across the nation.

Globalization has resulted in a number of modern phenomena, both positive and negative. As gang-related activity is known to occur as a result of the disenfranchisement of a particular group of individuals, the global disenfranchisement of particular groups of individuals is likely to result in the proliferation of international gang activity. Such activity can be evidenced in the spread of terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. Some of the international members of Al Qaeda have been solicited and others have joined the organization without any group invitation. The spread of gangs on a global scale can be seen in the same way and may, eventually, operate on the same scale.


I don’t have all the answers either.




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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Eco-Labeling Regulation of 1992

Filed under: ENVIRONMENT, GLOBAL LIVING, GOING GREEN, NATURE — Tags: , , , — forewordcommunications @ 3:15 am


Since its inception in 1999, thirteen European countries have adopted the Euro as their national currency. In another well-discussed move that attempts to bond a common European market, the European Union, in the early 90’s, and prior to the adoption of the Euro, implemented the Eco-Labeling Regulation. This 1992 agreement states that member countries will implement a cohesive system of labeling ecologically friendly products and services in order to encourage a continent-wide, and possibly an eventual worldwide, definition of what is to be considered good for the future of the environment. 

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (1999) defines Eco-Labeling as “a voluntary trademark that is awarded to products deemed to be less harmful to the environment than other products within the same category.” The idea is that an informed consumer will prefer to invest in products and services that make the best use of the environment. An “award” in the form of an official “flower” stamp that details one, two, or three of the requirements that the product has met to ensure that it is environmentally friendly. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union has stated that “It is necessary to explain to consumers that the eco-label represents those products which have the potential to reduce certain negative environmental impacts, as compared with other products in the same product group, without prejudice to regulatory requirements applicable to products at a Community or a national level”. The Royal Society of Chemistry noted, in its 1998 document entitled Eco-Labeling: Life-Cycle Assessment In Action, that Eco-Labeling is a valid pursuit but argues that “the companies genuinely embracing eco-labeling will tend to be those with major market penetration and high brand status.” 

In May 1997, a report entitled The European Union Eco-Labeling Scheme for Textiles: Ecological Criteria for Bed Linen and T-Shirts, points out that Eco-Labeling will incur additional expenses for manufacturers and that many nations already have their own ecological stamps of approval in force that have been slow in catching on. Although the primary purpose of Eco-Labeling was to implement a cohesive strategy and definition of “green” products and services, many industries rejoiced at a European-wide set of standards and expressed disappointment that industry standards were being constantly redefined after they thought a definition had been reached via their own industry regulation councils.  

General concerns about the Eco-Labeling law include criteria subjectivity, financial cost of implementation, and discrimination against imported products that are similar and meet the Eco-Labeling criteria. One report calls Eco-Labeling “unrealistic”, and another defines Eco-Labeling as a failure while commending Germany’s Blue Angel label as being the best. This discussion also calls the Eco-Labeling process “lengthy” and “bureaucratic” and “political” and points out that politicians should not be making policy decisions on industry standards. 

The implementation of the European Union’s Eco-Labeling criteria has been slow and has met with some resistance, not from consumers, but from industry manufacturers and distributors. Complaints that the EU’s system is bogged down in bureaucratical intricacies and political negotiations have marred the scheme’s progress and acceptance. Industry leaders have expressed the very valid concern that their own governing organizations have spent years evaluating and developing the appropriate guidelines and procedures for application to their particular industry processes and that, since the inception of Eco-Labeling, politicians and other government officials are reevaluating and redefining these widely accepted industry standards. 

Important questions have arisen regarding the impartiality of the Eco-Labeling system as it is currently defined and why the Eco-Labeling system doesn’t more closely mirror successful established systems of environmental labeling already in place such as Germany’s Blue Angel system. The Eco-Labeling system also tends to ignore that these other systems would have to be scrapped and the Eco-Labeling system adopted by all European manufacturers for the system to be completely effective. 

Globalization of labeling guidelines for products and services is, in itself, a commendable idea. However, the reality of implementing a continent-wide strategy that has ignored the input and concerns of industry and trade leaders appears destined for failure. Consumers have, in recent years, become much more environmentally savvy and are open to purchasing more “green” products. Any effective Eco-Labeling criteria have to appeal to both the consumer and the industry that produces the targeted goods and/or services.


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