Where the revolution begins5 min read
I met this boy last year, he was seven years old maybe eight, his family had come to my parents’ house for dinner and as the host I was supposed to handle the kids. This boy, wearing a red T-shirt and yellow shorts, was a fan of the cartoon ‘Shin -Chan’. This one Japanese anime had so much influence on him that it affected the way he dressed, spoke and acted. Now Shin-Chan is this spoilt, inappropriate womaniser (for a 5 year old) and this boy I met mimicked those qualities. He gave his mother so much trouble. High pitched screaming, bouncing off surfaces people don’t generally bounce off and something to do with pulling his shorts, this boy thought what he was doing was right. In fact when I mentioned the cartoon to him all he did was throw food at me (good times). This made me realise that he didn’t even know that he was copying what he saw on TV, and that is a really scary thought.
When you don’t even know you are being manipulated into believing something. Think about it. TV commercials, music lyrics, movies, that little writing at the back of a shampoo bottle, they are all just various ways of persuading you to believe something. But we are adults and when we watch an overly political movie or read something fairly ideological we can filter out some of the brainwashing that comes with it and choose to believe what we want (to some extent of course. Influence is inevitable) but the bizarre truth is that all this ‘thought control’ isn’t blanketing us now, we have been surrounded by it since the very moment we came into existence.
There is a saying, ‘A child’s brain is like a sponge.’ This is because the brain is the most malleable during the early years. That is the time when our brain will retain the most amount of information with barely any effort. A child’s mind is similar to a sponge. They absorb each and every word and piece of information from their environment. As they grow, they build a foundation of thoughts and attitudes based on all that they have absorbed. This development phenomenon is exploited by the government, by companies, by the media, religion and all those forces wanting to shove things down people’s throats. Advertising for children is a well-known marketing strategy for creating brand preferences from early childhood. Education is another means by which heavy influence is being weighed down on children. Take the Indian scenario for example; the government promotes subjects relating to science while not paying that much attention to the arts, making the children believe that the sciences are superior to the arts.
But my favorite of all the manipulation is ‘propaganda through toys.’ Which child hasn’t played with toys? Toys are more than just fun and games for kids. Most toys provide at least some opportunity for children to learn. Toys spark their imaginations and creativity. Toys are the best tools of propaganda. Children are too young and naive to notices the underlying persuasive intent of the toys they play with. Let’s take for example, war toys. Fighter planes, tanks, those little plastic soldiers, basically all boy toys. They promote violence and persuade little boys into thinking that violence is a legitimate solution to their problems. Imagine what will happen when these boys grow up. We are rearing a generation of Hitlers and Mansons.
Everyone would have heard of G.I Joe. I will admit I used to play with them when I was a kid. Joe comes off as this ‘every American soldier’. But the real intent of the toy was “…a subliminal propaganda attempt to increase American patriotism and gain support for more war and occupation efforts” wrote Edward J. Pissmeoff in his article on the Yahoo website titled “G.I. Joe: A True American Hero? – The Propaganda Connection Between JOE and America.” The toy made its debut during the cold war, as a bid to promote war support at the time. As times modified so did this personified American hero, building on themes that rage from terrorism to America in Afghanistan. Pissmeoff, in his article, brings out some striking resemblances between the toy and American war culture.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that toys are based on sexist marketing strategies: Specific toys for girls and boys. Boys should play with cars and tanks and girls should swim around in a pool of pink. Take the ever radiant “Barbie” for example, living every little girls dream: she is a symbol of beauty and perfection. With that 36-26-36 body, she can do no wrong. Except… brainwash little girls into thinking that good looks and a popular boyfriend is what is going to get you through life. Barbie suggests that women are supposed to be airheads that love shopping and ‘hanging with friends.’ Putting such shallow feministic ideas in a young girls mind can only lead to a generation of blonde youths.
I believe that instead of moulding a child’s mind to capitalistic ideas, we need to understand the potential of influence. Persuading a child to believe in something that can bring about change is what we should be thinking of. Instead of making them nest with ideas of violence and sexism, we should make them foster higher ideals of tolerance and equality, so that when they grow up, they have the power to change things around them. There is a line from the song “Caught in a Hustle” by Immortal technique that sums it up: the mind of a child is where the revolution begins.
Mahima Singh is the Chief Of Bureau of The Manipal Journal and a student of Manipal Institute of Communication.
The views expressed in the blog are personal.