I’m developing a low opinion of gangsters.
I know, they seem like such admirable figures! The drugs, the gunfights, the murders, the beatings, why doesn’t everyone want to be a gangster?
Maybe it’s because for all their violence, all the terror they inflict on the innocent bystanders, they’re pretty pathetic in terms of both income and outcome.
Consider the last two murders in Langley, both thought to be “targeted killings,” in other words, gang hits and turf disputes turned violent.
Both of them were across the street from each other and down the road from where I live. It’s a middle class neighbourhood where people take their pooches to the dog park and go play rec league softball in the summer. It’s boring, and frankly, we like it that way.
So why are gangsters shooting at one another on my street?
Because they can’t afford to live in a nicer neighbourhood, basically.
I suspect a lot of people get into gang life because they’re seduced by the things it (allegedly) brings you – money and the trappings of power. Fancy cars, expensive booze, parties. You know. All the stuff you’ve seen if you’ve ever watched Scarface.
Of course, they don’t wind up being Tony Montana. They end up as the little guys who are dealing drugs or doling out beatings for Tony Montana. Or for Tony’s middle managers.
Famously, Freakonomics showed years ago that many drug dealers actually make less than minimum wage.
They’re little fish in a big pond. They’re living a lifestyle that is certainly more exciting than that of your average middle-class office drone, but not more remunerative.
Thinking back over the killings of criminals we’ve seen over the last few years in Langley, they were not exactly in ritzy mansions or the driver’s seats of European supercars.
Several of the gang-linked crooks were living in crummy mildewed houses used for growing pot or making meth. Others were living in heavily-fortified homes studded with security cameras – but on ordinary cul-de-sacs in Willoughby or Walnut Grove or rural Langley.
So to would-be gangsters, I say this: Give it up. Get a realtor’s license or put on a hard hat or get your nursing degree. Yes, you’ll have to work more hours. But in the end, you will probably earn more money!
And you are much, much less likely to wind up as another quickly-forgotten name trotted out in our end-of-the-year roundup of young men who caught a bullet and were scraped off the ground behind police tape.