The Construction Initiative

How many more men will steal, kill and destroy before our society will raise its head and notice that something is truly wrong? We’ve all heard about the infamous Black-on-Black crime statistics. We see the south and the west sides of Chicago on the news. We see the drug use and the dealers, the gang activity, the high incarceration rate, the rate of single-parent households that are led by females. We see all of it! But who has the discerning ear and eye to be able to see what is actually going on? To many, the news is just a bunch of negative stories used to sell television airtime; and to a degree, it is. But more importantly, the many negative stories we see are a manifestation of our men acting out, crying out and asking for a lifeline. But who’s listening?

Cause and effect is a relationship between actions or events; it’s not a cliche. The statistics are effects, and they didn’t manifest in a vacuum. Similarly, our young men are not committing crimes in a vacuum. Everything is connected and is happening for a reason. Unfortunately, not enough people are connecting the dots and are willing to act in order to address the root cause of these problems in our communities. Are things being done to help our men? Yes, but it’s not enough, because if it were, then many of these same problems wouldn’t be getting worse. But who’s listening?

I don’t want to write a thesis filled with large words, statistics and graphs showing empirical data. That might make the case for academia, but I don’t believe that’s the kind of presentation we need. We already see the evidence in real-time. So what is the problem? The problem is humanity.

While we all have different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, come from different parts of the country, and have different life experiences, we all still have many of the same human needs. And if any of our human needs are not met, we will endure and survive. But some people are less disciplined than others, and sometimes people take matters into their own hands and do extreme things in order to satisfy their human needs. What are some of these human needs? There are many, but we will only address a handful:

  1. The need for comfort, consistency of routine, structured relationships, foundation or survival all have to do with the need to be stable. Think of this need in terms of a plant. You can’t continue to uproot a plant every so often and expect for it to grow to its full potential. It needs a stabile environment, just as humans need to be rooted, grounded and stabilized.

  2. Variety, spontaneity or the need for change. While routine can be good and healthy, monotony can be boring. As the old saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life.”

  3. To feel unique or special is a human need to which everyone can relate. Marketing companies teach their sales teams to address clients by their first name in order to connect with them and to make the client feel significant or special, because they know it is a human need. We celebrate people and acknowledge their good works.

  4. Love is one of those human needs that (if not manifested in sufficient amounts) will cause certain people (as the old saying goes) to look for love in all the wrong places. Unfortunately, that is a reality in the human experience: Humans will sometimes go against their better judgment in order to find a form of love or human connection that meets (even temporarily and superficially) their needs. Gangs show a false form of love and acceptance to young people, and depending upon how badly the young people need that “love” will determine whether or not they join.

  5. Personal growth – the need to grow, to excel and to do better is one of those personal needs. But it also ties into the feeling unique or special.

  6. The need to achieve. I liken achievement to getting a trophy or building a home. It’s something you can point to and say, “I did that.” Humans have that need to achieve or contribute something to family or society.

And while we might not agree with or fully understand why some people do the things they do, often times, we can trace their decisions back to one or more of these listed human needs. It might sound crazy, but sometimes humans adapt, and sometimes (without a safe outlet) humans snap. So, what can we do with this list? Well, we can use it to connect with someone in hopes of preventing a crime. If we know that people are looking for love, let’s genuinely and proactively show love to people in our lives, so they don’t have to go find a bad version of love. If we know that people have a need to become more, let’s help them find their purpose and life’s mission. Appreciate someone. Listen to someone’s concerns without being judgmental. Pick up a stranger’s tab at the restaurant. Compliment someone. Give a big tip to your waiter/waitress. Tell a family member that you love him/her. We have to connect with that human need. Our men need this.

As a whole, we haven’t been very attentive listeners to the needs of our fellow man. Remember that these needs are human needs. Females have these needs as well, but for the sake of this article, I’m addressing the issues with men. For too long, men have been taught the macho nonsensical things like “crying is for babies” and that “you should just hold in your emotions and don’t show any weakness.” This is just plain error. Emotions are an integral part of the human experience, and we need our strong fathers and strong men in the community to help other men process their feelings and emotions. It’s this type of fathering, male bonding, brotherhood and mentorship that we need in our community, so that no men are walking in this life alone. Is anyone listening?

Brian Ganges is host of The Construction Initiative’s Man Talk. He is an author and speaker and can be reached at or

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