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March, 2001, Volume 8 Nr. 7, Issue 91


 by Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, Ph.D.

I did not see Resident Bush respond to the latest senseless tragic shooting in our nations schools, having decades ago abandoned TV, the corporate tool of neo-liberal propaganda and market share mind control.  I did, however, catch the line the Resident used on the Internet, when he said, "When America teaches our children right from wrong and teaches values that respect life in our country, we'll be better off."  Well said from an executioner par excellence who in recent weeks bombed the city of Iraq, causing civilian casualties.  Well said from the bombardier using weapons of mass destruction such as cluster bombs whose design purpose is to kill large amounts people in areas up to a few football fields in size at a time. 

(The San Francisco Chronicle in its May 8, 1999 edition reported on the efficiency of a CBU-87/B device, a Combined Effects Munitions as it was used in Kosovo, "the bombs struck next to the hospital complex and near the market, bringing death and destruction, peppering the streets of Serbia's third-largest city with shrapnel and littering the courtyards with yellow bomb casings." Nice toys for young children to pick up and play with....briefly.)

Yes George.  You are correct.  When our leaders, politicians and other ruling elite teach by virtue of example we learn the lessons.  Thank you for your examples.  When one executes to "solve problems" as the former governor has in Texas, the message becomes clear: execution solves problems.  Look around George, the children are watching and they are learning.

The Resident used the tragic situation at the Santana High School, Santee CA, to make a pitch to the nation that it needs to teach moral values.  Yet, the major moral value that children learn from a  society that has "produced the greatest economic expansion in history" is that profit is more important than people, that it is okay to oppress people in the quest for expanding shareholder wealth and that the death of a half-million Iraqi children as a consequence of our Iraq sanctions policy was "worth it", as Madeline Albright has said during the recently ousted administration.

Consider that we are talking about the religious dogma of the practitioners of the Temple of Wall Street which the Residency exemplifies - there are few if any  non-millionaires in the Cabinet.  The Temple can do and does, everything possible to expand market share.  Anything that stands in the way -   nations, rulers, unions, systems, governments, working people and even democracy - will be brushed aside and trampled over.  This "greatest economy in human history" has as one of its most profitable product can you guess? weapons that kill.  

Yes, indeed.  Let's teach those little buggers in our schools what morality is.  Let's place those Ten Commandments (there are actually more, but, who's counting) on the walls of our schools where by mere virtue of their presence, our youth will be transformed into righteous folk by virtue of the dictum, "Thou shalt not kill."  

And all the while, as we hammer the message home in the spirit of violation of the separation of church and state, the dictum-tators manufacture and through that manufacturing become enormously wealthy.  When it comes to weapons of mass destruction, most high school student can tell you the name of the only country on the planet that used the atom bomb - twice.  That use was incidentally against a mostly civilian population. 

Internationally respected historian and author, Howard Zinn writes,

No nation in the world possesses greater weapons of mass destruction than we do, and none has used them more often, or with greater loss of civilian life. In Hiroshima hundreds of thousands died, in Korea and Vietnam millions died as a result of our use of such weapons.

Zinn further reveals that U.S. sanctions against Iraq are weapons of mass destruction.  Zinn's reasoning points out that not only is the kettle calling the pot black, the kettle is projecting its own obsession with committing violence onto the pot.  It has been over 200 years and the United States has yet to seriously consider reparations for the hideous and violent practice of slavery which the historical record shows is the basis for early wealth generation in this country.  Ever wonder where the huge block of material used in the Jefferson Memorial came from?  Ever wonder how it got there and how it was carved?  Give up?  Slavery.

Bob Herbert's article "Cruel and Unusual: Executing the Mentally Retarded in America", published in the March 8, 2001 issue of the New York Times writes, "Only the United States, Congo and Iran continue to execute people for offenses committed when they were juveniles."   It may be a stretch, but, it is not unprecedented for the collective conscience of a group of people to unpremeditatingly respond to the societal conditions of that group.   One would be naive not to believe that billion dollar expenditures wasted on a missile defense system instead of education doesn't impact our youth.  Billions for billionaires.  Our schools, however, sell their souls to the highest corporate bidder, accepting all sorts of advertising, in the attempt to provide meaningful programs to their students.  Such fiscal prostitution does impact upon our youth.   While many or most juveniles may not philosophically develop a rationalization for the sellout of a generation to greedy capitalists, they sense and are affected by the marketing of the major product, which is, not a manufactured item, nor an item which they can purchase, but, an item up for sale nonetheless.  The major product is the youth.  They themselves are the product.  They are sold, and too many respond to the emptiness inside, vacuated by unbridled consumerism and its glorification of materialism above all else.

A nation that self-professes to be a bulwark of justice, freedom and liberty, and the keeper at least of the code word "democracy", if not the concept, should not be one the few countries in the world to exercise cruel and unusual punishment which is in fact a violation of the Eighth Amendment.  Yet, its judicial system continually renders decisions that execute the mentally retarded.

I remember the days early in my public school teaching career at the New Jersey Shore.  It took years for a few good people  to eliminate the racial, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-lesbian and ethnic jokes from the teachers room.   The jokes eventually disappeared along with the cigarette smoke that non-smokers tolerated for years.  Sometimes, the glee that we express from the jokes that we share tell much regarding our state of mind and the conditioning that makes us who we are.  While humor is an art form that we in the United States often use as a mechanism for dealing with personal and collective difficulty and tragedy, it is the nature and intent of that humor that  suggests much about the internal motivation that produces it.  A few incidents as reported in the March 9, 2001 edition of "Thebuzzflash" reflect the premise. 

John Derbyshire’s infamous commentary in the rightwingnut National Review. In it he confesses his deep hatred for the “tainted” Chelsea Clinton, and calls for her murder by the state because, tee hee, she’s a Clinton...See, (snicker snicker) that’s what they used to do in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

Robert Bork, one of the celebrants at the National Review’s light-hearted “funeral” for the Clinton presidency, wryly mused that Bill Clinton would have been shot in any other country and hung upside down for public display.  Later, during the evening’s zany finale, everyone settled back to enjoy film  footage of the Branch Davidian compound engulfed in flames.

Last week, the Executioner in Chief himself, Gee Dubya, slipped up during a speech and said the death penalty is unfair (well, at least we know now that he can speak truth without bursting into flames). Quickly correcting himself, though, the former governor who oversaw 152 executions in Texas, and who publicly mocked a death row inmate’s plea for clemency, smirked: “I don’t want to get rid of the death penalty, just the death tax.” Shrub’s one-liner drew a big laugh from the crowd of 4,000 Bush supporters, according to the Associated Press. I guess you had to be there.

As Rush Limbaugh has done for way too long now, they then try to hide this vitriol in humor in order to
make it look as if they’re only joshing. Hey, it’s just entertainment, right?

And, the children are watching.  They're watching an average of 28 hours of television per week where according to the American Academy of Pediatrics the average young person views an estimated 200,000 acts of violence on television by age 18.  Must be good for the soul, no?   Combine this viewing with our leaders' might makes right and God gave America the atom bomb philosophy along with violent computer games and one does not have the recipe for a  peaceful society in the making. 

The American Psychological Association in its news release dated April 23, 2000, finds that,

Playing violent video games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D or Mortal Kombat can increase a person's aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior both in laboratory settings and in actual life...violent video games may be more harmful than violent television and movies because they are interactive, very engrossing and require the player to identify with the aggressor.

Perhaps so, but, it sure does make it easy for adults to play "drop the bomb" from 40,000 feet over a target.  Meanwhile, the unload in our schools in anticipation thereof. 

The Resident blames the schools for the failure of U.S. youth to tell the difference between right and wrong.  The Resident blames the non-conservatives for the moral decay, yet, he fails to say anything about the greed neo-liberal system that he is so much a part of and a figurehead for, a system that reaps profit from the perpetuation of violence for purpose of increasing profit and political benefit.  So who are the purveyors of violent video games?  Are they liberals?   Far from it.  They are extreme free marketeers looking after the bottom line and all else be damned.  They are the likes of Sports Illustrated for Kids which produced an advertisement for Resident Evil 2.  They are Carmeggedon whose advertisement sported the motto, "As easy as killing babies with axes."  When one considers that seven out of 10 families own or rent electronic games, and their children average spending seven hours a week playing them, well?

During the last presidential campaign, Al Gore called for a voluntary cease-fire' in marketing inappropriate material to children.  Gore threatened federal action if the industry failed to respond. George W. Bush simply agreed that the industry needed to police itself better.  Perhaps, Dubya should have listened to Senator Joe Lieberman, who commenting about violent video games, stated,  "Killing and carnage is not enough any more...To torture and maim is often the name of these games now."   Sorry Joe.  You're a presidential sore loserman now.  The five Supremes made sure of that.

It is simply naive or worse, unconscionable, to blast teachers and educators for not teaching the difference between right and wrong while pandering to corporations that produce video games showcasing interactive slice 'em up, blow 'em apart graphics with gratuitously violent and sexually explicit scenes  while wondering what's wrong with America's youth.  Perhaps, the youth merely mimic the adults, and, with many of them being tried as adults, they behave as irrationally as the adults.  Like tends to beget like - not only a biological precept, a psychological one as well.

The website in a piece entitled, "Video Games and Children" presents the following,

A recent study (Funk, 1993) examined video game playing among 357 seventh and eighth grade students. The adolescents were asked to identify their preference among five categories of video games. The two most preferred categories were games that involved fantasy violence, preferred by almost 32% of subjects; and sports games, some of which contained violent subthemes, which were preferred by more than 29%. Nearly 20% of the students expressed a preference for games with a general entertainment theme, while another 17% favored games that involved human violence. Fewer than 2% of the adolescents preferred games with educational content.

This study is 8 years old, an eternity in computer and computer graphic capability terms.  Today, the games are much more violent and as a consequence much more prone to blur the distinction between fantasy and reality,  All of this, however, does nothing to resolve the question, "Are today's youth more violent?" I do not believe so.  I do, however, believe that today's youth are more angry, a mere reflection of the more angry and frustrated adult population that finds the mantra of "shop till you drop" intrinsically meaningless and unfulfilling.  Violent media serves as the desensitizing agent for young people overburdened by the mass culture that cares more about the sale of the game or movie, more about profit, than their well being while violent government serves as the agency of imprimatur for personal problem resolution through violence depicted by that culture. 

What can one expect from a system that "expresses" caring for youth while making it impossible to survive without both parents working?   What can one expect from a system that stresses the importance of higher education but makes it unaffordable for the average American?  What can one expect from a system that requires life-long hard working middle class families to mortgage their hard earned life savings in order to send just one child to college?  What can you expect from a right wing corporate government (and that includes Bill and Al) that espouses the virtues of the traditional family, while forcing the poor single mother to work struggling to find affordable and adequate child care?  

In today's "I care about children" culture in America, it is difficult to find safe affordable childcare.   Yet, we have schools that could be open early to accommodate working people, not for gratis, but, for a fee.  When I asked the principal of the Wells Village School why don't we open our schools a few hours early, keeping them open a few hours late, acquiring paid employees to oversee students dropped off in the morning and picked up after work after school, I was told, "Our insurance doesn't permit it."  Well.  God bless America and the institutions that give a rat's ass about youth.  If young people were genuinely considered the future, the highest priority of the nation, the most valuable asset a society has, things would be different.  

The Cubans say, "All people are equal in Cuba, but, the children are more equal."  In the United States, children are just another targeted market and free speech is defined to be the deliberate targeting of our youth with adult content products.  The Cubans have much to teach us.  Many, it seems, too many, adults in the United States are too dumb, greedy and/or hung up on making money to care.  So, when a tragedy occurs, such as Columbine, Santana, your town, we get platitudes from our leaders.  Sorry.  The status quo will continue until a new generation realizes the adult populations' embrace of youth as hope, and, it concomitantly commits to it f above all else.  Don't hold your breath.  As the Resident in the White House puts it, "...I want a new kind of school, tough-love academies, and boot camps and, as the last stop, more beds in our juvenile justice system."  Sigh.

  2001 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, Ph.D.

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