gangs, bullying, and racism
Groups and gangs
When does a group become a gang? Hamish Canham
(2002) defines a gang mentality as one in which de-
structive forces have taken over. It is paranoid-schizoid
functioning where there is no thinking, only a need to rid oneself of parts of the personality that might expose the individual (or group) to feelings of neediness, ignorance, or weakness. Within the personality, this is achieved by imposing a reign of terror on the vulnerable parts. In gang behaviour, the reign of terror is directed towards other groups. A gang is anti-thought, anti-parents, and anti-life.
Hamish offers a commentary on William ...view middle of the document...
This action represents most dramatically the gang mentality
at work. Faced with a life without parents to look after them,
vulnerability and loss is projected into the pig family, with
the piglets made into the orphans the boys feel themselves to
be. As those who have read the novel will know, this cruelty
extends to brutal savagery from Jack and his gang towards the
other boys, in particular Piggy, who is killed towards the end
of the book.
Piggy is an overweight, asthmatic boy who has an ability to
see the truth of their situation and to continue thinking about
what needs to be done to ensure the survival of everyone. Pig-
thoughtfulness and insight is under constant attack from
the gang. They steal his glasses—representing his capacity to
see—and eventually they kill him. Ralph is the character who
struggles most between the lure of the gang and his desire
not to lose the capacity to think. As he is pulled towards the
gang, Golding describes a shutter coming down in Ralph’s
mind. This shutter seems to cut him off from what he knows
he should be doing—keeping the fire going, looking after the
younger children, building shelters and keeping everyone
working together. It represents the temptation for him to for-
and to join Jack’s gang who seem
to be leading a life free from these worries as they hunt for
It is most
striking that the only two characters in the book
who make reference to their families in any significant way are
Piggy and Ralph. It seems that it is this ability to keep alive a
sense of helpful, loving parental figures that sustains these two
boys and helps them not to climb into identification with the
parodies of powerful grown-ups as Jack and his followers do.
Bullies and victims
The bullies of school stories (e.g., Flashman in Tom Brown’s School-Days , Squeers in Nicholas Nickelby ) fit neatly into this psychological
account of extreme splitting and projection. They are unrelenting
in their attacks on their victims and continue with their escalating
cruelty until such time as they get their just deserts. Most of the
time, the situation is much less polarized. If paranoid-schizoid
functioning and the depressive position are seen as states of mind
between which all human beings oscillate, then it follows that
everyone is capable of bullying behaviour of one kind or another.
When interviewed sensitively and encouraged to be honest, most
children admit to having at one time or another bullied a weaker
member of the class, a younger sibling, or an animal. Most children
can also describe interactions or relationships in which they have been the victims of bullying. They are also able to speak eloquently about how they understand the motivation behind bullying, seeing very clearly that the bully is trying to get rid of feelings he does not want to have.
The cliché about...