The police shooting death of 18-year-old “terror suspect” Numan Haider was greeted with the inevitable shrieking about “crazed fanatics” and headlines that slotted snugly into the Federal Government’s narrative of “the enemy within”.
But as a person who deals regularly with the illegal manifestation of wayward, reckless and dangerous male behaviour I see a clear need for a raft of agencies to join families in preventing boys from becoming their own worst enemies.
You only have to look at the effective recruiting programs of outlaw motorcycle gangs to know there is an ample supply of angry young men looking for a cause.
We know schools can be barbaric environments. The cruelty children can inflict upon one another can be horrific - and disconnected teenage males, without the discipline of a strong father or paternal figure, are notorious for running off the rails and, as motor accident statistics prove, the road.
A staggering 28 per cent of road deaths are males aged between 17 and 25. Unchecked testosterone, bravado and raging insecurity can make for a dangerous and all-to-often fatal combination.
Many of the problems have their roots in family instability. Almost by default, in spite of recent advances towards balance in family court outcomes, children end up in the custody of their mothers.
Indeed, some leading child welfare advocates campaign for the isolation of fathers in early child rearing.
In her book titled Family Breakdown English parenting ‘guru’ Penelope Leach wildly claims children can suffer damage if they have overnight stays with the non-resident parent.
Thankfully there are voices of reason in Australia to counter Leach’s outrageous assertion. Director of the Melbourne Institute Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, argues: “The sense of security generated by the presence of a male role model in a youth’s life has protective effects for a child, regardless of the degree of interaction between the child and father.”
“Fathers provide children with male role models and can influence children’s preferences, values and attitudes, while giving them a sense of security and boosting their self-esteem. They also increase the degree of adult supervision at home, which may lead to a direct reduction of delinquent behaviour.”
There has been comprehensive research in the United States on the extent of aimless, disconnected youth and the results are alarming, if only for the inevitability of their faithful replication in Australia.
According to an American Social Science Research Council study one in seven young people between the ages of 16 and 24 nationwide are “adrift”.
The school’s report One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas report found more than 5.8 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are disengaged from schooling and employment.
The Global Financial Crisis boosted the number of disconnected youth by more than 800,000. That’s a city almost the size of Adelaide full of people with nothing to do and nowhere to go. While our Federal parliament focuses more on giving Australian spies more power, it wouldn’t hurt Canberra to pay more attention to the roots of the “evil” of which Tony Abbott speaks so often.
The uglier, violent manifestations of disconnected youth would rarely have their origins in Islam, or any other religion, but grow from a home that is likely to be fractured, assuming there was one to begin with. I have written before of how a disproportionate number of children in the juvenile justice system have had multiple foster placements, and the vast majority are males who have never really known the love and loyalty of parents.
Many of them don’t just find it easy to hate – the hatred becomes a predisposition, and ready to be exploited by the genuinely dark masterminds of causes far more sinister than a teenage shoplifter or graffitist could have ever imagined.
If the very real problem of disconnected teenage males were given the same funding and attention as some diseases, many of the world’s ills wouldn’t seem so incurable after all.
"He's got a very good tactical mind and is good with strategy ... great advocacy and comes to grips with the evidence."