Flash Mobs Living in the moment, ignoring society’s values and social abandonment is nothing new. When still a teen I heard tales of Fort Lauderdale spring breaks. There were wild parties with lots of alcohol loosening the morality of boys and girls on vacation without adult sanctions. Boy…did I want to join them! My parents, however, had other ideas and kept me quietly busy at home during the break. I thought it was a missed opportunity for fun.
Another mob gathering happened one July holiday when our family went for a week’s camping trip in a Michigan sate park. The site was beautiful, with huge old trees near a lake for swimming and fishing. The first two days were idyllic but we were awakened on the evening of July third when tens, then hundreds, and later thousands of kids between 18 and 25 years invaded the park. They set up sleeping bags, tents and boom boxes everywhere there was an open spot, including our own reserved camping space. These partiers rarely left their sites. The men sat in lounge chairs on top of their mini-vans downing beers while shouting obscenities at the skimpily clad girls gyrating-below to loud music.
I observed a police car being rocked back and forth by a rowdy group of kids. Scary! Law enforcement never showed up again that weekend. One kidnapped girl was carried away in the back of a car while her boy friend ran after, shouting for the abductors to stop. Other young women were molested by mobs of inebriated men and there was no one around to stop the resultant rapes. I was afraid to leave my tent and go to the bathroom. It was outrageous, but the local community just acknowledged the behavior as college students and working youth letting off steam, so it was permitted to continue in the same park year after year.
As bad as it was, the gatherings in the 60s and 70s differed from the flash mobs that assemble in various locations throughout the country today. On a moment’s notice text messages, viral emails, tweets and mobile phones invite people to assemble for marches, protests, and parties. They often bring together disruptive elements as well as socially minded citizens. Some flash mobs, lasting only a brief moment, are publicity stunts organized by paid professionals while others are fun gatherings promoting the arts and entertainment.
The daily news mostly covers flash mobs that have taken a political twist used by society’s have-nots. I know of homeless organizers in our town who amass large numbers of kids in order to take over upper class tennis courts so they can play dodge ball with hundreds of stolen tennis balls. Several gatherings by disenfranchised youth have led me to believe that there are great differences between the Ft. Lauderdale type of assembly and today’s flash mob gatherings. In the past, after high school, teens were headed to jobs or to college. Though some events were certainly unruly, at the end of the weekend these kids went back to their stable homes to become law abiding citizens.
Most children today grow up with working parents who are not home to monitor their movements. We may applaud the mother who admonished her son for participating in the Ferguson looting, but she was the exception rather than the rule. Adults often do not know what is going on outside of their homes. Unfortunately many flash gatherings and riots are attended by undereducated, untrained youth who live with bleak future prospects. One 20 year old homeless boy told me with joy in his voice how much fun it was to walk down a street in a mob and take over an area. These kids were not violent but enjoyed putting fear in faces of the adults in their way. Many were on drugs and it would not take much to turn their bravado rendezvous into tragedy. The kids talk about the unfairness of the rich and they want what they can not afford so are willing to take when they can not earn.
On the fringes of political mobs are celebrities and social do-gooders who hope to bring attention to tragic incidents and turn them into a media acknowledgement of inequities. Though they do focus on underlying issues, the public’s willingness to do something about them is fleeting.
These young disenfranchised men and women are likely to be part of the 25 % nationally who have not graduated from high school, and there are many more who do graduate but have not received training that would enable them to work. What should they do? They are angry, scared, and very bored. THERE ARE NO JOBS FOR THEM. Do they want to work? Yes, they do, though they need to learn a trade and have supervision because their skills are poor. They, like most people, want to feel needed and have a sense of belonging.
How did we handle inequity in past years? Schools had vocational programs and realized everyone was not college bound. There were apprenticeship training opportunities to develop specific skills. During wars the draft took large numbers of these kids off the street and sent them to fight. Modern warfare does not require large numbers of bodies but rather well-educated technicians leaving the streets filled with the homeless. Is there a solution? Of course, I’m an optimist. Perhaps it is the time to reinstitute a youth training program like the Civilian Conservation Corps operated during Roosevelt’s era. Yes, it reeks of socialism, but so what? It is better than growing pockets of idleness. It should be looked on as part of the education system.
Sent to camps, city kids experienced nature, built their own barracks, rose early, worked hard, and were fed good nutritious food. They made friends, learned construction skills including carpentry, electrical wiring and plumbing. Their jobs took them to national parks where they developed conservation techniques, fire fighting, learning how to work in a team and to follow instructions. They were off the streets, out of jail, not drinking or on drugs. They felt good about working, had money in their pockets and could see the fruits of their labor benefiting the community at large.
Our politicians and business people could also bring manufacturing back to the United States? Let’s make things here, not overseas, and provide jobs to our own youth. We will always have citizens who need to work with their brawn instead of brains. An average IQ of 100 means that half the people in our country fall short of the intelligence needed to run businesses, be doctors, or lawyers. Yet these people can be fine, helpful, and happy contributors to society.
College trained children are also worried that there will be no jobs for them upon graduation. Perhaps a year of public service would be a useful way to transition from school to work. Employment in the arts, in our parks, or assisting teachers in overcrowded schools develop work-a-day skills such as time-management, organization , compassion and communication
Solving these issues will determine whether our society lives in fear of the next mob or in harmony with content citizens. It will determine if the wealthy have to build walls to contain themselves in self- imposed ghettos or if all will feel free to roam the city without being accosted by beggars and looters. Those of us who are educated are needed to solve these social issues now. Our ideas, our energy and our belief in a better society can certainly be used to tackle these difficult problems.
Do comment at my blog site: eichingerfineart.com/blog.
http://wordspy.com/index.php?word=flash-mob: meaning of flash mob and a few examples.
http://six.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-030-flash-mobs-in-the-age-of-mobile-connectivity/– from the first mob in Manhattan in 2003 to today flash mobs have become part of a socially networked society. Article discusses the history of flash mobs.