Young Men Need Our Help

“A child that is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth” ― African Proverb

The scene is now commonplace: a lonely boy in his teens or early twenties gets access to a semi-automatic gun and opens fire in a school in the United States. This devastating scene is only the tip of the iceberg that reveals boys aren’t maturing in a healthy manner. We now know that males are dropping out of university studies at a much faster rate than females, who have have been enrolling at a much higher rate both in the United States and in Europe. In Asia, there is an epidemic of ‘lonely deaths’, where men die alone, often from suicide, and aren’t discovered until days or weeks afterwards. These phenomena depict a growing population of males whose lives are wasted in the digital realm, often addicted to video games or pornography. They are struggling to develop meaningful relationships and in the process becoming a danger to themselves and society.

In South Korea, the government is starting to pay reclusive youth up to $500 a month to leave the house and go outside. Nearly unanimously, this sort of encouragement towards the social realm is emphasized as a key remedy. But speaking out of my own experience, it won’t just be hanging out with groups of other young men that will be the solution—that might even exaggerate aggressive and anti-social behavior. In my view, it’s important that there is diverse and intergenerational community activity—that young men have regular access to connecting with folks different than themselves and with older people, and that they have opportunities to support younger people. I was lucky enough to also partake in community traditions that motivated self-development and demarcated important transitions, both of which are now starting to fade away.

In the end, though, there is no single recipe as to how this social illness can be cured. It’s a good start to recognize that this is an already-disastrous problem, and one which reflects on the health of the social world as a whole. But like so many illnesses, the remedy will arise from steadfast warmth and creativity from each community and for each individual.

Image Papaioannou Kostas via unsplash

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