Polimom remembers being young and idealistic — years when injustice, perceived or real, is magnified exponentially, and angst rules the mind. We all came through that phase, and I’m sure you can look back and remember when some cause was the overriding problem in the world, and in your life (WaPo):
“Young people are looking for a group to belong to, and religion plays into that. It’s almost cult-like.”
Young people, generally, fit that description, but young men in particular can be troublesome (CSMonitor):
Bloom says rebellion and violence are characteristic of adolescents throughout the animal world, and thinks people shouldn’t be so surprised when they hit home. “War has been with us as long as there has been life,” Bloom says. “War once a generation is our default mode.”
The above quotes are from articles about the Canadian “youths” (that term is really picking up some baggage…) who were arrested last week and accused of a terrorist plot. Sociologists and psychologists are busily dissecting them, trying to help a perplexed and stunned Canadian populace understand how their politically moderate, secular society could have produced such violent radicals (Toronto Star).
“There is nothing wrong in saying we failed our youth,” said Imam Munir El-Kassen at the Toronto and Region Islamic Congregation in North York. “We did not fail them intentionally, but our community was in a formative stage and our youth searching to fill the vacuum within received wrong advice and training.
“We should be more careful in controlling the youth in the public domain — not everybody should be allowed to talk or lead the youth. They are the most vulnerable.”
They’re on the right track, and we (all of us in the western world) are lucky that the Islamic communities in Canada, and elsewhere, see how they can address the problem.
There’s a wider implication, though, for all of us, particularly regarding our involvement in the Middle East.
On the surface of things, those young people would seem to have little in common with their counterparts in the Middle East, but there’s a common denominator that, when factored in, goes a long way toward understanding what’s happening on the other side of the globe.
What do they have in common? The Y chromosome.
Way before the Iraq War…. before Afghanistan…. before 9-11…. even before Bush was elected in 2000…. Polimom was watching the Middle East. It was obvious that they were suffering from a problematic little demographic issue called (in Polimom terms) too many young guys with too much testosterone and not nearly enough to do. (Brookings Institute, 2003, my emphasis)
The rapid population growth is such that youths under the age of 24 now make up 50-65 percent of the population of the Middle East.
Most of the Middle Eastern countries are overwhelmingly young, and male. Think about that, in combination with the angst of youth. Is it really any surprise that al Qaeda is drawing these young men to their deaths? Or that an insurgency would have passionate, suicidal fighters?
The existence of a relatively large youth cohort within the population of Middle Eastern societies serves to exacerbate nearly all dimensions of its political, social and economic problems. It is youth that often translates broader social problems into an explosive and radicalizing mixture.
Yes, of course there are females involved in this disastrous mess, but they stand out – always – when they act. They’re an exception to the wider rule.
There’s a reason war has historically come once a generation. What a tragedy.