Friday, October 5, 2012

You can't be what you can't see

As much as we would love to blame everything wrong with the younger generation on lousy teachers and the horrible education system, we should also own up to our role and responsibility in shaping and being the example for the younger generation to emulate. It is very hard to be something that someone TOLD you to be but not having SEEN what the example is really like.

(The rest is under cut due to lengthy rant)

Of course you can say that Bill Gates have not seen a billionaire to emulate, but rather just relied on his own drive and vision to propel him to be one of the richest man on the planet. But here's the reality check: In all the billions of people in this world, there is only one of him and gazillions of other just like us.

We are not all of us going to be astronauts, billionaire philanthropists, suicide bombers, whatever. Most of us live regular lives, go to school, get a job etc etc. But we learn to be who we are by watching the people around us, be it a good or bad example. I'm sure many parents out there have experiences of their precious darlings coming home with a potty mouth picked up from day-care or whatever. Naturally they are quite indignant how could their perfect innocent angels learnt such words!

Ever hear yourself when you are behind the wheel?

Girls learn from an early age that their physical appearance matter. We praise them for being pretty. We praise their skin colour, their body shape. We point out cute girls as a desirable thing to be. We surround them with images of idealised women and girls that were airbrushed within an inch of their two dimension lives. We give them Barbie dolls, Barbie movies, Bratz cartoon and I could go on. What all of these images have in common is that they don't look like us. Is it any surprise that we have young women producing videos focussing on the tricks and means to look like a two dimension character (see this and this)?

Not just appearance, girls are taught early that being sexy is important.

Being sexy = getting attention. Shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and children beauty pageants underscore this. Don't believe me? Watch this. I found these videos so disturbing that I refuse to embed them in this post, and you guys know that I've posted some doozies before. We read of children sexting and sending nude photos of themselves to their school friends and even strangers. Let me scare you a little more: this report in the UK says that many girls are coerced into sexting and providing nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. They also suffer from greater sexual pressures at a younger age, thanks to widely available technologies. They felt the need to fulfil demands from boys and men who are so used to seeing women as sex objects.

Yeah, we'll have those who get on their high horse and say that those immoralities happen because of a Westernised lifestyle. Well, we're not using tin cans to call each other any more, are we? We got satellite television, we got the Internet; so if you want to avoid the contaminating Western influence, go live in a cave somewhere, burn all your communication gadgets and renounce the world okay? Otherwise, you better equip your kids with a strong sense of self-identity and teach them to use their brains to make good judgement calls. And quit believing telling them to go to hell is good enough to make sure they don't have sex.

It's so easy to be dismissive and retreat into "When I was your age ..." tirades.

... But it's not helpful, is it? I would like to exhort all of us to think before we speak, before we act and be mindful of the examples that we set if we want our children (even those who are not our own) to grow up to be the kind of human beings with whom you want to be around.

And stop passing on the buck.

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