Making Pain Shared and Communal

Posted on May 25, 2011 by


Read through Ralph Cintron’s Angels’ Town.

An ethnography that shed light onto the logic of violence in gang life.

So the question is basic:  why retaliation and why use a mode of violence?

A question stated so easily, yet so complex to address especially in the context of urbanized LA.  Here’s Cintron’s explanation captured in this quote.

“A wounded someone wants to open a wound in someone else, and in opening that wound, there is a kind of ravishment, even a freedom.  To release the blood of another is to release oneself—all this is primal, and strangely communal, for those who speak the discourse of pain desire pained others to accompany them.  Call it, then, a need to make others hurt as much as one hurts, a need to make pain communal (150).”

A need to make pain “communal.”

If I may use the google search dictionary, “communal” means that it shared by all members of a community.  So killing someone out of retaliation or revenge is about making pain “shared” by everyone in a “community.”  The assumption is that the one committing revenge has been “pained” before by his revengee and is looking to get the revengee and/or his/her into their experience of pain.

“Shared” seems to be an inappropriate, almost sarcastically-used participle to underline the phenomena of retaliation and revenge.

If we try to understand why someone retaliates, the individual motivated by revenge isn’t necessarily looking to “make pain shared” by another community member, s/he’s just looking to avenge his brother, his friend, his dad, his mother, etc.

However, if we step back and look at the society and environment in which a majority of gang violence out of retaliation occurs, that is these stigmatized, “scary” neighborhoods where “you don’t want to be out at night” that is a part of yet “peripheralized” in a society in which individuals and groups of individuals prioritize getting theirs and only theirs and security of theirs,  then maybe it does make sense to say that those who kill out of revenge do so largely to “make pain shared.”

Pain is just one thing to “share” in a context or contexts where there is “not much shared.”  “Not much shared’ meaning we have a lot of people around us, especially in our increasingly urban environments, but we have a hard time simply going up and talking without being regarded without some suspicion or curiosity.  We generally don’t expect to communicate, and in the absence of that communication, we’re still sending a message.

When we drive our cars, sit in traffic, walk by homeless people, we say: “get the hell out of my way”, or “mind your own damn business.”

We, especially those with the capital, through these messages, continually reproduce the cold world.  Every time someone comes up to us and we can’t do anything but ignore or even acknowledge their existence.