Through the ‘Lost Boys, by Dr. James Garbarino discusses the phenomenon of youth violence in America, with emphasis on understanding its causes as a major tool for dealing with the menace. This essay seeks to explore the main points and arguments pointed about in the book, ways in which society has failed in curbing the disorder, and what can be done to
INTRODUCTION: A TYPICAL SCENARIO
A 15-year African American Ken lived in the inner-city trouble zone of Los Angeles, with parents who are both poor and uncaring. He grew up to protect himself, seeing the world as an unsafe place: He saw form his point of view, that life is unbearable and one must be aggressive to make your way through life, especially to possess the material things that mattered to him.
On many occasions when he was young, he had been abused by his father, bullied seriously at school and for that he developed an aggressive approach to living as he grew up. He also hated his father for his violent activities and unwholesome behavior of drinking and smoking.
At his age, he got hooked up in a gang of five boys who called themselves ‘Fox Army’. Because of his dedication to these gang activities, his performance at school dwindled. For this, his father expresses serious harsh words on him, telling him he would never be anything good in life. In the whole of this picture stood a fearful mother who was always quiet and strictly aligned to the father’s opinion. Ken wondered on several occasions why he and his siblings were treated as such. He was ashamed of himself and his family. Having being threatened by his violent father with guns on several occasions, he felt the gun was a tool to silence enemies.
In the gang, they all seem to share the same experiences of parental neglect and abuse, depression and confusion about the essence of living. They never felt any emotions nor did they perceive anything positive about schooling, family and other things around them. They share same schema of life: fight to protect yourself, enemies are out there in the world planning to eliminate you. The faster of us win to survive and see the light of another day. To see another to get others, use illegal means to make money and acquire material possessions in an attempt to use such things to eliminate the deep-seated feelings of worthlessness and shame.
They were eager to make money by all means; so, they got into illegal drug sales. They also started smoking and drinking, adventures they felt would relieve them of the burden they carried. In no time, they had access to the guns of their parents for protection. Even with these, Ken did not make as much money as his friends. He got really frustrated and distressed because he needed the money to add up to that he got from his parents to stay in school.
He woke up one morning by hammering slaps of his violent father who accused him of theft. He was guilty of the offence; yet, he denied it. His father started threatening hi with guns again. He left his bedroom and headed to the sitting where he kept his gun: he reached for it, and with it, killed his parents.
In this vexation, he started saying all sorts of things like: ‘Fox soldier, go for the bait. Kill the enemy with sharpened teeth of the fox. Go and deal with the wicked world’
He kicked the main entrance door open and shot in the crowd of school children going early to school. He shot continuously, until he became so vexed and put the gun into his head, pulled the trigger and said, ‘it all ends here’. As the noise of the approaching cop intensifies, he pulled the trigger and shot himself.
It was reported that five people died including Ken. The news was carried by a local newspaper. The only national daily that featured it described the teenager as ‘brutal’ and ‘horribly terrible’.
And that was where it ended. Nobody wanted to know more.
‘WHAT IS NOT SEEN AT THE SCENE’
The main intention of the writer is to draw the attention of the Public to the menace of youth homicide with emphasis on understanding what is not seen at the scene, as a tool to stemming its tide.
The scenario created above typifies the main point and arguments enunciated in the ‘Lost Boys’. The ideas launched in the text were based on statistical date from reliable sources, the experiences of those who have been affected in one way or the other by acts of youth violence and a ‘systematic’ approach to understanding what is not seen at the scene of the incident. He also drew ideas from the research and writings of other experts in the field to arrive at the following salient points:
Youth violence is a major societal disorder that is quite extensive. However, it is obscured from its staggering reality by the national homicide picture which is reportedly stable. Lethal violence is common among the poor African-Americans and Hispanics, those who form the minority groups, with only few cases by Americans. These groups are concentrated in the inner city and suburbs of the South. As a result of those involved, the media and the general Public ignore ‘making sense’ of such crimes giving limited attention to it.
This is claimed to be as a result of racism and class bias, as well as the perceived immunity Native Americans think they have. With the current tide of the menace sweeping to the abode of the ‘immunized’, he argues that no one is really immune. The current incidents recorded with new white faces awakened the Public to the reality of the issue: white teenagers are joining the train. With this pointed established, everyone sees a problem to be checked and it is easier to do.
Having established that everyone is endangered, he seeks to lay a foundation for finding lasting solutions. First, he emphasizes the need to understand why the killers kill others and themselves. He believes that this would invariably be achieved by learning from the lives and experiences of those who have lived with it for the past two decades.
Drawing form this point of strength where everyone’s attention is drawn, he shows that the accumulation of risk factors such as smoking, involvement in gang activity and illegal drug deals, access to guns, family history of violence, psychiatric disorders is central to the distorted behavior of killers. He emphasizes that the causes of youth violence are complex and cannot be associated with a single factor. He notes that culprits are no animals but humans who have been strongly influenced by risk factors they grew with, and only live to bury their deep-seated shame by acts of violence; they are like Ken, who did not see any cogent reason for living.
THE WAY OUT
Having stated the reality of violence, the ‘Southern’ location of its prevalence because of prevailing factors and the lessons of the past, he then proposes ways of dealing with the violence: Both the individual and the community, are involved. The individual needs proper parental care, protection, training and mentoring; these would help to build a strong self-image and create positive outlook to life.
The home is the first community that is pertinent in building a good child: this should be stable, loving and full of positive affirmations for the growing child; necessary needs should also be met. The government has a major role to play; it should enact laws that reduce crime, promote community campaigns against violence and crime, provide funds for educational and health institutions. A credible and fair justice system must be on present.
He particularly suggested a ‘Visiting Nurse Program’. He also emphasized good working relationships between professionals involved with the menace of youth violence.
In conclusion, a society who fails to wake up to the roar of a wandering lion by getting hunters ready, should be prepared to dance to the music of the Vulture that would feast on their carcasses.