Friday, December 4, 2015

Facing the impact of world culture on our kids and grandkids....


There are buckets of memories needing to be dumped from each of our minds.

These are the memories of people shouting at us, punching us, correcting us in condescension and superiority, and even for some of us, beating and violating our bodies.

These memories are so inflammatory that they cannot be forever subsumed in a locked barrel, like the nuclear waste we hope never leaks into the ground. And, on the other hand, like nuclear waste, these memories are themselves radioactive, not in the clinical definition of that word, but rather in the emotional and spiritual and psychological sense.

They have a half-life of many more years than we are given on the planet. They have a pulse that throbs whenever we are faced with the ‘right’ triggers, people, voices, situations that evoke their awakening from unconscious slumber. “Hot buttons” is a phrase that some apply to the activation of these memories and their power to inflict themselves on what would normally be considered situations hardly worth the effort. We learn of teen girls who ‘find’ the ‘hot buttons’ of their mothers, especially, and then push them mercilessly, unless and until those mothers stop reacting, thereby depriving their adolescent offspring of the thrill of instant power and instant gratification.

We hear of people “snapping” at the least likely moments, when, for inexplicable reasons, they find their circumstances so horrible that they resort to extreme steps like suicide, or worse, rampages of violence that too often bring down those once considered their closest family and friends. And then there are similar outbursts from people whose lives and public images would belie such explosions. “It is the quiet ones that are the most dangerous,” is an axiom many have heard for decades, about the most likely to explode of the panoply of characters who live in each and every town and city on the planet.

However, there is something happening that, many agree, has not been so evident for most of the last century. In the United States, for example, there have been 352 mass shootings in 2015, dramatically more than in any year in recorded history. Elsewhere planes are being shot down out of the sky, with clouds of conflicting evidence shrouding the prosecution of such acts; borders are being invaded, (Ukraine, Crimea, for instance) with apparent impunity for their perpetrators, given the capacity of the world community to prosecute so many crimes: instances of violence, terrorism, blatant extortion of public funds (example Nigeria), the recruitment of child soldiers for the purpose of wreaking havoc among innocents, the kidnapping of hundreds of young children for the apparent sole purpose of providing sexual favours for their captors, and possibly the conversion to a perverted form of a religion and its militaristic application as just another route to complete control over their victims by the thugs.

Psychology looks at individual human behaviour; sociology at the larger collective impacts of human behaviour. What we are witnessing, through a daily diet of bad news is not only extremely disconcerting and emotionally destabilizing for individuals, but think for a moment about the cumulative impact of the stories of violence on the millions of young minds and hearts whose lives are being forever twisted in ways we cannot fully appreciate or even imagine, as they attempt to cope with the steady cacophony of bullets, bombs, missiles, improvised explosive devices (IED’s), and all other instruments of death.

Born in 1942, I was effectively shielded from the news of bombs dropped during the Second World War. The kids in our neighbourhood were free from the kind of information that inserts itself into the ears, hearts and minds of kids today. Occasionally, a local man (by far the highest percentage) would take his own life and the story would literally fly through the phone lines and the neighbourhood coffee klatches, along the aisles of the supermarket and up and down the main street. Living in a “tourist town” we would also learn of motor vehicle collisions, especially in summer, along the area highways, as cottagers made their way to and from the “city” in hordes, mostly on two-lane roads. Occasionally, too, a fire would erupt, for example, in a downtown business, and the whole town would rush to do whatever to help rescue things like files, while the volunteer firemen fought the blaze. Infrequently, we would learn of the death from ‘natural causes’ of our elderly, or the occasional drowning in the waters of Georgian Bay. However, for the most part, we were unimpeded by and unimpaired with the burden of the kind of perpetual, ubiquitous and unrelenting drum beat of killings that comprises the “black noise” that invades the conscious and unconscious sensibilities of a whole generation of the world’s young people.

These news reports of violence are themselves buttressed and punctuated by commercial messages of video games that also “engage” their interactive combatants in virtual killings, naturally pitting good guys against bad guys, in a long-running episode of “kill or be killed” that endangers the very stability of the culture of our time.

Of course, there are glimmers of negotiations (on the Iran nuclear development, and even on global warming and climate change); however, the pounding of the ‘heavy-metal’ of world events points in a far different direction, as does the scepticism that undergirds the trust of many in the sustainability of any negotiated treaty. And with the steady drum beat of high level nonchalance that seems to have accompanied most of the previous “high level” meetings on global warming and climate change, linked to the pounding of military hard power, both state operated and terrorist-operated, there is little doubt that little people are growing up in a world of dangers, threats and missed opportunities to lower the dependence on military power.

And we have not even mentioned the millions of refugees, at least half a million children, who are growing up in tents, going to schools in tents, going to markets in tents, (where there even are markets) and living in conditions for which they can only hold their adult “leaders” responsible. And those leaders include every single person on the planet; we are aiding and abetting from our cynicism, from our apathy and our silent “compliance” with the failed attempts to bring the Middle East conflicts to a cease-fire, the failed attempts to reign in carbon dioxide emissions, and with a very slow and lethargic international impulse to confront Islamic extremism.

We are failing our children; we are failing our grandchildren; we are failing even ourselves, in our desperate impotence to bring our political leaders to account. We neglect the United Nations at our peril, and the peril of thousands of powerless, voiceless and innocent children. And we have only ourselves to face when we see so little being done through collaboration and through conscientious political negotiating, of the kind that requires the putting aside all ideologies, and all political differences, in the interest of bringing our demons to heel.

And we are providing frightening memories in the hearts and minds of those children that will reap their own havoc in the lives of their own children, both directly and indirectly. We are not reigning in the production and sale of guns; we are not compelling our political leaders to write and debate and pass laws that would require background checks for gun purchasers, (Quebec has announced it will bring in a gun registry, requiring all non-prohibited guns to be registered, at a cost of some $5 million...but why only in Quebec?)

If we were really serious about the impact our contemporary world culture is having on children, we would have to weep an ocean of tears at our own impotence, and then we would all have to write, text, email and even break into polite conversations over dinner with our circle of influence, in order to make our voices an intimate, integral and impactful part of the national and the international debate.

Our children and our grandchildren deserve far better than we are doing. And they deserve and need it now!

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