Ways of the Badass: Katz Chapter 3
In this chapter, Katz describes the process of becoming a badass or adolescent tough guy willing to use violence to harm others. Katz breaks it down into three aspects, all of which must be present for the youth to be recognized as a badass.
1. He must appear tough and unwilling to be changed or dominated by the opinions of others. He must appear in command of situations and unwilling to back down from a chosen course of action.
2) He must make himself appear alien and not part of civilized society. His dress, demeanor, and behavior must reflect this. He wants his very presence to be unnerving for others
3) He must appear mean. He must be willing to back up his meanness with violence if the situation requires. However, he can't simply fly off the handle and explode or he risks being labeled a "punk" (and in need of psychiatric care).
The first is accomplished in a number of ways, one of the most important being dress. Leather clothing, black clothing, heavy boots, metal adornments, dark sunglasses are preferred. He can stare at you with impunity, but you dare not stare back at him. Also important is the use of language or lack of it. Silence is a trademark of the tough guy. He is unwilling to communicate what he thinks or feels. When he does speak he mumbles, doesn't make eye contact, or is chewing gum. Rather than saying hello the first greeting may be a punch or hand slap. Verbal exchanges that resonate in guttural sounds may mark the beginning and ending of an encounter. He doesn't follow the proscribed greetings and closings that are considered the hallmark of civilized conversation. The first word to start a turn of conversation may be "shit" or some other profanity. (Katz is the only author I know of who analyzes the meaning of "shit" in the context of an ongoing conversation--see page 87).
Being tough is not enough to be considered deviant. Football players,
cops, ruthless businessmen or politicians can all appear tough. Katz goes on to identify
further elements of style that serve to set the badass off as alien. These include body
language, especially walking postures. He moves more of his body, arms, etc, thus taking
up more space than the natural walker does. Others may have to back off to give him room
to pass by. You dare not invade his space. (Katz is using a great deal of Irving Goffman in this
chapter.) Touching one's own genitals in public, an act ethnic comedians have made much
of, is another alien posture. Tattoos or body piercings
set off the individual as having embraced a deviant identity. Cross-cultural evidence
supports this. To have gotten a tattoo demonstrates that he has suffered and survived
pain. Deviant forms of talking are also frequently employed. Sometimes toughs develop an
idiomatic way of speaking that only they can decipher. The use of argot allows them to understand the larger
society, but be unfathomable by it. Gangster
rap uses such language liberally.
It's still not enough just to be tough and alien. The final ingredient is that one must appear mean. You must show that you mean it. The person must do so in such a way that their actions are never misinterpreted as childish antics. This does not necessarily mean that the individual must be continuously involved in violence. Others must simply believe that physical violence is imminent. They may appear to others as being irrational in their commitment to violence, but they are not. They develop their own rationales to explain their commitment to violence. Katz labels these 1)"soulful chaos", 2)"paraphernalia of purposiveness," and 3)"mind fucking."
By the first Katz refers to the attempt made to convince others that their violent presence represents chaos. They take a sadistic hedonistic pleasure in violence. Obviously, if the intended audience is convinced, no one will mess with him. The badass can convince himself that a victim needs or is seeking a beating.
Weapons are what Katz refers to as
Knives, guns, etc., become matters of sacred ritual for the badass. He will spend long hours practicing its use, cleaning it, etc. Others obviously must take seriously one who lavishes so much attention on an object of destruction.
Under "mind fucking" the author discusses why the phrase "fuck you" expresses so perfectly the badass's attitude toward others. (See page 107)
The reversed moral logic of the tough is revealed in "the bump" and "whatyoulookingat? " The bump is often the only excuse necessary for a threatening response from the tough. It may be a simple as accidentally entering into his space or touching him. While in civil society both parties assume such collisions are accidental, and both sides apologize and go on their way, the badass uses the bump to justify retaliation. In many cases bumps are simply staged or manufactured by the tough to justify his own actions. One wonders why he even bothers, given he knows what he intends to do anyway.
"What you looking at?" demonstrates that even an unobtrusive invasion of
space as eye contact may be considered legitimate grounds for reprisal by the tough guy.
Immediately the other is stuck in a Catch 22 type situation. To respond
"nothing" is to deny the existence of the badass and require response. To admit
that you were looking at him leads to further questioning of why and what right you had to
invade his space.
Katz Chapter 4: On Street Gangs
Actually in chapter 3, Katz had been talking about street gangs, because being a tough guy is one of the ways gang members have of demonstrating they are "bad" both to themselves and to outsiders.
Katz also compares lower-class gang behavior to middle class delinquents, and finds them quite different. Punks tend to come from middle-class homes, but tend to deny those roots. Punks may adopt lower-class dress and behavior, but deny the ties to neighborhood and territory that are at the basis of true lower-class gang banging. Fights over turf and invasion of turf take up a great deal of time and energy. The turf battles have, of course, been dramatically escalated with the turning of gangs toward organized crime in the form of crack dealing. The weapons are also more deadly, adding to the problem.
Lower- and middle-class gang behaviors are also distinct in that middle-class kids deny their higher status and adopt lower-class street behavior. (They move down). On the other hand, lower-class gangs consider themselves to be elites and often take names like the Knights, Kings. Etc. (they aspire to move up) Middle-class delinquent groups are also much more likely to include girls while the male posturing of lower class adolescent gangs virtually keeps females out, except as annexes to the male gang. (See Anne Campbell's books)
Ghetto gangs are actually one of the major reasons that such neighborhoods are so
dangerous. Kids don't join them to protect themselves from the muggers and robbers in the
neighborhood, but from rival gangs who create most of the problems. The environment does
not generate the violence they engage in. The kids use violence because it demonstrates to
everyone in the neighborhood their elite status. Without it their antics would appear like
the fantasy war games that most children play. Gang behavior is childlike in a number of
ways; they stick to their own neighborhoods just like children are told to do. For gangs
this becomes a matter of some pride. Turf wars suggest childlike king-of-the-hill games.
Being able to control the streets means the gang can collect tribute. Graffiti, like flags
in children's war games mark territorial boundaries.
KATZ'S THEORY OF ROBBERY AS LEARNED
In actuality Katz takes up 3 chapters with this issue. He attempts to explain persistence in robbery (stick-up) as a learned behavior. The form of learning theory Katz would subscribe to is not classical conditioning or even Bandura's or Akers' more sociological approach. Those that persist in robbery are making a choice to continue involvement in a form of behavior they have found to be both instrumentally and expressively useful in the past. Katz also tries to take into account demographic or environmental factors that limit choices but don't prescribe choosing a deviant lifestyle. In particular, he seeks to offer clues as to why robbery is an almost exclusively male crime, and why there are a disproportionate number of black robbers. In chapter 7, Katz specifically takes up the latter points.
The first question Katz raises is whether persistent robbers can be called
professional criminals. Obviously they can not. Most of their robberies result in little
money. They run anywhere from a one in 5 to one in 10 chance of being caught each time
they commit the crime. They don't improve their technique or sophistication with age or
Katz questions those theorists who simplistically equate robbery with extreme poverty and lack of opportunity to get money in any other way. He also discounts drug addiction models. There are other ways to get money illegitimately that have much lower risk of detection or physical injury than robbery (i.e. selling drugs, numbers running, burglary, etc.). It is true that most robbers also do other types of crime, often the entire above list. However, for some robbery holds a certain fascination that makes it difficult for them to drop it from their criminal repertoire. One man persisted even when bound to a wheelchair as a result of a police shooting. Many robbers have reported that there is something about the thrill of confrontation with a victim that motivates them to commit the crime.
Robbery and mugging are quite different types of crime, the former requiring more "skill" and guts. A mugger wants to grab the person's valuables (purse, wallet, etc,) quickly and run away, while the victim is still too stunned to respond. He may knock the person over or hit them, but this is largely to insure his momentary advantage.
Robbers must declare their intentions and bring their victim's progress to a halt. They must appear threatening (not like Woody Allen in the bank robbery scene of "Take the Money and Run") and quite serious in their request for your valuables. The victim can not be allowed to think they can simply walk or run away or that in a fight they might be able to defeat the robber or scare him away. The assailant must appear to he committed to the use of violence if necessary even if it means getting into a fight in which the robber may be injured. This is, according to Katz, the moral philosophy of the "hardman;" his commitment is that his will, once communicated to the victim, must prevail, regardless of practical calculations of personal danger to himself (or to the victim). Victims do frequently resist (24% of those who face a robber with a gun) and thus the robber's concern is justified (within his moral universe).
There are a number of demographic factors that many persistent robbers share. These include being unmarried with few family obligations, being unemployed either steadily or for long periods of time, the use of hard drugs (often in combination). Rather than causal factors to explain persistent robbery, Katz sees them as part of an overall pattern of acceptance of a learned "transcendent" way of life (the person will succeed outside of the norms laid down by society). Other evidence to support this conclusion is marshaled by discussing attitudes towards sex, gambling, and money. Robbery is part of a larger commitment to a hedonistic life style that has a particular appeal to some. (Not only those living at the margins of our society, such as Mafia "wiseguy" Henry Hill.)
Katz sees the issues, of' chaos and control as being very important to understanding the career robber. Chaos is a force that threatens to overwhelm him at any moment. Things can go wrong during the robbery; an informant could always turn him in, etc.
The only way to deal with chaos is through control. He sticks up for himself (literally and figuratively). He attempts to control situations: robberies, his sexual relationships, his criminal associates, etc. (Katz comes to these conclusions not by asking Why but How the stick-up man goes about creating the universe in which he lives.
In chapter 7, Katz tries to explain why stick-up is largely a male activity. He rejects as too simplistic that females would be found incompetent or that they have a programmed distaste for violence. However, he does rely on the fact that male and female adolescents have separate spheres of activities. Teenage girls are much less likely to be involved in gang banging, gambling, hanging out, e than adolescent males. Thus, they are not learning how to do violent street crimes like their male counterparts are. Also, taking risks with life and limb is simply not a major female preoccupation as it is for males who must demonstrate their approaching manhood.
Katz's explanation is largely sociological rather than phenomenological (chapter 6). He shows that other ethnic groups have been able to become entrepreneurs, thus allowing racketeering to develop alongside them to exploit their own groups. Robbery is not required to make money criminally through racketeering. The racketeers did offer some positive services to shop owners, especially In regard to city bureaucracies. Thus, white ethnics may be equally criminal, but their crimes will not show up in the robbery statistics. However, the black community lacks its own businesses, (first whites and, now Asians control most ghetto establishments) Most of black robberies of non-whites occur in these establishments or of taxi drivers, drug purchasers, etc. Most black robbers victimize other blacks trapped in the ghetto with them.
The other part of Katz's explanation of black robbery is more phenomenological. It has to do with the use of the terms "nigger" and "bad nigger" within the black community itself. This is quite different from when whites use the term. Katz argues that when blacks use the term among themselves it is a special form of insult. Insults and responding to insults are way that young black ghetto males talk to each other. "Nigger" is meant to represent a non-person status. To call a person a "nigger" is to say he is nothing and therefore invisible.
However, the adjective "bad" has a very specific connotation in Black English. Placed in front of "Nigger" it serves to negate the non-person status and replace it with "being." Being bad is a form of being and thus proves ones existence. (See Katz p. 271) Robbery is certainly a way of expressing that one is a "bad nigger," one who is willing to risk his life for small gain and unafraid to make good on his threats of violence.