I caught a good piece of journalism today from the NY Times by Mona El-Naggar, “From a Private School in Cairo to ISIS Killing Fields in Syria“. As the title indicates, this is a background piece on a promising young man who some how ended up joining ISIS. While the article focuses on the economic and political factors that lead to this particular individual’s radicalization, I am reminded that young men are often looking for a cause to take up. I read about this in The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge which goes into detail about the growth of a man through six stages. The “Warrior” stage is where a young man, often in his early twenties, is ready to fight for something that he believes in.
When a young man starts to become a “Warrior”, he looks for a cause to champion. Often, a father figure (or “King”) will help guide the young man through this stage, helping him make good positive life choices. But without a strong, positive leader in their life, the book warns, a “Warrior” maybe tempted by negative causes. This is what I am seeing happen to these young men across the world who are flocking to ISIS: they are being corrupted by demagoguery from influential, charismatic radical leaders. The NY Times article backs this with the assertion that a lack of positive causes (Economic, Political) lead these young men to look elsewhere for meaning in their life. This is spelling disaster for the disenfranchised youth, both internationally and in our own backyard.
So what are we going to do about this? In the short term, the measures being taken by western governments to secure our own backyard via monitoring of young people who are at risk of becoming radicalized and eventual arrest upon attempt to provide material support to terrorist organizations. However, in the long term we must look to the root cause here: these are lost young people who just need a positive cause worth fighting for. Perhaps once an individual is flagged as at risk, someone reaches out to their parents and community leaders to give them a chance to intervene before the young person gets too far. Many friends and family of those who have been arrested had no idea and no doubt would have made an effort to save their loved one.
Further, I believe we need more passionate leaders of moderate lifestyles to gain viability in today’s society. Moderate leaders seem characterized by compelling, intellectual arguments made by old men. This does nothing for the young man looking for meaning, looking for passion. He will find it from the radical leaders and speakers and we can’t allow the moderate, healthy, and positive way of life seem boring by comparison.