When you watch a child consumed by the glow of a screen. Have you ever paused to think, what ideas, concepts or impression of the world, the child is absorbing? To be fair most people don't. I had a chance to see the Spike Lee's new movie BlacKkKlansman recently. This is an exceptionally thought-provoking movie. As I left the cinema, a moment of the movie resonated with me. I watched all these young kids in the Shopping Centre, standing or sitting around in the shops and restaurants, entirely focused on the screens in their hands. Attention grabbing screens are nothing new, but I wondered what kind of message was being perceiving from the content being viewing right at that moment.
In the movie, an old man played by Henry Bellefonte, sits and tells young college students, about a horrific and tragic event from his youth. It is a powerful piece of cinematography. The story and its delivery, hits you like a ton of bricks. Part of his story involved this old man, recalling how as young boy, he used to watch Tarzan. When Tarzan would fight and kill the natives, he would cheer for Tarzan. It is only with age, he came to the realisation, Tarzan was a white man, and he was a black man. The people Tarzan was attacking were not savages at all, rather the native black tribe's people. His people, living on their own lands. Tarzan was not the hero, he once believed him to be as a child. Now, I certainly had never perceived Tarzan as being the bad guy. As a kid, I also cheered for Tarzan in those old movies.
My grandfather loves to watch old Western movies on T.V. and we frequently watch these movies together. As I watched one of the old movies lately, I began to see them in a very different light. I still saw the white man being portrayed as the hero, and the Red Indian playing the role of the savage, or the villain. However, a feeling of discomfort came over me as we sat and watched. The Indians were not the evil savages or villains, as portrayed in these old movies. These were indigenous native people, who suffered enormous atrocities. People who had their lands invaded and taken from them. Innocent people who were brought almost to the brink of extinction. I was genuinely curious as to why I had not viewed these movies in such a way before.
As an adult, looking back, men will remember playing cowboys and Indians, or good guys and bad guys? If you can, undoubtedly your impression of who was the hero, or villain, had been strongly influenced by the media or literature, you had been exposed to as a child. Every one of us, will probably have that one friend who broke a hand or a leg, after mistakenly believing a blanket from the bed, tied around their neck, gave them the power of flight, just like Superman. My point being, at that age we couldn't really differentiate between reality, fantasy or fiction. None of us, had the ability for critical thinking as children. It is only upon mature reflection, as we look back now, we discover our version of the world we had as children, is not the reality we grow up to live in.
So I pose this question to the reader, what version of the world is your child absorbing right now? What will their version of a hero or villain be? If we are to be honest, none of us can really answer that question. How can we, if we don't know what a child is being exposed to? In an online world where seeing is no longer believing, why are we just leaving children get on with it, while we hope for the best. “Ah sure tis only a bit of bad language”, or “just a bit of porn or gore, we often seen worse ourselves growing up”. Honestly, I don't think we did. As an adult, I don't believe we can't even imagine what it is like to be a child, constantly exposed to the glow of a screen, absorbing who knows what kind of content.
The voices shouting loudest to give children access to the online world, appear to be those who will profit most from their use of it. Personally, I believe children are entitled to their innocence and childhood, free from the likes overt commercialism, cyberbullying, pornography and hate. Free from having their own privacy and anonymity taken from them. The gut feeling, is that we need to slow down a little here. Nobody is suggesting we switch off the Internet. However, we all should take stock of what is being pumped in to the heads of the most vulnerable individuals on the planet, our own children.
Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman has far more powerful messages to deliver, then my thoughts for this blog. It was just one moment of many, which stayed with me after leaving and one I thought I would share. Our perceptions of the world change as we grow up. We are shaped and defined by our own memories and experiences. When we look back upon this moment in time, I really do hope it is from the perspective of, “well that was a terrible load of fuss over nothing at all, sure t'was only the internet”. Rather than, “I think we fucked up there lads”.
Have a Great Weekend Guys