Looting is not ok, it is theft and the senseless destruction and violence that has gone along with it is sad and disturbing to watch. Hundreds of arrests have been made and London looters can expect harsh justice. An example will be made of them as a warning for others. Expensive lawyers will not be defending any rioters; they are reserved for the corporate looters who can afford them.
The reports in from around the UK are chilling and are all about “the youth,” especially male youth that are rampaging out of control. This quote from Michael Meade seems particularly poignant:
“In many tribal cultures, it was said that if the boys were not initiated into manhood, if they were not shaped by the skills and love of elders, then they would destroy the culture. If the fires that innately burn inside youths are not intentionally and lovingly added to the hearth of community, they will burn down the structures of culture, just to feel the warmth.” ( Men and the Water of Life, 1993)
It is the job of the whole community to contain that youthful “fire,” that amazing vigor and energy (that some older people feel is wasted on the young) and direct it towards “the hearth of community.” This is not always easy. It takes commitment, it takes parents with the time to spend with their children and it takes funding. There are some amazing examples of where this has happened. Medellin, Columbia was a city torn apart by drug cartel wars, it was dubbed the murder capital of the world. Through investment in social infrastructure it is now thriving. Amputating UK youth services as part of the austerity measures instead of increasing taxes on the very wealthy was foolish short term thinking.
Michael Meade also talks about initiating boys into manhood. If we do nothing, boys will find a way to self initiate, girls will too though it is the high risk behaviour of the boys that is highly visible. Looting and gang violence is one form of self initiation.
Instead of leaving our young people to self initiate we could provide them with a contemporary Rite of Passage for boys into manhood and girls into womanhood. Rites of Passage are supported events or ceremonies that mark the transition from one life stage to another. Examples include child to young adult, man to father, women to mother and older to elder.
Childhood is meant to be a life stage not a lifestyle choice and rites of passage were the link between growing up physically and growing up emotionally. We have left our children to self initiate and the result is not pretty:
“Self initiation is a biologically induced, hormone fueled attempt to seek acknowledgement of the recently added “adult” body mass whilst simultaneously rejecting anyone with the wisdom and ability to bestow the gift of acknowledgement that is so desperately yearned for… Self initiation is not about transformation it is about taking childish behaviour to new levels of infancy and or danger or both.” (Daniel Prokop,”Leaving Neverland,” 2010)
While we are making examples of looters, isn’t it also time to make an example of the GFC looters, the boys clubs that caused the loss of millions of jobs and trillions of dollars? The global bankers and hedge fund managers didn’t light the match in Tottenham but they played a significant role in deepening the poverty, joblessness and despair that has become a very flammable mixture not just in the UK but in many parts of the world.
We live in an adolescent society Neverland where no one wants to grow up. The consequences of this are fast catching up with us. It is time to Leave Neverland.