A personalized examination of efforts from Egypt to Europe to counter young men’s drift toward violence.
In his debut, Toronto-based lawyer and community organizer Jivani explores a widely considered yet vexing issue: the connections between movements, from white nationalism to radical fundamentalism, and a population of angry, hopeless men. In the foreword, J.D. Vance summarizes the author’s perspective as perceiving how “today’s world throws more traps and temptations in front of young men than ever before with even fewer ladders out of the ditches they end up in.” Organizationally, the book balances Jivani’s background and experiences with consideration of these negative influences and the forces countering them. Growing up in a multiracial family haunted by his own father’s gradual estrangement, Jivani recalls his own drift toward gangster fantasies: “We saw no distinction between us and the rappers we idolized.” Later, at Yale, he observed New Haven’s segregation, wondering how he fit into the then-prominent narrative of a “clash of civilizations.” In violence-ridden Newark, the author first engaged with organizations that “offered an alternative moral code that encouraged young men to rise above their circumstances and be better than those around them.” While monitoring law enforcement in Toronto, he developed a surprising relationship with a progressive deputy chief, defusing a legacy of racial mistrust: “We weren’t speaking just as a citizen and a police officer. We were speaking as two activists.” Jivani went on to teach law before moving on to Brussels to research radicalization following the 2015 Paris terror attack. He notes that immigrants subject to terrorist recruitment attribute this temptation to “rejection from mainstream society through unemployment and discrimination.” Yet he also points out the prominence of “faithless radicals” among those attracted to terrorist groups, with “more of a background in criminal activity than religious observance.” He also argues that the American “alt-right” is at least as dangerous and fueled by similar alienation.
An earnest and mostly engaging attempt at “thinking about the diverse reasons for the destruction young men cause.”