Where have our warriors gone?

by Vince Rinehart

William Lind, in his article Gangs of Aleppo shares with us some insights into the conflict in Syria and what is fueling the violence.

One of the characteristics shared by most disintegrating states is a vast surplus of young men who have no access to jobs, money, or women. Gangs are a magnet for them. We see this in American contexts as well: in public schools, in ethnic neighborhoods, and in our prisons, most of which are controlled not by wardens but by racially defined gangs.

Young men are also drawn to fighting, which, conveniently, is something gangs do. Much of what we see in states struggling for their lives such as Syria is supply-side war. Fighting spreads not because of some “cause” like democracy but because idle young men see a fight and join in. Why not? They have nothing to do, nothing to lose, and thanks to their new gang and AK-47, lots to take: money, women, and fame.

Just in case you think that the issue of a surplus of young men has no bearing on Indian Country, here are some numbers from the 2010 American Community Survey at the US Census Bureau’s Website.

2010 Unemployment Rate
U.S. as a whole: 7.9%
American Indian/Alaska Native Unemployment Rate: 13.9%

% of families & people whose income in the past 12 months is below the poverty level U.S. Margin of Error American Indian/Alaska Native Margin of Error
All Families 10.1% +/-0.1 22.1% +/-0.4
With related children under 18 years 15.7% +/-0.1 29.4% +/-0.5
With related children under 5 years only 17.1% +/-0.2 33.9% +/-1.4

What this boils down to is that our people suffer from double the unemployment rate of the rest of America, and our families are twice as likely to fall below the federal poverty level than other American families. Really, we Native know the stories behind these statistics; we live them and see them in our own families most every day. The effect this has on our young people should also be sadly familiar to us. Violence, gangs, & drug and alcohol abuse lie behind these numbers.

So when William S. Lind, the “godfather” of 4th Generation Warfare Theory, (a theory that states that the state has effectively lost its monopoly on warfare,) speaks of gangs, surplus young men and disintegrating states then we ought to listen. Because in Indian Country, the US is a failed state. Aside from the efforts of our leaders, perhaps the only thing keeping Indian Country from descending into even more violence and chaos is the fact that we are surrounded and supported by a vast police & welfare state; it’s no longer our tribe, clan and bands holding our people together. Those who can’t or won’t assimilate are taken down the path of dependence or incarceration. The story in African American communities is quite similar in this regard.

The usual solution put forward to combat gangs is more and better education, after school programs, parenting classes, mentorships and outreach, & increased law enforcement. These are all well and good but they still come from the perspective of the welfare/police state; they come from a Non Native perspective and they are designed to bring our young men and women into the fold of Western Civilization. The problem is that there is no place for our young people in Western Civilization. It doesn’t want us and never really has. From the perspective of a young Native man, why would he want to contribute to, build and maintain a civilization that has attempted to destroy his people? Let’s revisit our common past. For the most part, our tribes were militarily conquered, our men killed on the battlefield, our women raped, our freedom taken, and our land stolen. Our former tribes had places of great and high honor for our valiant young men; as warriors, as hunters, as providers, as builders of our way of life. As protectors of our land and people. But the presence of our tribal way of life was an obvious and clear threat to the United States and it’s desire to control the American continent. So our way of life had to be destroyed. A big part of accomplishing this was by defeating our warriors and breaking any reason they may have had to fight. It should be a part of the definition of “Empire” that a “vast surplus of young men who have no access to jobs, money, or women” is created in the wake of the conquest of new lands and people.

With or without good reason, young men will form gangs and seek honor. In the absence of a guiding force in the community, they will seek honor on their own invented terms. Most, if not all tribes, had a warrior code or a way of socializing their young men as warriors for their people. For my people it was Lingit Latseen and a young man’s clan uncles took it upon themselves to teach him about honor, courage, and strength. Now we try to teach our young men to sit in a classroom all day and absorb an alien culture that has no place for them. This is where our vast surplus of young men comes from. They can’t or won’t assimilate, and most of them aren’t supposed to succeed by design. Because to succeed would mean rebuilding our tribes and threatening America’s hold on this continent. Our young men are dangerous to the system, and the last time they were allowed any freedom they wrecked havoc along the American Frontier and nearly rolled back what would one day be the greatest empire this world has ever seen.

Any people worthy of calling themselves a people has a vision for their future and a way and will to sustain themselves. This empire is currently in decline, and the police/welfare state that hems us in on all sides will decline with it. At that point our young men will seek honor. We must decide whether or not we want them to seek honor by helping us rebuild our tribes; our own way of life; or by reinventing themselves as new tribes that trace their lineage back to the Surenos, Bloods and Crips of L.A. or the People Nation and Folk Nation of Chicago. Do we want them to seek honor under the flag of an urban street gang? Or under their ancient clan names and symbols? Do we want them to recite the history of their set, tracing it’s roots back to a neighborhood in some inner city? Or do we want them to recite their tribe’s history, tracing it’s roots back to an age of myth and legends? Our young people want to get busy building. Let’s give them something to build; something that is NATIVE NOT AMERIKKKAN. Socialize our young men as warriors for their people and there will be no stopping us. Revive our warrior tradition. Our people were always armed; always prepared to defend their land, people and way of life. Let’s make it that way again.

About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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