Close Quarter Battle

A Hard Place is a former Australian cop’s firsthand experience of the gang cultures spread from Los Angeles to Sydney, where drive-bys and communities under siege are the ‘new normal.’ Turning to photojournalism, he documents his tours with the LAPD for the print media. Here, the cop’s world unfolds, one of cynicism and despair, the blackest of humour and close quarter battle. While on patrol, Officer Gumby outlines his feelings of hopelessness at the government’s denial of the chaos while his partner Raj muses “better here than in my neighbourhood brother.” Both men knew why they were there and it wasn’t to win, no, they were there to contain the situation and prevent its spread to the wealthier middle-class communities that lay just over the rise. In particular, the cops outline their view that the phenomenon had been imported from Latin American, a region that accounts for 30% of world’s homicides, while only possessing 9% of its population and where 43 of the 50 most violent cities were listed. With these types of figures it wasn’t surprising to any that this ethnic grouping, in particular, accounted for nearly half of the 1 million gang members across the United States, but still, the borders were left porous by the well-meaning and self-indulgent.

Peaceful Communities & their Violent Minorities

While the author acknowledges the issue of migration upon a country’s gang crime narrative, he offers an alternative story to that of it being associated with race, colour or country, instead highlighting that it is not about any of these, but more to do with lawless communities. Murder rates are a good bellwether on crime, so comparing the death rates in the state of Guerrero Mexico, which stands at 600 homicides for every million citizens, against the state of Yucatan, another Mexican state that stands at just five, reinforces this point across the globe. Transplant a hundred thousand Mexicans from the state of Guerrero into any ill-prepared country, and you will have a problem, but place a hundred thousand Mexicans from the state of Yucatan, and you probably would not. For it is the violent minorities that are the key in this descriptive and not the peaceful majority.

The Enemy, Up Close and Personal

While he felt that this experience had explained the cop’s operational environment it did not illuminate the enemies mindset and culture, for that the author went to work in a Californian group home facility, which provided him with the opportunity to study the enemy up close and personal. What he found were young men intoxicated by the gangsta life, an inverted universe where communities needed protection, sons followed fathers, gunslingers were heroes and where reputation was king. There was Creeper, the slim Norteno, from South LA. Joker, the squat southerner affiliated with the Latin Kings. Mad Dog, a short surly seventeen-year-old from a gang aligned to the Crips and Lil Monster, a tall heavily muscled Crip from one of the Hoover Street sets. These last two were the dominant members of the pack and commonly referred to themselves as the ‘trigga happy niggas,’ regularly boasting of their prowess with a firearm and willingness to use it. Mad Dog bragged that killing did not worry him and that he was always calm when he pulled the trigger. His shadow, Lil Monster, rarely spoke, leaving the chattering Mad Dog to do it for him, but it was evident that he was the more dominant of the pair. He, in particular, was one of those who exuded a raw power, the type who could cause fear in others with just a look.

A Warrior Cult

These men were part of the American suburban combat elite that were described as Super Predators by Hillary Clinton, men who were without conscience and lacked empathy for their victims. Paradoxically, the author discovered that not all were as evil as the Creeper or even cruel like Lil Monster, but more like Rascal, a man who had shared notions of respect, courage and duty. For the most part, these were teenagers in search of a sense of self-worth, combat and brotherhood, something that would give meaning to their lives. Unfortunately, it was a desire that was perverted by the war drums of gangsta rap and manipulated by forces that were far greater than even their own leaders. Eventually, the author comes to like many of his charges who attempt to educate him about their way of life and even forms a bond with some of the hardest who eventually open up about their own hidden fears. It is these young men who help the ex-cop redefine his own humanity.

Cause & Effect

The story explains how the gangster mindset has given rise, not only to violence but to the life blood of all gangs, the flow generated by the drug trade, with the high drug use rates in the two countries reinforcing the links to the gangs. If drug use were an Olympic sport then Australia and America are in the finals for every single illicit drug type, a factor that also highlights the impact that the narcotics trade has had upon our societies. Essentially, it is a formula where each peaceful majority is being owned by a violent minority who provide a pathway for the very worst of enemies, the international drug cartels.

Solutions & Black Lives Matter

The solutions the author provides to this situation is to either continue as we are, legalise illicit drugs in full or in part, or go to war against the cartel’s production areas in the Northern Triangle, Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent. In one of the final chapters titled, ‘Not All Lives Matter,’ the author reviews the issues signaled by the Black Lives Matters demonstrators and references a possible solution to the problem of trust or lack thereof. This chapter highlights the destructive impact that this movement has had upon law enforcement and the flow on effect upon dialogue due to the fear of racial vilification by even international departments and their governments.

A Recipe for Chaos

Ultimately, A Hard Place outlines the recipe for a chaos that is undermining so many communities across the globe where the importation of peoples escaping their own fantastically high murder rates has had a profound impact on their unsuspecting host while unwittingly providing an operational footprint for the international drug cartels.

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