Spike's Frank Furedi dissects the official opening video of the Copenhagen summit on climate change, and puts his finger on something that I've quietly found irritating for quite some time now.
Titled 'Please Help The World', the four-minute film opens with happy children laughing and playing on swings. A sudden outburst of rain forces them all to rush for cover. The message is clear: the climate threatens our way of life. It then cuts to a young girl who is anxiously watching one TV news broadcaster after another reporting on impending environmental catastrophes. Then we see the young girl tucked into bed, sweetly asleep as she embraces her toy polar bear… but suddenly we're drawn into her nightmare. She’s on a parched and eerie landscape; she looks frightened and desolate; suddenly the dry earth cracks and she runs in terror towards the shelter of a distant solitary tree. She drops her toy polar bear in a newly formed chasm and yells and screams as she holds on to the tree for dear life. The video ends with groups of children pleading with us: 'Please help the world.' ...
[E]nvironmentalism has become one of the few values that educators feel comfortable with. [O]ne of Britain's leading green crusaders ... recently informed children that 'your parents and grandparents have made a mess of looking after the Earth', adding: 'They may deny it, but they are stealing your future.' Instead of serving as role models, adults are often castigated for setting a bad example to children. ...
The flipside of the devaluation of adult authority is the sacralisation of the status of the child. Increasingly, children are assigned the role of educators, charged with enlightening their misguided, greedy, stupid elders.
It seems to me that maybe this is the unfortunate followup to a spate of cultural massaging/messaging, from commercials to sitcoms and movies, that portrays men as pea-brained dolts. The wave appears to have subsided a bit, but starting in the mid-nineties, we were treated to at least a dozen years' worth of fictional male chowderheads whose limited intellects and slavish surrender to their dumb manly impulses got them into the kind of trouble from which they could only be rescued by a woman — a wise, levelheaded, superior one, of course. If you had reversed the roles, and consistently painted women as the airheads, even the most incorrigible male chauvinists might have pointed out that you were perhaps being a bit sexist.
Now that Furedi mentions it, that genre may have morphed into one in which rosy-cheeked, high-horse children go on a holier-than-thou binge, their accusatory cris de coeur against adults (men, mostly) ringing from the depths of their snow-white peewee souls.
That whole kids-are-so-morally-pure thing has never sounded very convincing to me. My own two girls (5 and 7) are lovely, but it takes nothing away from my parental delight to realize that, at their age, they're hardwired to be narcissistic little sociopaths — like 98% of their age group (linked article is satire, the underlying truth is not).
Telling tykes that everyone over 18 or 25 or 40 sucks is fine, of course, if you don't mind taking a page from the Stalinist re-education playbook. The day my kids come home to tell me, on the authority of some down-with-capitalism educator, that their mother and I are responsible for fucking up the planet, is the day I ground them for two weeks and read them a daily chapter from Lord of the Flies.