Saturday, June 22, 2013

Crime Meets Group Dynamics

I read the crime news on a daily basis. I've always been fascinated how people "put themselves out there" to be criminals, despite the enormous risks they take for what so often is a relatively small reward. Is it really worth it, for example, even if you got $50,000 in a bank robbery, if there's a good chance you'll spend 10 years in prison? Even without a partner that's only $5,000 a year, and with a partner it drops. You could've gotten a paper route and made that much, with freedom to boot.

"Me?" the idiot argues, "I'd never get caught!" Oh yeah, it's foolproof! When there's video cameras everywhere, and they know which direction you came from and which direction you went before you left. They're not amateurs, they've done this before. Ever heard of radioing ahead? So there you are, at the end of a lonely dirt road, nothing in front of you but a raging river, and the cops closing in like mad. You decide to take your first and last look at the loot, which promptly blows up in your face with red dye. As one bank robber I read about said, "I just went home and waited to be arrested."

As for the life of crime, throw in a partner -- or several partners, a whole gang -- and naturally it's worse, because you have to depend on the nebulous code of 'Honor Among Thieves' holding up. Codes and honor are only as good as the people involved. If you're hanging out with pure scum, the scum of the earth, what kind of honor and code should you expect? I wouldn't risk it for less than minimum wage, certainly with the prospects of prison, getting to look at a big shower room and a wall of toilets with no doors. Then there's the barbed wire outside. The birds are flying overhead, and you've got five minutes till lock down.

Still, we're talking about humanity, right? That's the species we're thinking of, right? Well, like it or not, I'm ultimately not prejudiced when it comes to people and their need for good group dynamics counseling. After all, I've always seen a basic understanding of group dynamics as everyone's right, maybe even more so than food or air. Because what good are food and air if you can't survive your peers? You step into a crowded cell and say the wrong thing, "I'll take the bottom bunk," having no understanding, and, SLIT, you're a dead man. So criminals deserve at least this much, the basics.

Now, since you probably haven't got much time to live -- let's assume the worst -- I will keep it very basic. We'll put the "3 R's of Group Dynamics" out there as they relate to a gang of criminals. (I'm actually the originator of the "3 R's," which is in most textbooks on group dynamics, so I know what I'm talking about.)

OK, take a look at the above illustration. Looks very much like a free-for-all, a melee. I see a gun waving in the air and another guy with both arms up, frantic. Someone else has apparently struck the guy with the gun. And there's someone crashed on the floor against the wall. The scene captures a terrible moment. Which probably could have been prevented, in part if not entirely, with some knowledge of group dynamics. Let's say you're the gang leader. This isn't what you wanted!

How could a knowledge of the "3 R's" have made for a better situation? The "3 R's" are 1) aRrange, 2) Reconnoiter, and, 3) Ruminate.

A good "aRrangement," before anyone showed up, might have included some comfortable chairs. You as the leader, then, are going to elicit more support and loyalty from your underlings if you keep everything very even, such as matching chairs, not a bigger one for you or anyone else. Good lighting is critical, too, especially among criminals, not too low, not too bright. Also, you don't want a lot of shadows, which only serve to raise people's suspicions, leading to paranoia, leading to an eruption. Shadows are where things are hidden. And anything else you can do to establish a good comfort level, while also looking out for people's feelings, is a key part of "aRanging." Are there pitchers of cold water handy? Thoughtful aRanging is always the basis of a good meeting.

The 2nd "R," Reconnoitering, means your job isn't done with aRanging. Far from it. Reconnoitering means paying close attention to the group's needs as your time together progresses. With the criminal type, you will want to hone in on any change in the dynamics. Are they as comfortable 20 minutes into the meeting as they were at the beginning? Are you seeing any strange twitching, reaching inside coat pockets, hands hidden, sweaty brows? Are you hearing any heavy breathing, any muffled clicks of gun hammers? Reconnoitering will catch all that, without, and this is critical, without making it obvious what you're doing. At the first sign of trouble, instead of reacting directly to the threat, you should redirect simply, perhaps by freshening people's drinks. Give them a chance to stretch. Look for the least comfortable guy and compliment him for something, how you've always admired his skill set with munitions, or whatever it might be.

By the way, the word "Reconnoitering" literally means "knowing again." You're not leaving things to chance, you're knowing things again and again, you're keeping your awareness alert, and when you do, you'll find that you generally live to see tomorrow. No mad escape by diving through the window for you!

The 3rd "R", Ruminating, is one I often use in groups as a kind of post-meeting diagnostic tool. What could I have done differently? How could it have gone more smoothly? But Ruminating is also key to a meeting in progress, which can either loop back to further aRranging or further Reconnoitering. That's certainly how I would primarily use it in a meeting of criminals! In such a group, I'm not leaving anything for later; I'll handle it now, or sooner. Later may never come! For survival purposes, and also to ensure the gang's integrity as a gang, that it not erupt into a melee, you will Ruminate often. If someone is acting up in any way, use Rumination toward further aRranging. But once behavior is on track, use it toward further Reconnoitering.

Using these pointers, the basics of group dynamics, you will have more confidence to conduct your meeting in a successful way. Even with a gang of criminals! Then, and this of course is the ultimate reward, depending on what you as a group decide, which job to do -- a big robbery or rubbing someone out -- it's more likely to be a great success. I wish you all the best.

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