Spotlight on Street Violence in a Cross-Cultural Comparison
In addition to the code of the street, we identified some emerging themes across three cases that spotlight the street culture of risky neighborhoods. Success, role of the family, new technologies as well as the perception of the police were the important themes that emerged from the storylines of the youth from these neighborhoods. Interestingly, most of the aspirations of these adolescents are aligned to middle-class values.
KeywordsCross-cultural comparison Youth violence Code of the street Urban sociology
After the comparison of the elements of the code of the street, as proposed by Anderson, further findings need to be discussed. In addition to the code of the street, themes emerged from empirical data that assist at arriving at better understanding of the street and the violence phenomena confronting male juveniles. One the one hand, the coding process can explain these patterns, but can also be explained via the specific context, on the other hand. In-depth discussion by the entire team of the codes and coding strategy prevented bias in the coding, which indicates that the different patterns are evident of more contextually specific aspects of violence-related norms. In all, four codes were found that are similar across all the countries. Below these elements of the street will be compared as well. They are success, the role of the family, new technologies, and perceptions of the police.
10.1 Comparison of Success
Anderson (1999) provides multiple accounts of success among young men in the inner-city neighborhood of Philadelphia. Success is gauged by various standards among families and peer groups in the neighborhoods. In what is deemed to be decent families, parents are committed to instill middle-class values and align their careers goals accordingly. Contrary, young men hailing specifically from what is defined as street families see successful drug dealers as their role model who have a lavish lifestyle. Weighing up their choices and abilities, young men set these as the goals for their success. The street-oriented youth who embrace the street code and work in the drug economy idealize success as being a successful drug-dealer. Also, success is dignified by successful sexual counters (Anderson 1999: 75). In this vein, our study participants mentioned school achievements, family life, and house. Interestingly, the accounts of young men showed tension between individual aspirations and participation in street culture. Though the participants reported their involvement in violent events on the street, they expressed a strong desire for a conventional family life. In the interviews, success to the many youths meant completing their studies, finding a job, and having a family.
I imagined a simple family house, a small garden or something and then being a permanent employee. Well, I didn’t imagine anything big. Well I imagined a comfortable life. (Duisburg-Marxloh 9)
Ah, success, for me success is to have a calm, modest life, That’s already success, I think. Well, for sure, I would like to make a lot of money, but don’t have to become rich or something. If I get a good wage, house, a car, that’s enough. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 4)
Study medicine, work, start a family. I don’t study for fun because, but because I know later I will marry and want to take care of my children, my wife, so they would have the best life possible. (Berlin-Neukoelln 6)
Yes, I want that he [brother] does something with his life. (..) He really wants a Lamborghini. I say, […] maybe you afford it someday, if you have a proper, study if you like. Do any, but most importantly come to grips with your live. (Berlin-Neukoelln 7)
Be able to stand on my own two feet. Make real money. Not false money, well with, no idea, drugs, such things. Real money, honestly earned money. With work. (Berlin-Neukoelln 9)
Work, through hard work one can earn money. Not only through shortcuts. (Duisburg-Marxloh 3)
Well, there is success in the religion, well there you must be successful. Well I am in my religion, Islam, well it forbids us all, well all that crime. And all, all that has nothing to with Islam I would say. And success is, when I fulfil all my religious duties, when I am successful in life. (Berlin-Neukoelln 10)
First, when my parents are proud of me, […] when they tell me, I’m proud of you. [Then] I have a good feeling in my heart, then I know, I have done nothing wrong. […] best my father, because he says to me, I am proud of you my son. Then you think boah, wow, ok I have achieved something. (Duisburg-Marxloh 1)
Well, for me success actually is if I have for instance no stress. If I simply have my life, if my family is happy, school is good, true friendships, or working, earning money, most importantly my family is doing well. (Duisburg-Marxloh 6)
[…] study and the I want to become a mechanical engineer and then I want to start my own company for that. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 2)
I, well of course in peace. Of course, no more fucking up and something, but I definitely want to become a rapper. I am really into it. I set this goal to myself and I don’t have bad, I have good prospects. I know and I have good producers who also produce for rappers. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 1)
My success, for example, I play football and I want to be a football star like Ronaldo. And I play in the first class team Dortmund, for instance. That it is success for me. (Berlin-Wedding 5)
For me any respectable job is an achievement. If I have a job people would consider me as noble (shareef). There is another thing about which I have always thought and that is to serve the poor people. It is difficult but if one is committed then I do not think it is difficult for that individual. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 18)
I have been working for a long time and I am happy with my life. There is not much pressure on you if you are working because it gives satisfaction. If there is expectation from the family, then it is the work that can help in the satisfaction of the family […] I want to have more and more experience in my life. It will be my experience that will help me in my life. The rest is in the hand of God who is responsible to provide for the needs to every single individual. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 24)
We work at different places. We want to have experience so that we can move abroad to earn money. If a person has money, he can make home for himself and live a happy life. An individual should do every kind of work in order to have experience and without experience and skills it is difficult to find any job. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 22)
All of the respondents believed that getting married would be the milestones in their life narratives and contexts, as is more widely understood throughout the country. It is pertinent to mention that marriage is one of the big dreams for an adolescent, as physical relationships are only possible, as per the rules of Pakistani society, after marriage. Premarital relationship must be hidden, are illicit and illegal, and if the relationship comes about outside of the family context, often has serious consequences. Such relationships are thus secret, meetings are clandestine, and are disclosed only to the closest friends and preferably among non-cousins. Should a cousin know, the person will have difficulty in getting a spouse, as most of the marriages are arranged among close cousins.
Yes, they have only read the Quran, but our sister has some education. I want her to get higher education. We were unable to study due to our deprived situation, but I want her to study. I know people here do not like women getting educated but I don’t care about people. Why should I care about people; when we were in severe need of help from the people, no one was there to help us. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 1)
For me I want to get a good job and make my parents happy, but most of the boys in our neighborhood give importance to having relationships with girls. They consider it an achievement in their life to have a long list of girlfriends. Also those boys, who are good at fighting, are considered as achievers among their peer group. Some of the boys also want to get some kind of experience in the market which can help them in going abroad. They think this is how they can earn a respectable position in society […] I think I am working and not wasting time like other boys of my age. My family and parents are happy from me and that’s a big achievement for me […] I don’t belong to a wealthy family and I have nothing that I can show off in the streets. I don’t have a car or expensive smart phone. To me status is nothing. I don’t care if someone has billions of rupees. For me, the most important thing is that I earn with my own hands, and I never ask anybody for any money. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 2)
Thus, getting an education, securing a job, building a house, respect, and honor from the elders in their community is deemed to be and understood as indicative of success in the Pakistani cultural context among conformist youth. For deviant youth, winning fights, instilling fear and having multiple girlfriends are the sign of success.
I can define success as a time when you have achieved all your goals. All your dreams have come through. You have everything that you have wished for in life. Although I know that as people we always wish for more. But there are times when you can see that some people have achieved what they were wishing for. Some people wanted to become doctors and they have achieved that. They have also wished that they could get married and now they are married. It is having everything that you have wished for. I see that as success. (Durban-KwaMashu 5)
Success is when you wish for something in life and you end up getting it after you have worked so hard for it and to achieve it, like going to university you study and then get your degree you have succeeded not that you have succeeded but what you have always wanted you have finally got it. (Durban-KwaMashu 6)
It is important to note that when the participants were first interviewed in groups, they expressed their understanding of success in terms which they thought the interviewer might like or adhere to. Thus, for example, many spoke of becoming sports stars, furthering their education, and so on. However, when they were interviewed individually, they would not necessarily express the same goals, but would rather draw on a more limited set of objectives. This is important to note, as it reveals that the expression of what an individual may perceive to be a norm is as much a function of their own understanding as it is a product of what they think the person listening might expect to hear.
Let me talk about my success before my success was passing matric which is grade 12 with good results got a distinction in isiZulu, another thing also was the athletics that I participate in not at school but at home I managed to get in different positions but I need to talk about my first game the sun was too hot and I got affected but I tried my best to be position number 10 even though it was hard but I tried 10 km it was, and now I want to talk about my success now I think it would be all the things I do now will all depend on how much I want to push and work hard which is going to determine where I will be in the future and whether I will be happy there too or not with what will be the end results then, not everything that I can call success has happened I am still hustling eventually I will make it and prove to myself that I can do even better and also like here in Varsity I am trying to study so that I can see my success where it is. (Durban-KwaMashu 7)
I can say that from home, it is my mom, my dad, in reality I can say the whole family because there is somebody whom I don’t ask for help in my house. I can even ask from my brother in-laws. But I still say one should not rely on other. The thing with me is that I do not beg a person, I don’t. (Durban-KwaMashu 1)
Similarities: The idea of success was reported in a similar way across the sites and between the countries. In all the cases, education and a family and one’s own household were clearly seen as success in life—at least when spoken of in public or when participants were conscious of the interviewers perceived expectations. These ideas follow middle-class values, even in risky neighborhoods and are formulated by male juveniles, despite engaging in criminal careers to a greater or lesser extent or are confronted with the normative structure of the street. This is clearly opposite to Anderson’s findings in Philadelphia in the 1990s.
Difference: Only marginal differences were shown to be represented. Juveniles in Pakistan are closer to the binary logic between understandings of what constituted “the street” and “the decent”, as Anderson suggests. In South Africa, such aspirations were limited by the context and socio-spatial structure of the participants’ lives, with becoming a sports star one of the primary means by which they viewed success. In all instances, however, such conceptions of success may be as much a product of the participants’ perceptions of what the interviewers might expect them to say as representations of their own understandings of success itself. This is itself emblematic of a particular conception of success, in which the participants strategically drew on their knowledge and preconceptions of the expectations of others to articulate a position which they themselves believed would be successful.
10.2 Comparison of the Role of the Family
Family was an integral part of an individual’s life, particularly in Pakistan and South Africa. It is the family that controls the behavior of an individual in the private and public sphere. Young people care about their family expectations; to earn money, to look after the needs of the family. Family members provide care services and assistance in times of crises. The individual was also responsible for protecting family honor and respect by whatever means, including violence. As mentioned earlier, Anderson (1999) described the types of families and the importance of embracing the code of the street. The street family socializes youngsters for violent behavior on the street. On the other hand, family disorganization, a lack of sense of community, and an uncertain future also become important factors for engaging in street culture.
Yes, my family, I think it’s like for everybody, it’s the most important. Thanks to them, I am where I am now. Thanks to them I am doing what I am doing. They helped me actually since I was a child. My mother, my father of course too. Yes, family is of course the most important thing. Without family actually you cannot reach anything, I think […]. (Duisburg-Marxloh 7)
Well my family actually means everything to me. So, if I didn’t have a family, I would end up on the street and God knows what would happen to me, I couldn’t imagine. (Berlin-Neukoelln 2)
Family is the most important thing in life, that is with you in bad times. Do you know what I mean? And yes such things, well if nobody is with you but for sure the family is with you. (Berlin-Neukolln 4)
For me, my family is the most important thing, I can’t listen to anything against them, some guys abuse each other’s family members in fun but I do not tolerate this as well. I told you before that I don’t have any girlfriend and neither do I want any. I will marry whoever my parents want me to marry. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 1)
My family is very strict and religious. My father strictly emphasizes on offering prayers on time and also told me not to wander outside the home at night. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 1)
Anything which could cause us shame and harm our honor and dignity cannot be tolerated. Family honor is the most important thing for me. The people who kill their daughters, sisters and brothers in the name of honor, I think it’s not easy for them to do it. A person could only kill a close kin, brother, sister or daughter in extreme situations [of the violation of honor]. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)
Reality is that when someone becomes mature enough then it is his will to do whatever he wants. In our family, my father has no such authority, but my grandfather holds great authoritative position and he has always kept me free as he really loves me. That is the reason that no one can say anything to me at home. My family got aware of the incident, but I didn’t receive any punishment, however, my mother used some harsh words to scold me as she always keeps telling me what I should do and what I should not. Thanks God my father is not like her. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 4)
My family thinks that young should not be idle. If an individual [boy] is not studying in school, then he must do work for his family. It is not a pressure from the family rather it is a part of their socialization. I have been sometime told by my parents to go out there for work. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 12)
I told them that I cannot continue my studies. I have no interest in studying and I have to do work. They agreed because if you can work, it is always in favor of them. Now I am earning through my work and contributing in my family income. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 14)
When I used to do work, I had a lot of money at that time, but now I am totally dependent on my family for everything. My family does not know that I am a drug user, if they come to know they will throw me out of the home. […]These guys have no check and balance on them from their families. They can do whatever they want. I am not a good guy myself, but my family is very strict. I can’t smoke charas (marijuana) in front of them. […] I really respect my family, my parents, though they are unhappy from me these days due to my joblessness, but I care about them so much. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 5)
They told me to continue my studies, but I am not good in studies. That’s why I don’t want to study anymore. My family members are angry with me. They didn’t talk to me for a long time. My father also does not talk to me. He told me to continue studies otherwise he told me to get a job. But I have no interest in any sort of work here as well. Now I even avoid spending most of the time at home. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 3)
Few days ago, my friends made a plan of visiting Murree. I also went with them and ditched the school. I don’t know who told my family that I was missing from school. When I came back home, my brother asked me whether I was in school or not? When I said yes, I was in school, he caught me and beat me so harshly which I can’t describe in words. I am still in search of that guy who told my brother regarding my absence from school. I will teach him a lesson whenever I come to know about him. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 3)
When my brother slapped me, I stopped his hand. Then he beat me. He told me not to avoid the vulgar boys. You should do your work. You are wandering here and there. I got angry over it and that led to severe conflict between us. Other people also came and asked about the reason. I said ask him what he has done. Then the family member settled the issue and I moved away from my home. At that time I wanted to go to a place where there was nobody around. I injured my head too on that day because I was not able to control my anger. Then I used a knife to cut and the blood flowed with a sound Chirr. When I cut my wrist with knife, the blood streamed out on my face. When the blood streamed from my head, my anger was released. After this event nobody ever said anything to me. If I went home late at night, they wouldn’t say anything. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 25)
At first, they [parents] used to scold me too much, but now I have started my work. So now they are happy and giving me some respect as well. […] I think the first right of parents upon their children is that they will give them respect and I also do the same. For my parents it is not important how tough I am. For them the only thing which matters is that I earn for them through legal ways and do not create any problem for them by engaging in conflict with others or start using drugs like other boys in the street. […] Sometimes there are domestic problems. They become normal and I think they exist in all families. It is important to accept all things and decision from parents because they are the sole authority at homes. If you do not accept them, there is a possibility of conflict even between the parents and their children. In my family I have never disobeyed my elders and they are also there for me at every time. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 8)
The boys have gone crazy after girls. They can even beat their mothers for girls. They cannot accept their sisters because of girls. The girls have dominated the mind of boys.
I myself have been in this type of conflict with my family members. There was girl and we had understanding. Then there came another person who told the matter to the brothers of the girl. They came to my brothers and told them about the issue. After that my family member told me to stay with my brother. Thus, I started to live in his house. That girl didn’t marry even today. She wants to marry me. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 24)
The parents are themselves responsible for it. It is not difficult to control one’s own children. They do not care about them. Thus, they come to these streets where there is nobody to stop them. They are involved in drug use and all the other bad habits. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 13)
They don’t listen to their parents even if their parents forbid them from involving in these activities. But many parents are also involved in drug usage and gambling, so they can’t forbid their children either. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 3)
If it is not acceptable for parents, how are they doing it? These [deviant] boys are less concerned about parents. They are not scared of their parents, because they earn money for their families. When they are young their parents send them for work. They think that these children are the source of money for them. Thus, they are spoiled at their early age by their parents. […] Parents are also poor and they are unable to meet all the needs. Thus, these children are fulfilling the needs of the family along with their fathers. The parents usually do not intervene in their personal activities. Probably, it is a lack of socialization from the parents. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 15)
No, the families are not involved in our own daily matters. Usually they remain unaware about our activities. If they become aware of our activities, we make them believe that it was not our fault. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 22)
If my family becomes aware of my activities what I do outside the home. For example, if they come to know that I use heroine, they might kick me out of the home. Therefore, the time I smoked, before entering home I washed my mouth and never kept cigarette in my pocket. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 26)
Overall, family is an important social institution in Pakistan and it is responsible for adolescents. The family does not only provide the everyday needs of youngsters, but they also control their behavior. These young people are expected to provide assistance, obey their elders and respect and protect the family.
So many people die because of so many people being arrogant until I see the thing of aids maybe then I will respect it and then, going back to the roots of my family, roots of my family will remind me of what respect it but I am not even at home because I lost my respect. (Durban-KwaMashu 8)
I do not have tattoo, my family does not believe in them. (Durban-KwaMashu 5)
I can say that from home, it is my mom, my dad, in reality I can say the whole family because there is somebody whom I don’t ask for help in my house. I can even ask from my brother in-laws. But I still say one should not rely on other. The thing with me is that I do not beg a person, I don’t. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 12)
There is one that I can talk about. You see this one is educated, she is around 39 years or more. But I can say that she is still young. But she is successful. She is highly educated. She has many things in life. Married. She has everything but she still wants more but personally I can say she is successful. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 4)
Similarities: Family is a safety net in Pakistan and South Africa. It provides not only care during childhood or old age but also provides financial assistance, moral support, and social capital and thus forms a safety net. It is like a shelter, where members feel comfortable, relax and feel free of threats. They get almost every kind of support from the family. Similarly, family is also important in German context where the people feel proud to be part of their family. Particularly, the mother was considered to be the most significant person in the family.
Differences: Pakistani data reflected that family was a kind of total institution or state within a state which look after the needs of the members. They provide the safety, welfare, and security for the members. In the absence of a welfare system in the country, the family enjoys coercive authority. It has authority to mold, change and regulate the behavior of the members of society. The Pakistani familial control may be close to Anderson’s conception of the descent or street families, but cannot be completely labeled as such. However, the notions of descent and street families are not clear in the German and South African data. In Germany, where the welfare system as well as state role is clear, the space for the family institution is limited and families do not have complete control. Middle-class values are dominant, even among deviant male juveniles. Thus, the theoretical approach of the code of the street cannot apply to the realities of the three countries.
10.3 Comparison of Modalities of Technology
In the study, the modalities of technology, particularly social media, was accentuated by young participants. Youths described that various uses of technology have become commonplace to find girlfriends. Because the youth of these risky neighborhoods face geographical discrimination, by virtue of being resident in such neighborhoods, they used social media to renounce their neighborhoods. Thus, the development of technology and use of social media provides a new space for street culture. In this respect, our findings should provide some insights into how young men from risky neighborhoods use technology in everyday life and negotiate their identity on social media. During Anderson’s fieldwork in the 1990th, this technology, particularly the Internet, was not part of everyday life. Nowadays youth opt for the Internet, particularly social media, to communicate and interact.
[…] they all write on Facebook, yes if I grab him, I will beat him to death, I put him into the hospital. I bet with them for hundred thousand euros, [in actual confrontation] they will run away. (Duisburg-Marxloh 5)
Many are very, very aggressive on Facebook, on internet. But if you face them, they have no balls. (Berlin-Wedding 5)
There is also verbal violence, of course insulting someone or something. Or on the internet too. Let’s say bullying and stuff. (Berlin-Wedding 6)
[…] Why does anyone say Hamborn, no-go [area]? Why crap, as, as I read this stuff on Facebook, this bank robbery in Hamborn [a district close to Marxloh]. Immediately, I read in the comments below, it would have been someone from Marxloh. Immediately, I read that. I also instantly commented below. I said […] did you plan that or what? Then this other person said to me: Certainly, you are one of the guys from Marxloh. I told him: Yes, I am from Marxloh. Do you have any problem with that? (Duisburg-Marxloh 5)
They said only: Marxloh no-go area, ha ha ha. That’s the problem for us. They think, they believe that stuff, what the upper people, the big ones believe. […] But they know nothing. (Duisburg-Marxloh 5)
For instance, when I chat with her, I don’t tell that [I am from Marxloh], because the other girls are afraid of coming here. Girls are scared to come here. They are scared to enter Marxloh. They think all people from Marxloh are criminal. I write I am somewhere from Duesseldorf, from somewhere there or I meet in the city. I don’t meet in my own district. (Duisburg-Marxloh 1)
When an issue arises, it becomes important to call the friends. Sometimes issues become severe if the man from rival group finds out that you are alone. At that particular time it is mobile phone which helps. Text messages and telephone calls are the source of communication in any situation. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 24)
It is mobile phone. At present there is no other medium of communication that is as quick as mobile phone. It has brought convenience in the life of people. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 25)
I communicate with my friends through mobile phone. I load super card every month in which I receive minutes and SMS and use it. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 2)
Use of social media also causes violence. For instance, one of the respondents from the France Colony mentioned that his friend used the photos of his sister and posted them on social media. In response to this, the brother fought with his friend. He rebuffed his friend and in revenge posted the photos of his erstwhile friend’s sister on social media. In order to avoid escalation, influential local community members intervened and settled the issue. But for the two young men involved further communication was at an end due to this conflict.
I met him two weeks ago his actually the most creative guy I have ever met in my life he doesn’t sleep I was with him like now I was with him, his a perfectionist in every single way he raps I think his the best rapper I have ever heard he doesn’t think that yet but he wants to win a 100 Grammys from this and he walked through. (Cape Town-Hanover Park 3)
Similarities: Use of technology is common in the three countries. The use of cell phone and social media has brought about cyberbullying, abuse and virtual violence due to Internet connectivity.
Differences: Social media is widely used in Pakistan and Germany, but limited data usage and connectivity was found in South Africa. Virtual violence (e.g. cyberbullying) was common in Germany and Pakistan. We also found fake social media accounts in Pakistan. However, we did not notice cyberbullying and virtual violence in South Africa.
10.4 Comparison of Police and State Institutions
It has been mentioned that youths of risky neighborhoods have little trust in state institutes, particularly the police. In all the cases, the participants mentioned geographical discrimination based on the bad reputation of their neighborhoods. The ambivalent image of police was represented by the young participants. However, police violence was one of the major themes of their storyline. Anderson (1999) describes similar findings; that people of inner-city neighborhoods question the morality and authority of state institutions. They believe that police profile their neighborhood negatively and treat inhabitants adversely. The same was found to be the views of the participants of our study. They believe that the police are incompetent to handle situations in these neighborhoods, and thus keep police away from everyday matters and try to solve problems themselves.
Violence? Yes. Violence. There is a lot. […] There is also police violence here. […] Once. On a 1st May festival. Yes. I didn’t do anything. I was just standing there. A policeman came to me with a shield and stuff. Just kicked me, I fell down. Just like that, because I had my foot on this railing. (Berlin-Neukoelln 9)
[…] a friend was brought to the police station with a police car to and, still in the police car, they beat him up. […] Yes, next day he could leave. Well the boy got into the car, one policeman left, on policeman right and then, but the boy didn’t have anything [no bruises]. Then, next day, when we saw him agaun he was beaten black and blue, in any case. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 10)
No matter who loses, who wins, now it is over. Now we simply must go, so that there is no stress with the police. […] It also happened, we were fighting, the one called the police. One heard it, said: Police is coming. Then we have, we ran away. (Berlin-Wedding 6)
In my opinion, if you confront with the police you can expect that harassments and other things will happen. For example, once we were in Blücherpark, just stood there, maybe a little bit louder and were talking, that’s common among us young people. And then it happened that the police came, because of complaints. And probably one of our friends hid the weed as he saw they were coming. And I stood at least 15 meters away from that and the policeman says: yes, you have been that [with grass]. Then I say: No, I wasn’t. Then he says: Come on, don’t take the piss out of me. Give me your remaining grass, then I’ll turn a blind eye. Though I had nothing to do with it, you know? It’s those things, you don’t expect anything bad and then someone just tries, because he had a bad day or just doesn’t like the people from this area, he searches for a reason to teach you a lesson. (Dortmund-Nordstadt 3)
Police here always keeps an eye on people’s pockets. If someone has a lot of money and he shares a part of it with the police, then he is free to do anything in this area. Powerful people have advantage in everything. If we face any trouble from someone and I go to the police, they ask for money that’s why no one trusts the police these days, because they favor only those who could give them money. (Rawalpindi-Dhok Matkial 26)
All of a sudden, he appeared and hit one of the boys from the opposite group on the head with a metal rod. The boy fell on the ground and started to bleed. Seeing this, other boys of the opposite group covered us from all direction. I asked my friend to run, but he didn’t. Before the other group could attack us, the police came, arrested my friend and took him to the nearby check post. This time the officer was new, but he knew me. I went to the check post to get my friend released and settle down the issue. But, the police refused to release him and said that he had committed a serious crime, attempted murder. My friend was shifted to police station and was handed over to one of the officials named “Qazi” (judge) for police remand. Fortunately, I had acquaintance with the Qazi, so I requested him to be lenient. Meanwhile, I called my friends to collect some amount for the bail. We collected around 14000 rupees and paid to the officials and got “Shaarti” released. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 29)
I have a friend and he was in prison for two years. He was caught by police under allegations of using drugs (Chars-marijuana). He was with his friend when the police followed them. At that time his friend ran away. When the police caught my friend, they immediately found the drug (Chars) from his pocket which was slipped in his pocket by his friend before running away. In this way he became the criminal in the eyes of police and was kept in prison for two years. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)
The major reason is that no one trusts the police, they are only for poor people to torture and to beat. But they do not take any action against the powerful rather they help them in their dirty activities. Another major reason is the culture of nepotism and bribe among the police. (Islamabad-Bari Imam 27)
Corruption, bribery and the violent behavior of the police officials bring about low trust in police among the young. As a result, they settle their issues through traditional methods of the conflict resolution. Consequently, a large portion of conflict and violent incidents is not reported to the police.
However, we also noticed changes in the behavior of the police officials. The police, as an institution, is struggling to make its image friendly. Some of the respondents reported some structural changes and added that training in soft skills has had an impact on the behavior of the police officials. These changes have come about due to persistent criticism from the civil society organizations and the changing role of civil institutions.
I would go so far as to say that it is organize, because of the kind of the money on the table when you engage with car hijackings and house robberies, a couple of thousand Rand for each event, it now becomes a structured part of your life, where you may have to do this once a week or every couple of days […] I think it is partly to do with unemployment, but I also think that it becomes a viable alternative way of earning a living. (Durban-KwaMashu, Police expert)
You find that sometimes a person responds to you with very heavy words or painful. I can call that violence. It also includes beating up a person, that’s violence, especially when there is no need. (Durban-KwaMashu 3)
Similarities: State institutions in general, but police particularly, have the lowest popularity and trust among these adolescents. They feel that the police are their enemy and hardly helps any person. Rather, in all three countries of the study, the police used violent behavior to handle these juveniles.
Differences: In South Africa and Pakistan, the state institutions are perceived as colonial institutions and perceived as untrustworthy. However, the German sample has ambivalent relations with their police. Although German police are not saddled with a colonial legacy, they were nonetheless perceived as the enemy.
10.5 Patterns of Street Violence in a Cross-Cultural Comparison
We identified and then analyzed four further elements of street culture, which are important for juveniles in all countries: success, the role of the family, new technologies, as well as perceptions of the police. The similarities and differences are described in detail element by element. However, a closer look at the patterns of who said what exactly shone a light on differences that stand out when one goes beyond an analysis of the code alone. These are personal experiences of violence as an offender. Only few differences were found between deviant and non-deviant juveniles. They all attach utmost importance to their family, which is contrary to the findings of Anderson. In fact, they have values close to what Anderson called middle-class values. They want to get an education, employment and then have a family and a decent life. However, many of them remain on the verge of the poverty, discrimination, and inequality in the three countries.
Besides differences between the countries, we also see differences between highly deviant males and those who rather stay out of trouble. For example, highly deviant adolescents were of the view that success came with fights and dominance over their enemies. Moreover, in Pakistan deviant youth estimated having multiple girlfriends as success whereas non-deviant youth attached high importance to their belief system.
Anderson distinguished descent and street families in the USA. However, we were unable to find this pattern in the countries studied. The adolescents never termed themselves or others as coming from street or descent families. Rather, they mentioned either lose or tight social control by their families. Family was very important in every country. Whether deviant or non-deviant, juveniles were inclined to respect and honor the family. Some of them referred to this as a part of their belief, especially in Pakistan and Germany.
Anderson’s code of the street was silent about technological advancements, as his work was carried out in the 1990s before the emergence of the internet and social media. We discussed this code and found variations in the responses. In Germany and Pakistan, we noted cyberbullying. However, in the interviews from Pakistan, the intensity or perhaps the realization of it as a part of violent behavior was not noted. Though we found excessive usage of social media (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp) in Pakistan, it was used less for violence and abuse. Rather, it was used for direct telephone communication and short messages (SMS) to friends in time of need or when deviant adolescents wanted to fight with each other or even with the non-deviant young people.
Police and state institutions (judiciary and prison etc.) were further important elements. It was found that the police enjoy almost no trust among the youth of the three countries examined. It was perceived as being violent in Germany, whereas less or no complaints were made regarding other state institutions. In Pakistan the police were considered corrupt and it was reported that they take bribes. It was violent and was also reported to be part of criminal activities. The police also suffer from the stigma of being a legacy of colonialism.
Nonetheless, it was clear that Anderson’s code of the street has limited application across continents and societies. It may be visible in some societies or it may have partial application. It could be irrelevant in other societies.
- Anderson, E. (1999). Code of the street: Decency, violence, and the moral life of the inner city. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.
The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.