Mentors for Rioters?

Russel Brand in The Guardian writes that we need to ask why so many people feel disconnected from their communities. Yes we do. He adds that he himself has been arrested for rioting in the past and it was “never his cup of tea.”

“I found those protests exciting, yes, because I was young and a bit of a twerp but also, I suppose, because there was a void in me. A lack of direction, a sense that I was not invested in the dominant culture, that government existed not to look after the interests of the people it was elected to represent but the big businesses that they were in bed with.

I felt that, and I had a mum who loved me, a dad who told me that nothing was beyond my reach, an education, a grant from Essex council (to train as an actor of all things!!!) and several charities that gave me money for maintenance. I shudder to think how disenfranchised I would have felt if I had been deprived of that long list of privileges.”

When I left Ireland for the first time in the late 1980’s unemployment was at 17%. During those dark economic times right after secondary school I was stressed out and very down. The outlook was grim. It never once crossed my mind to steal or destruct another person’s property. Maybe because I too had a mother and father that encouraged me to go after my dream.

That dark period has left it’s mark. Every time I feel stressed out I have a recurring nightmare; I am sitting in our kitchen at home in Portumna, County Galway. I feel totally trapped. I am panicked because in this nightmare although I am 18 again, I have a husband and a son in America. There is no way out of that kitchen. The strangest part is I don’t even try to get out, I am resolved to the fact that I am stuck; I give up. I panic and stress but I never think of a way to get out. When I wake up from that nightmare I am so happy to be in America, relieved that the scenario wasn’t real. Twenty four years ago  it was very real.

The world was good to me., it presented me with opportunities. I went to America, worked and earned enough money to return to Ireland and begin a University education. With the assistance of an aunt and uncle who paid my fare back and forth each summer, I completed my University Degree in Galway, Ireland. I worked fifty hours a week and babysat on the week ends.

Can I identify with the psychological stuff that these rioters are going through? I most certainly can. However, there are two main differences between myself and the rioters looting their way through English cities. I had a mother and a father who were a positive influence on me and there was plenty of work abroad. My sister Marcella mentored me and gave me the soundest advice back then. She told me no matter what I was doing, cleaning toilets or babysitting, never forget that its not a forever and keep the dream in focus. The dream back then was a university education, a degree.

Maybe mentoring is the answer. If these rioters have been lacking good advice from parents or care givers in their developmental years then maybe a mentoring program would help.

I once had a school principal when I first started teaching who began every year by addressing the parents with this motto;

“Parents are the primary educators of their children.”

So if the parents are giving poor advice, would these rioters listen to and heed a mentor? Maybe.

Thanks Tricia for sending me the article from The Guardian. If anyone else has a different perspective I’d like to hear it.

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