Whether our young people are armed with a gun, knife or bad attitude, either can be extremely dangerous and sometimes lethal. The past couple of months we have witnessed some acts that clearly reflect youths who skipped over the socialization process and jumped right into the streets. A stabbing of a youth at the Easter Monday Family outing at the National Zoo; a 16 year-old youth at a detention center overwhelms a guard escapes detention and takes the guard’s car to get away. This is the stuff of which movies are made; and Ra-heem Jackson armed with a $50,000 college scholarship is shot 11 times 20 feet from his back door; oh and did I neglect to mention the Metro where youth assault adults at will and take their I-phones and other worldly possessions. And you ask what has socialization got to do with this? Socialization is an internal Geiger counter that starts ticking the moment you encounter a situation that is contrary to your value system, upbringing and social mores. Without a socialization guide stamped in the brain, reinforced by moral and family values, the fall back is instinct or impulse, the lowest levels of reasoning.
We call ourselves a civilized society and even mock other countries by calling them third world or underdeveloped. But when I explore our social culture it is blotted with degeneracy that blinds many especially our youth who do not have superman lens to penetrate to core where the “good stuff” is hidden. So the scum rises to the top, free for the taking and the cups of our youths are running over with it. Those of us who opt for the civil society have a mandate to protect our young and we do this through a process called socialization. It is an invisible coating of rules, values, principles, and beliefs that guards against whims that can lead one down the primrose path of destruction. We have all been tempted from time to time to stray from the path of righteousness, but fortunate for some of us the pull of social gravity brings us back to the correct path. So why now throw out all the rules and each child seems to make rules for the moment. Is there any wonder we stare wide-eyed and in shock as our youth act out behaviors that shock the conscience. Random shootings, random stabbings, random robberies, all suggest not a way of life, but impulsive behavior that puts everyone at risk. It is unpredictable, often with no particular target. It is the luck of the draw of who happens to wander within the field of vision when one is summoned to “just do it, shoot, stab, kill, rob, rape…..against such randomness, we, the public has no protective defense.
We have to go back and get the book that laid the social foundation for the majority of us law abiding citizens. Socialization is a process perpetuated by institutions (family, church, school, government.) While it is ideal that the family takes the lead, if it defaults there are three other institutions that can step in unless they are all dysfunctional. Looking at the current state of our youths, need I say more? One of the first indicators of one who has been socialized is a code of behavior that respects authority. Respect has to be instilled at an early age to prevent the human will from overpowering it. If negative behavior is rewarded with smiles and hugs it grows by leaps and bounds and not in incremental stages like positive behavior. Limits and boundaries must be sacrosanct so that a child understands the serious repercussions of dangerous behavior such as touch fire and it will burn and go to strangers and you may disappear, etc.
So we start off with the basic rules of socialization that are easy to enforce and not very time consuming to teach; but by the time a child is 8, it become harder and harder to lay the social foundation because they’ve been developing skills to evade most of the rules and it takes diligence to reinforce them. So we pretend we do not see the indiscretions. They will grow out of it; no they grow into it and perfect the negative behaviors while we are sleeping. And when they are 14/15, the gap between their value system and that of the civil society has become a gorge. For our society to be where it is today with our youth, each institutional safety net must have had a hole in it and our youth are now in free fall. It is going to take longer, and more resources, human and money to rescue them from the pit into which they have descended. There are no quick fixes. When we should have been looking we turned away; when we should have been listening, we turned a deaf ear; and when we should have been nurturing, we said go away. Now they are in our faces and we have nowhere to turn or run.