Death and Life in The Brickyard

July 21, 2008

Editor's note: Watch a video of Greg providing more background on The Brickyard, scenes of a resident working at the brick laying business. And, stay tuned for more videos from the community. In my first story about The Brickyard, I introduce you to some of the people, places, and things in this community of outlaws. Frank Deblasio, a 45-year-old father of two, has spent much of the last few years living in The Brickyard. Frank's death has cast into bold relief the basic principles of The Brickyard's culture. "Antagonistic communalism" is the cultural fixture that I try to expose. Approaching The Brickyard like this makes sense to me because Frank's death has prompted many other residents to take stock of their relationships, to assess and reflect on the way they treat each other. In the past week and a half many of them have concluded that they need to change their "outlaw culture"-they need to ramp up their communalism, a key component of their survival mechanism, and try to ratchet down times that they hurt each other, run game on each other, exploit each other. The people who killed Frank quite likely come from outside The Brickyard. Most certainly, the two people who "rolled" his dead body for $20 and a government-issued LINK card came from outside. As the police look for the perpetrators, though, Brickyard residents have begun closing ranks, helping the police find the killers, and keep something like this from happening again. But they know that it's going to be difficult for them to regulate behavior in The Brickyard.‚  After all, you can't regulate what you outlaw. This is why traditional law enforcement has had such a hard time achieving any control there. The residents exist outside the law so regulation is destined to fail. And The Brickyard residents know this, too. They know that even while they attempt to strengthen their relationships with each other, in the end the person who hurts them most may be the person they consider to be their closest ally. But does this really differ all that much from the "real world"? The real world. The Brickyard. Two apparently polar opposite places. But are they? Or do they just seem vastly dissimilar? Underneath the obvious differences I would argue that The Brickyard and "mainstream society" have more in common than you think. So now we get to the nub of the matter: The Brickyard's place in society. The discrepant features are mostly cosmetic. More on this issue in my next posting, but until then, tell me what you think: How different are mainstream society and The Brickyard? Or mainstream society and any "outlaw" culture?