Monthly Archives: June 2015

SOCIETY MUST HAVE A PATH OR PATHS FOR EVERY INDIVIDUAL LIVING WITHIN IT

I just want to follow up the original post about my concluding remarks at the International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation’s 1st Annual International Conference on Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding held in New York City on October 1, 2014. This submission is made with a shout-out for this Sunday’s (June 21, 2015) New York Times editorial, “The Cost of Letting Young People Drift.”

The point of my original post was that society must have a path (or paths) available for every individual living within it—a path that will be, at the least, benign for the society as a whole–or, better, one that will contribute to the maintenance of what is good about the society, and, even, to its improvement.

Without this path, the individual will necessarily be walking on another path, which could turn destructive—for the individual and the society at large.

At the time of the original post, I was thinking of those who were turning to violence in the Middle East—and relatively recent immigrants from the Middle East and their children living in Europe, who were  travelling to the Middle East to participate in violent actions there, or remaining in Europe and turning violent against European society.

My indictment was of the societies themselves that were failing to provide more peaceful and constructive social paths for their inhabitants—in the Middle East and in Europe.

The New York Times editorial turns this analysis to the United States—showing how we in the U.S. are far from providing a path for many of our young. The editorial mentions “…the isolation of millions of young black and Latino men, who are disengaged from school, work and mainstream institutions generally.”  Clearly, we fit well this pattern, allowing a tragedy for the individuals involved, a loss of their undeveloped resources for the rest of us, and, at the worst, allowing for the growth of a threatening, disaffected, angry, antisocial subculture.

(Yes, I recognize the conservative argument that it is the individual’s responsibility to create his/her own socially constructive path. But that assumes society has at least spent sufficient resources to educate the individual on these responsibilities–and has not allowed his/her path to be blocked by insurmountable obstacles. According to the Times’ editorial, we have failed in both—not educating and not clearing the path. Indeed, we’ve made the path more difficult by adding obstacles.)

And in today’s New York Times (June 22nd), three op-ed pieces illustrate a further point made in the editorial—that over 10 % of white youths are also drifting. Morris Dees and J. Richard Cohen in “Racists Without Borders,” Charles M. Blow in “A Millennial Race Terrorist,” and Paul Krugman in “Slavery’s Long Shadow,” emphasize that, having not provided a constructive path for these young people, a portion of them have turned to a negative path–racial hatred and violence.

Post by Art Lerman