L. M. Lloyd (ubik@austin.rr.com)
Fri, 15 Sep 2000 06:36:27 -0500


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> "Innocence" is exactly what the word means, the state of being
> unacquainted with evil. We lose this soon enough on our own,
> without having vice foisted upon us in the guise of popular
> culture.
>

Perhaps I made my question a bit too general. To be more specific I
am not aware of any absolute definition of evil. Many cultures would
argue that cameras are evil. Some would say that any technology more
advanced than the pulley and the button is a corruption of the soul.
Others would say that ambition above ones station is evil. Without
knowing the absolute definition of evil, I can not form any
definition of the condition in which one is unacquainted with evil.

My point was that much of what we call evil, is an arbitrary personal
decision that is very difficult to justify to a global community.

> I don't recall saying anything about "sanitized" childhood, nor did
> I say anything about childhood being pleasant. And I advocated
> nurturing, not sheltering -- there's a difference. When I was
> growing up, there was an awareness that the children were watching
> and listening and that people made an effort to protect children.

I will ask again in more specific language; from what, exactly, is it
that you think children need to be protected?

>
> Except during genocidal conflicts in which no one, man, woman or
> child, was safe, children have, until recently, been regarded as
> something to be nurtured and protected.

I disagree with this statement. for the bulk of human history,
children have been nothing more than property. The advent of societal
safeguards for children is decidedly a postindustrial phenomenon. In
many cultures, it was not at all uncommon to flat out kill a female
offspring if you had not had a male child, that does not bespeak of a
very protective attitude towards children in my book. The vast
preponderance of human civilizations, did not even recognize a child
as a person until they had completed their right of passage.

> I remember witnessing a shootout between two rival gangs, during
> which a child wandered out from a neighboring house. The gunfire
> ceased immediately, one of the gang members ran out and carried the
> child back to the house, and then it was back to business as usual.
> They might've been aiming to kill one another, but neither side
> was willing to put a child at risk. Necer mind that they child
> would grow up to be in one gang or the other, shooting it out the
> same way. Children were simply off limits, not fair game.
>
> Crimes against children used to be abhorrent even to the most
> hardened criminal. The life expectancy of a child molester was
> measurable in weeks, because he'd be killed by the other inmates,
> usually with the tacit assistance of the guards.
>

I assume you are speaking of the '50s (you having mentioned them in
your previous email), and I would not presume to argue that the
attitude you express was prevalent in that time. My point is just
that it is not as though that attitude had existed for several
millennia, only to fall apart with the '60s. In fact I think a very
strong historical argument could be made that the attitudes towards
children in America during the '50s, was quite anomalous given the
bulk of civilization.

> Child labor was instituted during the Industrial Revolution by the
> same types of people who are targetting children commercially
> today. It lasted only so long as they could keep the children
> separated from their families, just as slavery rings do today and
> have always done. It was abolished just as soon as there were a
> critical mass of workers, mostly women, in the cities who could
> oppose it with a strong enough voice to get the laws enacted.
>

Child labor was instituted with the first agrarian sedentary tribe,
and continues to this day on farms and ranches all throughout the
world. My, now departed, grandfather was working 10 hours a day out
on the ranch from the day he was old enough to ride a horse. Child
labor was in no way, shape, or form some aberrant fluke of the early
industrial age, it had been going on for centuries before we had the
first steam engine.

>
> Children are animals who must be taught how to be human. It's the
> resposibility of adults to teach them by way of example and ideal.
> When children's fare becomes the same as adult fare, how will they
> learn to be human?
>

Now we head into the realm of the obtusely philosophical, but I would
argue that *all* humans are just animals with the capacity to
reference their own thought system. Children are born with this
capacity, and only mature by learning to use that capacity. A person,
regardless of age, can not be told to exercise introspection, that is
something that must come to us from within. No matter what the input,
it is our ability to observe its effect on us that sets us apart from
the other animals. I do not believe that it is our ability to follow
the rules of society that sets us apart form dogs, you can teach a
dog not to do the wrong thing. It is our ability to create the rules
that makes us different, and you don't create your own rules if they
are all handed to you, and your reality is filtered to reinforce
those rules.

>
> I was a minority of one. But I was an idealistic minority who
> always believed, and still believe, that the truth will out and the
> justice will be served. All it takes for evil to triumph is that
> good people do nothing; conversely, for good to triumph, it's
> required that good people work together and stand up for what they
> believe is right.
>
> That's not easy when you've never seen it done, even in fiction.
>

That is a powerful sentiment, but the nobility of the sentiment is
directly proportional to how closely your ideals of good and evil
mirror those of the current society. Many people who have expressed
the exact sentiment you just did, have been judged as the greatest
monsters of all time.

> No, being treated like a commodity, and a throwaway one at that, is
> what warps our children. A hundred years ago, news traveled slowly
> and one was surrounded for the most part by an extended family.
> Now we live in pockets of isolation, where neighbors are strangers,
> and where we're constantly bombarded by messages we can't ignore.

And 100 years ago, we also lived in a society where people regularly
slaughtered eachother for reasons as trivial as coming from a
different extended family as the prevalent one, ask the Irish,
Italian, Jewish or African immigrants to America how warmly and
protectively their children were treated 100 years ago.

BTW, how can we not ignore the messages by which we are bombarded? I
know plenty of people who don't even own a TV. It is not at all hard
to opt out of our society, as long as you are willing to give up all
the good that comes with the bad.

>
> Seeing someone smoke a cigarette isn't the problem. Being
> bombarded with images and messages that tell you that it's cool to
> smoke and that you can't possibly be cool unless you smoke,
> messages targetted specifically to disenfranchised youth who want
> desperately to be accepted by those other cruel kids you cited
> above, that's the problem.

Where do you see all these images? For over ten years now I have been
able to spot the bad guy because the always smoke. I constantly see
government propaganda bombarding us with the message that smoking is
bad, sex will kill you, drug dealers are the spawn of Satan, and guns
will jump unbidden out of a drawer and kill an entire room full of
people if you don't keep them locked up.

All of the advertising I see for cigarettes, is aimed at the hip club
crowd, and let me tell you, with all the drugs floating around that
scene, I don't really think it will be the cigarette ads that set a
teen down the wrong path. It will more likely be the gorgeous young
women, wanting someone to get high with! And please don't tell me
that the gorgeous young women would not be doing drugs if it weren't
for all the films, music and TV telling them to do it, because sex,
drugs, and hedonism are three of the few things in this world that
need no advertising, because they sell themselves. Look at
prohibition: People risked far more than they do now, just to go out
and party.

>
> By that line of reasoning, we should raise our children naked in
> the back yard, because they've got to get used the cold and the
> rain and the dirt, as it's a cold wet dirty world out there.
>

I have to say that your attitude is so shockingly middle American
that I hardly know how to respond. What is it you want? There are
places in the world where they have no TV, they don't see any movies,
their children are not bombarded by all of these "irresistible"
images, and indecently they do raise their children naked in a field.
These are the same places where they circumcise women, they have a
50% or higher AIDS transmission rate, they have the highest infant
mortality rates in the world, and their children see more real world
violence than all the Rambo movies combined!

> You train for things by working up to them gradually, at the pace
> appropriate to your ability to handle it. In martial arts, we bow
> to the mat, reminding ourselves that there won't be a mat to help
> break a fall in a real fight. We wear protective gear long after
> we've trained to the point where we don't really need it.
>

This is a fine analogy, but I come from an entirely western heritage
which places far more importance on experiential data, epiphany and
sudden realization. You can train all your life for combat, but the
first time you are actually "out in the field" you are no better than
any other rookie, because all that training could never teach you
what it feels like to have someone actually trying to kill you, and
suddenly realizing that you have to kill them. By the same token, I
feel that when a child, or any person, is faced with any choice their
decision will be mainly of the moment, and no amount of ideals or
nurturing will help them, if it is a situation with which they are
unfamiliar. I feel that only the parents that tell their children the
whole story, give their children anything to aid them down the road
to making the right choice.

> We all grow up sheltered to some degree, just as we all grow up
> buffeted by the world around us despite all anyone else might do
> for us. I'm not saying that we should shield our children more,
> but rather that we should stop preying upon them to feed our
> economy.
>

Children contribute nothing to the economy. If your child sees an ad
that forces them to want a product, then it gives a parent a perfect
opportunity to explain to their child the truth (or lack thereof) of
advertising, and then teach the child that they do not always get
what they want, by refusing to buy the advertised product. Nobody is
preying on children, they are preying on the inability of American
parents to deny their children anything they want.

>
> I didn't advocate ignoring violence, only that we should stop
> glorifying it and presenting it as a solution to conflicts of
> interest. Bad language permeates our society because it was
> allowed and even encouraged throughout the media. I recall when it
> wasn't tolerated and, as a result, was rare and actually offensive.
> When strong language is common, it cheapens the currency, so even
> stronger language is required to have any effect. Eventually, no
> language is strong enough and other measures must be taken.
>
> Ditto violence. What was once intolerable, even unthinkable, is
> now commonplace. We revel in it and thus encourage it.
>

This comes back to what I said in an earlier post on this subject. I
keep hearing about the inextricable link between violent media, and
actual violence, yet as our media gets more and more violent, our
rates of violent crime get lower and lower. You say that we revel in
what were once unthinkable acts, yet the most twisted serial killer
of our society, does not employ methods anywhere near as unspeakable
as those employed by the Roman Catholic church during the
inquisition, I do not remember a single instance of a town stoning an
adulteress to death in my life, and it is extremely rare (as opposed
to frighteningly common) for a bunch of rednecks to lynch a black
man.

I see no evidence to support the contention that things have gone
downhill.

> It's easy to lower standards, difficult (if not impossible) to
> raise them once they're lowered.
>
> I never said anything about building a fantasy world, much less
> trying to move into one. What I said was that we owe it to our
> children to instill in them the most positive values we can, with
> the understanding that these are ideals for which we must strive,
> despite all that the world may throw at us. Yes, there is evil out
> there, but in here we try to keep it out there and, when we venture
> out there, we try to deal with evil without become evil in the
> process.
>
> In aikido, you don't answer violence with violence. You redirect
> violent action and neutralize it. You never let the violence touch
> you.
>
> In other words, preserve your own innocence, whatever little you
> may have left.

I keep hearing you throw around words like evil and innocence, yet I
have yet to see what form this supposed evil takes. Violent crime is
at a 30 year all time low, fewer Americans smoke (per capata) than
ever before in the recorded history of the vice, living conditions in
this country are at an all time high for the history of mankind,
there is a greater number of literate people in this country than
ever before, national collage enrollment is at an all time high, and
for the first time since the Hardy Boys mysteries we have had several
series of books staying on the best sellers lists with an almost
entirely juvenile audience!

I fail to see the crumbling of our society! No matter how hard I look
I can't find one solid indicator of what damage all this "warping
media" is causing. All I am hearing, is a lot of almost religious
fervor about "evil" and "preying upon our youth" and the "right" way
to live. You seem like an intelligent man, so I will ask you straight
out: What is it you are advocating?

I keep getting the feeling that you want everything to be like it was
when you were young, and that can't, and shouldn't happen. Children
today have access to amazing resources of all sorts of information
that can, and should, fundamentally change the way they see the
world. As comfortable as the idea of the oldstyle neighborhood is, it
is stiflingly limited to a child who can discuss things with friends
in Germany as easily as he can talk to the kid across the street!

The world has fundamentally changed over the last 50 years, and to
try and turn back the clock is not just impossible, but a disservice
to mankind.

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