Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 25, 2014

The world watches

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on November 25, 2014

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Comment by claire rubin

November 25, 2014 @ 6:29 am

The outcome is obvious. Now, what does it mean?

Comment by Christopher Tingus

November 25, 2014 @ 6:44 am

We must have Hope and not despair as We as a nation and honorable and charitable people no matter pigment or culture and admittedly many have had to endure bias and hardship, We have made great strides in establishing a far better America than when history told a far different story:

The White House
Claude McKay

Your door is shut against my tightened face,
And I am sharp as steel with discontent;
But I possess the courage and the grace
To bear my anger proudly and unbent.
The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
And passion rends my vitals as I pass,
A chafing savage, down the decent street;
Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass.
Oh, I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find in it the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!
Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate
Against the potent poison of your hate.

Let the world see justice prevail for every man has the Right to fair trial…a community to take responsibility for itself and to continue to encourage – family values and Respecting God’s laws – yet Life’s simplicities and personal and professional achievement is most often attained through good parenting and family values and especially the attainment in education! Subsequently being afforded jobs, jobs, jobs as a path to independent freedom, We must do whatever we can as individuals and together as family, neighbors and friends to make America stronger and not raise Hope and promise of jobs, when all such is merely politicized and empty political rhetoric, but rather, a sincere and far less self-serving intent to truly help our youth to be better educated and be able to compete in a 21st century where China, India and Russia are producing far more scientists an engineers and We are falling short!

Gentlemen and ladies, Let us begin today and Not forget the youth of Chicago and as much attention we have expended in Ferguson, let us do the same today in Chicago and clasp hands, not in blocking intersection, but clasp hands with the youth of Chicago and help them to stop the murders of precious young Black youth who deserve far more and a community together which now must portray our concern and bring valued solutions to stop this outrage in so many deaths. Each of these youth are God’s children and in their hour of despair, I ask, where are the television cameras and the politicians and the educators and whomever can help for the carnage on the streets of Chicago and our silence is Not our way!

God Bless America!

Comment by John Comiskey

November 25, 2014 @ 7:57 am

The Ferguson Grand Jury decision rendered, the Nation must consider the implications:

1. Our Social Contract
2. Distrust of authorities
3. Clear need for leadership
4. Racial divide of the Nation (nexus to income inequality?)

Possible solutions:

1. Responsible leadership (public, private, faith-based)
2. Education and particularly civic education
3. Professionalism (nexus to education)
a. Special mention for law enforcement professionalism. LE must be trained and educated to objectively and sensibly enforce the law.
b. In turn, society must be educated as to the role of the police in society and their social contract obligations to comply with the lawful orders of the police
4. Objective media to include social media (nexus to education)

On Thursday our Nation will celebrate the many things that we have to be thankful for ….and there are many things to be thankful for.

There are also many things that we can do today that we will be thankful for tomorrow.


Comment by claire rubin

November 25, 2014 @ 8:26 am

What about civics education and political organizing for the aggrieved residents?

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 25, 2014 @ 9:13 am

There are over 90,000 units of local governments. The racial and ethnic makeup of many is quite skewed. But where many do not vote they oftend get skewed governance and policing.

The danger signs in Ferguson have long existed. DO NOT, REPEAT DO NOT ever be a non-voter if you are qualified to vote. And if an ethnic or racial minority in any local jurisdiction where the governing and policing class reflect a discriminatory system than CAVEAT EMPTOR!


Grand Juries are tasked with determining PROBABLE CAUSE that a case should be tried. Guilt or innocence is not the Grand Juries role. PROBABLE CAUSE is not REASONABLE DOUBT of GUILT. The test is not innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

November 25, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

Facts are very stubborn things.

They are positioned, interpreted, polled, exorcised, statistatized, romanticized, and exploited. Facts can fall into an occam’s razor proposal or an emergent complexity devotional, but they remain facts.

An 18 year old was killed by gunfire by a police officer. That is a fact. The rest of the story is speculation of varying degree.

One can take the grand jury at face value and see that the evidence, usually an interpretation of the facts, did not rise to the level of implicating the police officer of egregious violation of law and rights and was simply protecting himself. All the rest of the syntax is subterfuge.

The behavior, relationships, racial overtones, class overtones, rioting, looting, and generally boorish manifestations of protest are America.

From a metaphorical point of view, there are powder kegs everywhere and strikers trying to spark. The education system, economic disparity, state of infrastructure, generational welfare, politicizing life, health care, taxes, debt, religion, and any other number of “things” are beginning overrun their containers, casks, barrels, and silos.

Our politicians are hamstrung or purchased, depending on one’s point of view. Our military is overextended, under representing, and exploited and also a runaway train with regards to costs. Our economy is antiquated, suppressed, and exploited by those who control it. We as a nation are generally illiterate and ahistorical to the realities of our condition.

One could make the argument that we are simply the latest empire to begin our descent. The fact that we are blind to it hastens the movement. Others will pontificate about our emerging new internet of things, the global economy and huddle around the future humming kumbuya. In either case it’s probably a bit of both…

The American dream is aptly described as enigmatic. It is a pipedream worth pursuing…its built on the supposition that our children will achieve more than we will. It has a requirement for good education, opportunity, and latitude; all 3 of these things are now dubious. The American Dream is postulated as the national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work.

I have a hard time grasping who and what defines opportunity, prosperity, and success as it is both illusive and orchestrated by others. It is also manipulated, marketed, and sold to others.

Freedom is ill defined, controlled or dictated by a police state who invokes its derived power under the premise of protection of the homeland. Or is freedom a perpetuated myth of mostly white, protestant, slave owning gentry that built vast wealth on the backs of slaves?

So the very idea of America is complicated and attempts to correct past wrong doings never have its intended consequence.

So it’s a social conundrum. Michael Brown was both a victim in terms of his demise and perhaps his culture. Officer Wilson was also a victim; character assassination, fearful, assaulted, and summarily tried in public. He is now essentially unemployable, a pariah in many circles, and identified. Wilson said he was fearful for his life.

Fear and anger make for bad outcomes. The wanton disregard for law, looting, burning of buildings, and rioting pale historically in comparison to previous conflagrations. Righteous indignation appears to have given way to opportunistic self-reward.

If this latest outburst in our long history of tensions is to have any value than it would behoove us to examine the myriad of causes and determines if there is a solution. My estimation is there is not likely to be a resolution because those who benefit honorably are dwarfed by those who benefit dishonorably.

And unfortunately from the Regulators to the Know nothings, to Tammany, to current political hubris and machinations, this is the American way. This is not a black/white problem, have/have not problem, north/south problem, us/them problem.

This is an American problem and has been so for a long time.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 25, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

Thanks Dan for your insightful comment!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 25, 2014 @ 5:07 pm

Dan: Many thanks. It makes sense there would be uniquely American aspects of what is being experienced in Ferguson. I would suggest Ferguson also reflects universal human issues of competing identities and power disparities. There are local, national, and global aspects that emerge from patterns of change (and opportunity) that by-pass whole towns and sometimes whole peoples well beyond Ferguson. You are emphasizing the American experience. How would you say Ferguson differs from angry, inter-sectarian or class or ethnic violence elsewhere? Which of those elements you reference above do not happen elsewhere? What common aspects of such tensions elsewhere are not relevant to Ferguson?

Comment by Barbara Miller

November 25, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

I can only go by the facts which have been shown on this idiot box, I hate to admit, but I was sure that this police officer would have been found guilty. Michael Brown used his size as a weapon… We America all SAW him steal cigars and assault the store clerk. He then assaulted the police officer & tried to take his gun… His mother & cohorts claim he was a gentle giant but people are not stupid. As he began his adult life at 18 he committed 3 crimes in the span of roughly 20 minutes. If the truth was told I am sure there are plenty of people (his peers; same race) who would tell you Michael Brown bullied them and others and used his size to intimidate and to do harm to others. He did not do this on a 1 day spree before his death. I would not doubt for one minute this young black adult if the opportunity was allowed to reveal his school records; juvenile records were opened to the public we would find he was a violent giant the majority of his teen years. It is clear that he was an angry young man. The actions of his Step-Father “Burn the Bitch Down” just goes to show the mentality of what I can imagine the type of behavior existed in the home Violence!
I am sadden by all this news media; the violence and destruction being shown and what being conducted to innocent people’s business. This does not solve anything.
If we look back to OJ Simpson, a man I am sure had his hand into the death of his White Wife and the White Waiter but yet the cheers of freedom rung out from Black americans for a murder of the white race. In the end the Jury was selected and were the peers of the Officer and Justice was done. Bottom line it will not change the course nor bring back Brown; and this will have effect/affect on the police officer. My prayers to the Brown family for their loss; my prayers for the Police Officer, his family for his safety and protection in the days/months/years to come as he will have to live this for a long time. As time passes all these ignorant people who have destroyed peoples dreams in Ferguson will not have one ounce of thought to Michael Brown!

Mr. O’Connor thank you always for your valuable insight; guidance to me and others to see things differently and to use our voice and for the others, thank you as well.

Comment by Dan OConnor

November 25, 2014 @ 9:35 pm

Phil; one of the differences I would point out is those who are rioting and creating the mayhem are in little if any danger. The moral outrage does not feel real or authentic from my observation. Now that is subject to change and the situation is fluid.

In a perverse sort of way, this post grand jury activity was not at all spontaneous but an encouraged orchestration. And I’d be happy to be wrong. While there is anonymity in the crowd, there is little chance of the government or “forces” opening fire and sniping the rioters. We won’t see mob suppression like we have seen in Egypt, Iran, Ukraine, etc. There is ample food, water, shelter, communications, and media coverage. There are no secret police, hit squads, rival factions, or counter protestors.

The absence of these ingredients and accelerants are not present. That is a difference. While there may be a 21st century COINTELPRO and/or extraordinary surveillance taking place the violence and damage was not mitigated. Guardsman or military forces were not used. That is also a difference.

So there was no existential or extemporaneous rage in my opinion. And the violence did not emerge or feed itself. That is what I would suggest is the primary difference in Ferguson and other areas of unrest in the world. Clearly there are many real issues that underlie our condition. And elements of Ferguson do reflect universal human issues of competing identities and power disparities. I would submit that those issues have been hijacked or usurped.

Real disparity and injustice are present too, but that message and anguish has been stolen. Real disparity and injustice does lie below the surface and there is ideological contrast. That contrast is or has started to solidify the polarization of the nation. And while there were protests and there is social expression, I have found most of it contrived.

People who had opinions in contrast to the forensic evidence and grand jury attack the results. People who had opinions inverse to the former dismiss the idea that something could be amiss in our communities.

I’ll ponder more elements of your question, but these are some of my initial responses to yours.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 26, 2014 @ 5:56 am

Dan: Thanks. You and I probably disagree on whether the moral outrage or simple rage was authentic. Certainly there was orchestration, cynical opportunism, even some hijacking, but for what it’s worth, I perceive in Ferguson — I have encountered elsewhere — a sense of injustice, a depth of despair, and occasional nihilism that feeds all sorts of outrageous behavior.

I agree with the American distinction you note at the top. At least this time. I’m not sure where the local security culture was trending in August. But democratic values — and lessons-learned in Birmingham, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and elsewhere — were retrieved in time.

Based on what happened Tuesday night across the nation, looks like we will have more opportunities ahead for listening and learning. Many societies tend to respond to these sort of activities in ways that exacerbate the problems. I hope we will see some American exceptionalism in how we substantively engage to problem-solve or at least meaningfully resolve.

Comment by John Comiskey

November 26, 2014 @ 6:31 am


Thanks for capturing many of my sentiments.

Final thought that I sense is important.

Professional agitators need focusing events to promote their agendas.

If nothing else, the events of Ferguson have elevated race relations, income inequality, other TBD to the top of the policy agenda. The White House and DOJ are all ears and that is not a knock on either.

The issues of Ferguson certainly transcend police-citizen encounters.

Comment by Not Today

November 26, 2014 @ 6:38 am

The New York Race Riots of 1964 were the first in a series of devastating race-related riots that ripped through American cities between 1964 and 1965. The riots began in Harlem, New York following the shooting of fifteen year-old James Powell by a white off-duty police officer on July 18, 1964. Charging that the incident was an act of police brutality, an estimated eight thousand Harlem residents took to streets and launched a large-scale riot, breaking widows, setting fires and looting local businesses. The eruption of violence soon spread to the nearby neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant and continued for six days, resulting in the death of one resident, over one hundred injuries, and more than 450 arrests. As the civil unrest in New York City began to cool, another riot broke out upstate, in Rochester, New York. Like the Harlem Riot, the Rochester Riot stemmed from an alleged act of police brutality.


Comment by Dan O'Connor

November 26, 2014 @ 7:32 pm


We would probably agree on more than disagree. Let me further our conversation and comment on a “…sense of injustice, a depth of despair, and occasional nihilism that feeds all sorts of outrageous behavior…”

I’d like to open this comment with a quick story. This morning I had breakfast with one of my former wrestlers (I was coach) and mentee. He is intelligent, creative, inquisitive, and devoutly Christian. He is also a young black man raised in the Deep South. Javaz is a phenomenally wonderful human being and we make it a point to have breakfast when we are both in town. Knowing no question was out of bounds and he immediately opened with…”so coach, tell me what you think about Ferguson.” He beat me to the punch.

So there we were, sitting in SW Georgia discussing points of view and the deeper interdependencies of Ferguson, religion, race, culture, class, and a host of other nuanced topics. Why is this important? Because his point of view was relevant to me. His point of view was that of a young black man. He could more aptly describe his feelings and thoughts on many of the observations he was having far better than I.

His conclusion of the situation was similar to yours insofar as nihilism and despair but from an increasing agnosticism in the United States.

During our breakfast we discussed Charles Loring Brace’s book; the Dangerous Classes’ and its opening theme of dealing with undesirable citizens; “…that the cheapest and most efficacious way of dealing with the “Dangerous Classes” of large cities, is not to punish them, but to prevent their growth; to so throw the influences of education and discipline and religion about the abandoned and destitute youth of our large towns, to change their material circumstances, and draw them under the influence of the moral and fortunate classes…”

We also discussed How the Irish Became White, by Noel Ignatiev and How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Reis.

We were drawing comparisons and contrast of the Irish experience and the African experience in America.

Many of their thoughts and observations can be heard today in a lot of the race and immigration rhetoric.

That contextual discussion combined with a more bellicose, proactive, forceful and I daresay militant police presence in America, diminished opportunity, and a host of other factors are contributors to the sense of injustice you speak of. When however, one combines this sense of injustice with an additional sense of entitlement, significant blow back can ensue.

Is the American Dream infused with a bit of entitlement? ”…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” What differentiates rights from entitlements has become a political theme in my estimation.

In the exploitation of urban areas for votes, a trend started with the usurpation of many by the Irish in NY with the rise of Tammany, people have been summarily disenfranchised. So to some extent these urban areas are under and unrepresented and are simply exploited for their votes. A diminishing tax base, declining middle class opportunities, declining schools, rising costs, and what appears to be no way out probably does much to fuel the injustice you mentioned. What compounds this is the lack of amelioration; there are no solutions or so it appears.

So taking that point of view and combining ubiquitous police presence only exacerbates the feeling of injustice. And this does not take into consideration the point of view of law enforcement. That is an entirely different piece of the discussion. The economic and educational considerations further the discussion into true injustice.

I take for granted that the injustice is real. It has been with this nation from the beginning and quite frankly is part of the human condition. If someone would like to refute the idea or if you believe it to be an overstatement on my part, so be it. Various forms of injustice have been real for decades and even generationally. Political decisions, redlining, boycotts, and a host of other activities have added strife and instability to a volatile situation.

We have tried to legislate this away with Civil Rights act(s), political correctness, revisionist history, and the latest part of the debate; check your privilege. While all may have an element of truth or impact on the larger discussion it does not explain away the current agenda and behavior.

What is not mentioned or avoided, especially by advocates and certain journalistic point of view is the lack of responsibility. Most of the damage that occurred in Ferguson was perpetuated upon the black community, the same community that was reeling from the injustice. So injustice upon those who suffered injustice. If there is no responsibility in ones’ state than the injustice argument begins to ring hollow. This in my estimation compounds the issues faced by those who are trapped in untenable conditions. Those who have exploited the situation and continue to do so have little interest in furthering or decompressing the situation but exploiting it for political or other gain.
This may become “real”.

When we observed the Occupy protests we saw mostly educated, affluent, and self described disenfranchised Americans exercise their 1st Amendment Rights. Now we have less educated, (supposition on my part) less affluent, (supposition on my part) and more disenfranchised Americans initially exercising their 1st Amendment Rights. That quickly devolved. We had the Tea Party protests; mostly late middle aged, conservative leaning self proclaimed disenfranchised Americans exercising their 1st Amendment Rights. We have what appears to be a lot of unhappy citizens caught between unelected officials making decisions and elected officials making no decisions.

I think if a poll was taken the vast majority of Americans would say they have no say in their lives as it relates to Washington and their elected representation. All of this has real, active, and tangential effect upon what we see in Ferguson.

I come back to your original statement about despair and injustice. What we are seeing in my opinion is neither…yet. It may lead to a more fervent nationalist movement and discussion and become 1964, ’67, ’68, ’77… there are a lot of disgruntled Americans looking at their personal situation in relation to this and it could transcend to another level, an unprecedented level. The legitimacy of our elected officials, law enforcement officials, and government are a bit more fragile today than yesterday…so it really boils down to trust.

Do we trust the government to do the right thing? Do we trust the grand jury to tell us their best and objective version of the facts? Do we trust one another to make corrective changes? Or, will our cognitive dissonance be so strong and our cynicism so divisive that anything we are told that does not jive with our own distorted narrative fall on deaf ears?
Michael Brown committed several crimes prior to being killed. He attacked a police officer and attempted to do grievous bodily harm. He then came at an officer furtively, albeit unarmed.

He was killed for that and the culmination of his decisions. It is a horrible and finite consequence. Why should I believe the witnesses, grand jury, testimony, investigations, etc? Because I was not there and if we as a culture and society wish to remain either and function we must regain and reinforce the special trust and confidence that is placed in the hands of others.

If we want solutions we must be able to be honest and transparent in all of our biases, prejudices, and activities. The only other fact that I would propose to you is that you and I, all of us have some degree of responsibility in the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson incident. E Pluribus Unum.

Happy Thanksgiving. We all have a tremendous amount to be thankful for and must reflect on how we treat one another. Tomorrow is not promised.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 27, 2014 @ 5:21 am


You’ve got my attention. The yeast also needs just a bit more time.

Where your thinking and mine may intersect — even substantially overlap — is in our human quest for meaning. Injustice is an externality. But despair requires significant self-alienation. Nihilism is an expression of abject self-alienation.

It seems to me that young men are especially susceptible to this destructive formulation. Not just young American men, but every boy trying to find his way between old myths and modernity. Too often the pathways presented are horribly misaligned. Boys lose their way. Young men flail and fight, growing coldly furious.

Some of this I perceive is physical: Where energy was once expended on muscle-bending farming or foundry work or hunting, the muscles and hormones and minds are left to fester.

Some is surely social: Where families — even if classically dysfunctional — once cohered and communities gathered in regular rhythms of multi-generational and neighborhood connections, I know you better than several of my neighbors down the hill. (I live in the mountains not a city, but yesterday a neighbor we do know warned my wife of two twenty-something “good-for-nothing, lazy punks” who don’t work, have too much time on their hands, and show a really bad attitude. “They don’t know what to do with their lives, and its getting dangerous.” The neighbor warned them, “Stay off my land. I won’t call the law, but I’ll take care of you.”) Our problems are not just urban, as the meth epidemic clearly shows.

For most of human history man’s meaning (being gender-specific for a moment) was delivered as a rough mixture of family, community, marriage, child-rearing, and work. Fighting and faith might occasionally season the stew. I am not trying to romanticize this. It could be rough and cruel. But it gave a boy-becoming-a-man a sense-of-place and validated purpose. I did not have this. My son is even more distant from it.

We now make our own meaning or encounter a void. Socialization, education, and perhaps my own psychology — as warped as it can be in other ways — gave me the motivation and the tools to make positive meaning. As a white, middle class, Christian boy of the American heartland I had lots of options. Very few externalities impeded me. But growing up black on Chicago’s Southside or Shia in Sana’a or Korean in Tokyo or… take your pick, the collapse of positive cultural foundations is compounded by persisting — even heightened? — cultural prejudice.

I am sure humankind is in the midst of a profound transformation. The current phase is about a century old. I figure we’ve got at least another century… and it may just be that our new dialectic no longer results in much of a synthesis… just ongoing oscillation between thesis and antithesis. This could be exciting, very productive, freeing and fun. But if so we will have to lose our fear, learn to love more fully, and embrace our freedom much more mindfully.

Wow… lots of loose claims here. My first rant of the holiday. Gotta get the bread in the oven.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

November 27, 2014 @ 10:58 am


I hope having your attention is a good thing!

Yes, I would say the driving force in our congruence would most probably be meaning.

“It seems to me that young men are especially susceptible to this destructive formulation. Not just young American men, but every boy trying to find his way between old myths and modernity. Too often the pathways presented are horribly misaligned. Boys lose their way. Young men flail and fight, growing coldly furious.”

Now this could be a stretch and would clearly alienate some but we have ignored and continue to ignore evidence of declining male achievement and ambition deficits. We have stood on the sidelines as our sons and young men have notched a growing record of underachievement, failure, and disengagement.

To your point of physical exertion; what used to be proper and encouraged energy outlets; sports, work, low level individual skirmishes (scrapes, fights, etc.) have been dismissed, removed, and legislated away. Can you imagine today having two boys settle their difference with a parent or teacher with 2 pairs of boxing gloves? Play and exertion has a necessary place in school and society.

It seems barbaric to some, but it had a place in modulating violence and deescalating angst. Surely it was a different time. I can remember priests in the local parish encouraging this means of resolution. And what used to be settled amongst parents or teachers now requires law enforcement and judges.

Combined with the explosion of prescriptions for boys and the social, cultural, and biological factors we have created an environment that is literally toxic to boys. By the time they reach high school, nearly 20 percent of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD. These boys will have all kinds of drugs given to them to normalize them and they will suffer long term cognitive and social impairment.

The kicker is most of those boys are being drugged for no good reason—simply for being boys. It’s a cultural emasculation.

So to your point, the many variables you’ve broached, and the attempt to alter biology with sociology and legislation may have a hand in this proliferation of violence. And it does all come back to meaning.

One of the upsides of the positive psychology movement is a definition of complete mental health that combines of high emotional well-being, high psychological well-being, and high social well-being, along with low mental illness…all elements of meaning.

I would suspect that this is part of the broader context of what is happening and in my opinion, we ignore and continue to try and modulate biological urges and tendencies with chemistry and sociology at our peril.

Hope the proofing went well!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 29, 2014 @ 6:46 am

Dan: I wrestled. I hiked. I played high school football. I was/am also a reader, a singer, a theater nerd. I have never been in a fist-fight… well, I’ve been hit breaking up two.

Way back then when my junior high personality test came back I scored high on “feminine” qualities. Not exactly what most 14 year old boys want to be told.

But these qualities have served me well. My wife is amazed at the boorishness so many other wives seem condemned to accept. It helps her put up with some of my crazy habits. In most post-modern professional lives, listening is a significant comparative advantage. It has helped me. My first three supervisors were women, which probably also contributed.

I am predisposed to the mysterious. Some of this is expressed as religious faith, some as aesthetic preference, even as empirical motivation. I actually mistrust most clarity.

So… I agree there are aspects of evolutionary biology that we ought not — really cannot — neglect. But there is also a need to recognize that our emerging reality — barring some apocalypse — seems unlikely to privilege upper body strength and testosterone surges.

We live longer lives. Our social relationships are much more mobile. Our economic system is complex, often a bit zany. Culture is fractured. Meaning remains elusive.

Late in the last century the Nobel prize-winning economist, Robert William Fogel, surprised himself with an examination of socio-economic data emerging from the industrial age. While personally agnostic — with a tendency to atheism — Fogel concluded that if 21st Century America was to re-cycle up it would require an expansion of “spiritual literacy” analogous to the expansion of traditional literacy experienced in the late 19th Century. He perceived that spiritual skills were becoming as important as reading and writing. See more here.

I find Fogel more provocative than persuasive, but — especially in terms of young men — it is a provocation that reminds me of what the Boy Scouts, YMCA, the military draft, church youth groups, and even college fraternities once aspired to provide. Our classic coaches were mentors of good character, even more than competitive prowess. The role of fathers is certainly crucial, but even the best father needs reinforcement.

Especially for the challenges of today… even more for those of tomorrow.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

November 30, 2014 @ 3:58 am

Dan: As I review our conversation here, I’m struck by what we did with the context Chris originally set out. What caused us to relate the Grand Jury decision and reaction to it to the state of young men across the globe?

I don’t think we are trying to “explain” eighteen-year-old Michael Brown. Or even his deadly encounter with another still-young man. But we are, perhaps, struggling to explain the violence and seeming nihilism of last week’s riots… and the Columbine’s… and the Boko Haram’s… and the ISIS death cult’s.

Neither of us, I expect, are trying to reduce these complexities to a single formula of gender-age-alienation. But neither do I want to underplay the potential role of these variables. Maybe we are also looking for causal targets that we (meaning each of us as individuals) can practically engage. What can I positively contribute?

I will also pass along from the Sunday Washington Post a piece that suggests our concerns, even if true for outliers, do not accurately reflect the overall generational trend (at least in the United States). See: The Kids are Alright After All.

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