Friday, November 27, 2015

The Vulnerability of Young Men

1. During the night I vaguely heard a segment on cable news about how men go around recruiting for the Islamic State among young men in all sorts of places, not least among young Muslim men in Europe. I thought of gangs of young men in urban cities in the US. I thought of the Hitler youth. I thought of violent video games and the thirst of some young men for the military.

In their late teens and early twenties, a lot of young men want to fight something. If their social circumstances are bad, they have plenty of opportunities at hand. They only need presented with a cause and they are ready to go, ready to fight. It can manifest itself in ideas--ideas to fight for. Or it can manifest itself in real violence, as in gangs and terror.

We're seeing a layer of violence in Indy right now, and a little even in Marion. In Marion, some of the recent violence has been young males of high school age.

What are we to do?

2. Sports are an easy option. Sports give young men a chance to express their built-in lust for fighting in their late teens. I don't know if video games are ultimately good or not, but they're better than going out and beating someone up for real. As a nerd, comic books partially fed my thirst to fight something in my late teens. More idea-oriented young men might fight for ideas. Republican, Democrat, creationism, scientism--the underlying fervor is the same basic male dynamic. Guys tend to want to fight something.

The church is often ill-equipped to satisfy the young male thirst to punch something. The true church preaches love of one's enemies, which works against the impulses of a male in his late teens, even though it is the most noble cause to fight for of all. Churches that give a young man a cause to fight for, so to speak, scratch at the itch. Churches that just talk to youth about ideas that don't involve a fight are not likely to attract many from this segment.

3. It is a great worry. The desire to fight, if it is coupled with an anger from one's social circumstances, becomes violent. Think of the Boston bombers or the young men that shoot up movie theaters or schools. Think of inner city gang violence. Think of the recent French violence. The Islamic State is currently selling a vision to fight for a world in which the whole Middle East is Islamic as in the days of old. What's scary is that it has all the marks of a vision that will sell to an 18 year old male.

On one level these phenomena seem predictable. Young men don't tend to think straight. They are prone to anger, an anger all too easy to manipulate or degenerate on its own. Left to their own devices, a certain subset are going to do stupid things of a violent sort. Some get in over their head and suddenly they're stuck in a very bad situation, following the lead of someone else.

4. Cities have to provide other options. Incentivized sports and competitions? Venues to express frustration? Good ideas provided to fight for? Young men can't be left to their own devices. They have to be shepherded.

There are smart people out there. It seems like we could come up with something. Public schools are again crucial as all males have to pass through. Vocational training can play a role. Some churches are very effective in this area but most aren't. That's a matter for some consideration!

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