Friday, March 31, 2006

Victims of the Lord of the Flies

"Children who go unheeded are children who are going to turn on the world that neglected them."
-Robert Cole

Dan Korem’s book, Suburban Gangs: The Affluent Rebels is one of the great books on gangs. In Korem’s well researched work he describes how gangs are a global issue. Beyond that he dispels many of the “soundbite” explanations for the primary causes of gangs. Things such as poverty or psychopathic behavior are truly not the top of the list of drivers for gang activity.

"Simply stated, the MPF is when a youth is faced with a crisis and there is no adult that he/she can turn to for help. That is, there is no adult protector in his/her life. The MPF dramatically increases the risk of gang recruitment as is found operative in about 75% of gang youths. It is clear that more youths from broken/ruptured homes resist gang recruitment, but when the MPF is added to a youth's life, a youth is significantly greater at risk of gang recruitment, suicide, drug abuse, etc."
- Dan Korem

Rather, Korem states, a youth who does not have someone in his / her life they can turn to in times of crisis combined with the brokenness of the family appears to be one of the main drivers for gang involvement.

I am inclined to agree with Korem here.

Having worked with gang kids for well over a decade the one thing I see time and again is that these young people have a “missing protector.”

Whether “mom” is too busy with work or “dad” is simply absent or whatever the reasons the primary guardian is not available these kids often turn to a different kind of family.

In William Golding's book, Lord of the Flies, a group of kids end up stranded on an island…alone and without any surviving adults. Over time they group themselves into two groups. In the end a war ensues and violence comes to the forefront.

The same is happening all over the globe in our neighborhoods both poor and “affluent.” Kids don’t have to live in the ghetto to have a “missing protector.” And when left to raise themselves the outcome is often bloody.

In the streets of Los Angeles, the housing projects of Cabrini Green, or the hallways of Columbine High School kids left unattended emotionally as much as literally lash out.

When parents or guardians do not supervise, nurture, love, provide safety, and discipline then children fall victim to The Missing Protector Factor.

Often as such is the case, they then fall victim to the gang.

Then they simply fall victim.