Nepali Times
Here And There
Unstable elements



Those who think that it's possible to win a 'war on terror' tend to believe that it's justified to single out Muslims for special attention, that followers of Islam are more likely to turn to terror to assert their radical agendas.

I beg to differ. But I do think a form of \'identity profiling\' is justified in trying to keep people safe from militant attacks, whether in Afghanistan or Canada, Nepal or Sri Lanka.

Quite simply, I think we all need to keep a close eye on young men, whether Muslim or atheist, liberal democrat or Maoist.

Overwhelmingly, around the world, most violent activity is carried out by males between the ages of 15 and 35. Old and middle-aged men may lead Al Qaeda, other militant groups, and various mafias but the shock troops are young, and they probably enjoy their work.

The French scholar Olivier Roy describes these 20- and 30-somethings as a \'lost generation\', an aimless, testosterone-charged seething mass of frustrated men. It was not necessarily political Islam or the glories of a restored Caliphate that drove 19 Arab hijackers to commit the horrendous crimes of 11 September, Roy speculates, but youthful angst magnified by the bewitching messages of Osama bin Laden and his ilk.

All of history's revolutions, insurgencies, and militant movements have at their core a critical mass of young men who are willing to take great physical risks to themselves and others. Often, they are ready to die or kill. Why? Because they are young and have not been tempered by time. They don't know that extremes flare and fade, that moderation predominates, and that old men are the only ones who benefit from their youthful risk taking. Often they benefit monetarily as well as politically.

Young men in western societies aren't immune from the angst and alienation that drives Muslim youth into the arms of Al Qaeda and turns Tamils into Tigers. It just takes a slightly different form. Crime in the United States, Europe and Canada is overwhelmingly the work of young men. Vehicle accidents from driving too fast are almost always caused by males in their teens or twenties. Riots, street fights and bar brawls? Young guys "blowing off steam" as some would have it.

There's an upside to this youthful energy and dynamic willingness to push physical boundaries. It can be directed into the police or the armed forces to at least serve the consensual cause of the nation. Sport needs young men to funnel their competitiveness into teamwork and victory for the side. Even the arts and pop culture benefit from the same testosterone which fuels bar fights and warrior culture. Young male rock guitar heroes are gunmen wielding a musical instrument rather than a Kalashnikov.

But how do we keep an eye on young men? Do we need to license them? Make them carry ID and report to the police regularly? Should they be sent off to boot camp and kept calm, or given injections to calm those raging hormones?

No, they should be given jobs and a meaningful role in the social forces that matter. In Nepal, that means political parties and democracy. First, get the economy moving, so the vast crowds of young men that burn tires and show up for every riot or protest will be too busy earning money to gherao or march in torchlight processions. Then give them a role in a meaningful process of nation building.

Direct that useful energy or feel its wrath. It's that simple.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)