Contact Me By Email

Contact Me By Email

Saturday, December 03, 2005

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Adults must end abuse

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Adults must end abuseAdults must end abuse

Civil War historian Bruce Catton once observed that the best years to take males into military service was in their mid- to late teens because they were still unaware of the fundamental frailty of their mortality and were usually not married, which meant that they were not thinking about their wives and children while at war. They were more prepared to follow orders and perform the daring acts that require great courage.

Jimmie Briggs has written a book called "Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go To War," which gives us a contemporary update on the cruelest form of child abuse. That is what we need to realize about the use of children to do the dirtiest of dirty work, the torturing and killing of people. This has become common to tribal wars, rebel units, religious fanatics and totalitarian regimes. It is estimated that 10% of the world's fighting forces are under 18.

The reason that these children work so well is, just below or just entering adolescence, they possess very malleable minds and have not had enough of the life experience necessary to perceive a clear moral relationship to other people. The revolutionary doctrine or the traditional tribal animus or the religious rhetoric will suffice to corrupt them.

On a much larger and more horrific scale, they are used the way our urban drug dealers have used children because of their desire to follow, to get along, to do the right thing, to gain the sort of power that comes, as Mao said, through the barrel of a gun. Through extremes of violence, they enter into a world once reserved for adults and become false grownups while emotionally remaining children. They are toy men with real guns.

In a sense, they are playing three-dimensional versions of our violent video games that are made progressively graphic so that the line between reality and play need no longer be provided by the imagination; the electronic figures take on more and more human qualities and bleed the sort of fountains that became common in the most violent Hollywood films of 35 years ago.

Briggs takes us into these worlds where everything is real. We see these abused children as they become killers and as they tell their stories or try to address the horrors of the things that they were told to do long before they learned any better.

This is an important book because it underlines the universal fact that ours is a time in which our perhaps naive sense of childhood innocence is under assault in both the advanced and developing world. The young are exploited either by the popular entertainment that dehumanizes, fills them with terrible appetites, encourages irresponsible behavior, or promotes, like rap, the hatred of women.

That exploitation, however, is no more than the result of decadence, greed, moral ambiguity and indifference, all propelled by the power of profit.

In "Innocents Lost," Briggs reveals to us the power that is sought through the use of children to dominate or destroy others. Yes, this is the worst form of child abuse. So Briggs makes one unwavering fact clear to those of us who don't know: Humanity is not something you are born with, it is a feeling for life that is passed on to you by your culture and is always the responsibility of adults.

Originally published on November 28, 2005

No comments:

Post a Comment