Television gives us no choice. We are forced to watch advertisements during the commercial breaks between the programmes of our choice. Some of them show super-human heroes and their equally well-armed and ferocious foes. It often makes me wonder why we valourise physical strength so much. Do the origins of our regard lie in the aggression which we needed to survive, in primitive times? Consider the roars of victors as they win at tennis or cricket! It appears that though we have left the jungle behind, our instincts have not changed.
Much like all other species, we like to win. But unlike the crocodile or tiger, barring conditions of war, do we need to kill to survive? This is something Nature has hard-wired into us, to ensure that the species endures. But, what is dangerous both psychologically and physically, is the way violence has been deployed by humans for entertainment.
At one time, the emperors of Rome kept populations amused and distracted by holding week-long games of violent hand-to-hand combats between gladiators — men trained to kill for sport. They fought each other or a wild animal to death. Violence exploded in the arena, and destruction decided the winner. The boxing and wrestling matches of today show that we have not progressed much. Though there are referees and rules, people are still willing to pay to watch humans in a struggle that causes known damage to brain and muscle.
The concern of social scientists and behaviourists is that a whole generation of young children is being socialised into believing that war and riots are fun. They are cool. That violence in itself is admirable. Indeed, it seems that a hero is not a hero if he cannot destroy a whole market or building or 10 people two minutes.
There soon follows an addiction to watching conflict and pain which, to say the least, is anti-life. What will it take to make youngsters realise that a war which may be geographically distant might be in their backyard tomorrow and that war demolishes whole communities and life as we know it? Children and women are the worst affected, and child soldiers are the most frightful aspect of any war-torn nation.
Who is really strong?
The one who says “stop!” to violence or at least one who tries to bring about a difference and attempts to make people see things differently is the real hero. In 2006, a retired teacher in Canada named Sam Fillipoff came up with an idea to challenge the culture of violence at its root. Since children are the primary victims of most military and social conflict everywhere in the world, he began to ask children to participate in a programme in which their own toys of violence could be transformed into works of art.
Another school teacher, Susan Ruzik the mother of two sons, consulted parents, colleagues and her school administration and invited students at Moody Elementary to a peace assembly. She told over a 100 children that the artist Bill Thomson would make a work of art from their ‘war toys’.
The proprietor of the Village Toy Shop in Port Moody offered to collect these toys and replace them with non-violent toys.
The Port Moody Art Centre held an exhibition of these works of art. Then, for five months, they were exhibited in the Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia campus.
What do you feel about such a programme?
The author is the Editor of Living in Harmony, a Value Education series (OUP) for Indian schools. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com