Our own stupidity corrupts our own children

There’s a soldier in each and every one of us.

Thus claims a perfectly obnoxious television commercial that invites viewers to buy (and enjoy) a war video game that pretends it’s naturalistic beyond belief.

And the game’s creators are not ashamed of themselves for creating such rubbish. Neither are those who promote it.

Rubbish?

Yes, rubbish.

First and foremost, no, it’s not true that all and sundry have military leanings, considering the art of war the most imaginative art of all.

And secondly, what the commercial (and the game itself) shows is not war. It depicts battles as if they were picnics, with the good guys wandering around, machine guns and bazookas at hand, shooting the bad guys at will, laughing and singing merry songs with lyrics as stupid as lyrics can get.

That last point, by the way, is a miracle in and of itself. Today’s popular music, dressed up as whatever genre there is (from all forms of rock, and all the way to rap) promotes idiocy as if it were classic poetry. To be even more moronic than that, now, that takes special talent.

This is not an attack against the military. It is a most unfortunate state of affairs that our society needs a strong military force, what with all of the so-called neuralgic points that keep flaring up all over the world. We need somebody to defend us, and we should be thankful to those who are prepared to sacrifice their lives or health to keep us free and out of the dangers that lurk around us.

If you asked the military people about these war games, most of them would scoff and call them all kinds of unprintable names. Granted, some of them might play a game or two like this. They need to release the tensions they have to live through, especially when they are serving at their battle stations, not knowing whence (or when) the killer bullet may come. But if they do play these games, they know none of it is about reality (or realism).

The main problem begins when people who have never been in danger, mortal or otherwise, buy these games. For whatever reason they are of the view they need danger and the fear that comes with it. So, they succumb to artificial danger and artificial fear. They start playing these games. They begin to impersonate the creatures these games are filled with. Slowly but distinctly, they identify with those they have decided to consider their heroes.

Yes, yes, yes, creators of these games are legally (or should it be legalistically?) protected. Did they not say these games are listed as for mature users only? They did, aha! Well, who (and what) defines maturity? Age? Don’t be ridiculous. How many adults have you seen, say, on highways right after the freshly fallen snow had frozen into solid ice, and they are driving as if they were on clear roads, and alone, with absolutely no other traffic to contend with, to boot?

Here’s where those games’ creators are really off the hook: what if these games fall into children’s hands? Doesn’t matter whether by design or by accident. The damage has been done.

Having talked to police officers who handle involuntary deaths (read: manslaughters and murders in all degrees) there’s one way to sum up their experience. They hate these games. They have seen far too many cases where someone would kill somebody else and would be shocked there’s no re-set button that would bring the victim back to life.

And no, it’s not only immature children who are prone to this. Adults one would have expected to know better have been found guilty. Here’s something to leave you gasping: way too often, they are in shock that they are going to spend time behind bars. They didn’t mean any harm, did they?

One only wonders when someone launches a lawsuit saying game authors never said reality differs from whatever warped fantasy they promote in their games. Come to think of it, it’s perhaps for that same reason that many television shows that depict, for example, stunt driving, say not to attempt this at home. And then, they state this obvious warning in small print only, so as not to deter potential customers, perhaps.

We can never defeat stupidity, but we must never stop fighting it, Jan Werich, a Czech author, actor and philosopher who lived through the last century, used to say.

So, now what?

Should we demand that such games be banned? Or, at least, advertisements for them?

That wouldn’t solve anything. Also, censorship, no matter how appropriate the reasons for it in particular cases, leads us nowhere but on a slippery slope that defeats democracy.

Our education system is failing us, that would be the most usual cry. Depends. If you mean schools and teachers by that, you can hardly be more wrong. Schools and teachers have got a pretty difficult time of it teaching children the basics. Not that all of the basics our schools teach are useful or right, even, but that’s another issue for another day.

Why should schools and teachers be replacing those who should have instilled some elementary values in their children long before they went to day care, and never mind kindergarten?

When should they have started?

Decades ago, an experienced pediatrician was asked by a couple when they should begin educating their newborn. When was the baby born? asked the pediatrician. Six weeks ago, answered the parents. Well, said the pediatrician, you should have started six weeks ago.

Granted, today’s parents are busy beyond comprehension. In most cases, they are both working. Also, in alarmingly many cases, they might love their children as if they were their own, but they wouldn’t let child rearing interfere with their hobbies and other extracurricular interests.

They are only emulating their own parents. When THEIR parents wanted to sleep in Saturday (or Sunday) mornings, the kids were allowed to watch cartoons. So long as the sound wasn’t too loud, that is. And television networks accommodated them with pleasure: they had an audience that, they knew, was rather susceptible to all kinds of advertising, no matter how perfectly foul, and they would be bugging their parents to get this or that, and their parents, feeling subconsciously guilty, would accommodate their children, in turn, thus completing the circle.

Not much has changed since then. Just the medium: where there used to be television cartoons, we now have all kinds of video games and sundry Internet addresses. Most shockingly, the majority of parents are not aware of what games their children play, and where they browse on the web. They don’t even know there exist applications, most of them costing as much as zero dollars, that let them effectively and efficiently control their children’s browsing habits. They can make offending sites off-limits, but since they don’t know about those sites, and about these applications, either, their own kids grow like trees in a rain forest.

What should we do about it?

I don’t know. If I knew, I would have applied for a Nobel Prize long ago.

Being responsible citizens – which includes being responsible parents – might be a good first step.

Is it that much to ask?

And: will it be enough?

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