Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Conditioning for violence

The Royal Darwin Agricultural Show

As I entered the gates to the Darwin agricultural show last weekend I was standing in line and couldn't help feeling a little uncomfortable... vulnerable. Maybe it was the close gap between the turnstile and the ticket office I don't know but I was uncomfortable enough to glance around defensively and notice the barrel of a large machine gun pointing straight at me!

The military had a promotional display right by the gate where some kind of armored personnel carrier had been parked with its rooftop mounted machine gun left pointed in the direction of the admission gate! I felt quite threatened by this and wondered if it was standard procedure for the army to just leave these things pointed wherever they fall. Even with my limited knowledge of firearms I am aware that all weapons should be treated as loaded and potentially dangerous!

As we continued through to the show I glanced into the military display to see a new Abram Tank on display complete with the various rounds it is capable of dispensing. I felt slightly dismayed by the way people ogle these things knowing that the purpose of all this hardware is to kill people. When I was a kid I would have been all over this stuff too... Maybe age and fatherhood have changed my awareness of these things?

We had a great time at the show but the fun was tarnished by the amount of toy guns we saw in the hands of small children! I couldn't believe it! Nearly every young boy I saw had some kind of plastic replica of either a small hand held (fully automatic) machine gun or a military style assault rifle complete with bayonet attached to the end of the barrel! Oh and the other kind was like a shot with out a stock! All replicas of weapons whose sole purpose is to kill or disable human beings! I was dismayed by the availability of these toys as I felt sure there was some kind of ethics group who are responsible for assessing the appropriateness of children's toys! But maybe in the age of terror it is OK to condition our children with symbols of violence?

I know when I was a kid my parents would never allow me to have these kinds of toys, not that I recall ever seeing replicas of such offensive weapons anyway. Unperturbed by their efforts to shelter me from this kind of violence; I made guns out of sticks and even managed to make some that fired elastic bands... However regardless of how little boys will want to play such games the fact remains that the availability of these so called toys makes me feel quite uneasy!

There exists a worldwide trade in small arms and weapons that look just like the toys our kids are playing with are responsible for 1,000's of people! Children are killed by them and even kill with them! These are in fact weapons of mass destruction! The toy guns that had been distributed amongst our children are effigies of violence and terror.... What kinds of games do we think kids will play with them?

Combined with the presence of the military (I even saw a soldier walking around with an assault rifle slung across his shoulder) I wonder if our kids are being conditioned for violence in their future or if it was some kind of elaborate military recruitment conspiracy! The whole scene made me feel quite ill at ease and kind of angry! Peace should be treasured yet here we are mindlessly providing our children with the kind of conditioning that will only encourage them to take the road to violence and hatred! Where is the Love?

The stenciled image now transformed into a message of non violence

There is hope! On my way in to work the other day I rode past the stenciled graffiti of a soldier whose meaning I have often pondered. Someone had added their own interpretation of what the image should represent. Although aesthetically less enthralling or thought provoking I found the message of more pleasing. I am reassured that the way of violence and hate will not go unopposed.

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