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Selling war to kids

Which is closest to your feelings about this?


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These pictures are from Toys R Us of all places.

There are lots of toy weapons for sale, but most tend to be somewhat fantasy type and one on one fight type things, or at best, obviously just for target practice. I find all those to be somewhat problematic but.....

....these outright realistic war toys I find disgusting and beyond the pale. I see them and I want to take them outside and make a bonfire of them. Kids should not be sold war with their toys.

Your feelings and opinion about these toys?
 

nice gaijin

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Free play stretches the imagination like a muscle. Toys are getting more and more representative, which tries to force a particular interpretation upon children. A stick can be anything, but it's a lot harder to pretend that a sword is anything but a sword. I disagree with the use of toys that stifle the imagination, especially toys that purport to tell kids how they should be playing.

On top of this, these toys would also concern me because they impose a form of play that normalizes and glorifies militarism and violence, but I'm not surprised they exist. Representative toys like this are capitalist gold (a combination of branding and marketing efforts, aggressive advertising, and adults making poor buying decisions). Since they have a narrow interpretation, you need to buy more of these toys (so you can have the tank, the jeep, the surface-to-air missiles AND the planes to shoot down. The only way to eliminate these toys is to eliminate the demand, and discouraging people from buying these toys would require pretty big paradigm shifts in the way people think about toys and play.
 
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I read your post as basically you agree with me, but your feelings are not as strong about it. Is that correct?

nice gaijin said: "The only way to eliminate these toys is to eliminate the demand, and discouraging people from buying these toys would require pretty big paradigm shifts in the way people think about toys and play."

I wonder if you would say the same thing if it were common that children (as opposed to teens) were getting marijuana contact buzzes from their parents smoking. I might actually have less of a problem with that scenario, as for me, it was common and I consider it to have been good, eye opening experience.

While my mother had no problem with me getting contact buzzes, she had a big problem allowing me to have toy guns. As a boy with friends all around with toy weapons of every sort, it was difficult for me to understand. But now, as an adult, reading the news and seeing war everywhere, and my country's out of control spending on the military and war mongering and meddling in the world, I see it all much more clearly. My countrymen have serious difficulty seeing clearly the murder that is being carried out in their name with things like drones blowing up houses and cars in sovereign nations they have business being in. (And naturally any time a westerner gets blown up its evil and unfair). I see this lax and conflicting attitude as partly due to childhood war play, where blowing people up was just part of the fun.

I don't think this paradigm shift you speak of is going to come about naturally. So many societies seem so addicted to violence. I think its going to take a top down drive to eliminate this, in the form of laws with clear restrictions on what can be sold to children. And lets not pretend that laws and government are not already restricting materials children have access to already. They are. There is no doubt I would have been put in foster care if the authorities found I was regularly inhaling marijuana smoke at home. I think taking war toys off the toy store shelves would be one of the better, more positive and more meaningful restrictions.
 

nice gaijin

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I'm not sure the contact-high situation is analogous and I don't quite understand the connection you're trying to make there, so I'm going to focus on the toys.

I agree that violent-themed toys are a cause for concern because they can fuel aggressive behavior and attitudes, and normalize the destructiveness of war. I think we are numbed to the horrors of war because 1) we are removed from the consequences of such violence, and 2) we are bombarded with violent imagery so much we are inured to it. The earlier someone is exposed to a certain kind of behavior, the more "normal" it can seem to them (there are innumerable examples of this). The world is a violent place where violent things happen often; children are exposed to violent imagery and conditioned by it, and then incorporate violent themes into their play. The toy industry interprets this as demand, and offers toys that cater to these violent tendencies. Then someone like us sees the toys and it's easy for us to think that the toy industry is to blame for making toys that encourage violence; it's a chicken-and-egg argument.

In truth, it's all a cycle of interrelated cause and effect. The industry is reacting to what they perceive as demand, and demand is directed by a number of factors that are beyond their control. Toy companies are a part of the cycle, but I think that making a new law that further dictates what they can make will have little impact on the underlying issues. A child can (and will) still pick up a stick and pretend it's a sword or a gun. After all the campaigning and lobbying for new toy legislation, if kids are still pretending to stab and kill each other, was the legislation successful? The intention was noble, but was it a worthwhile endeavor?

Whenever we find ourselves saying "there ought to be a law..." we should probably take a step back and look at the larger picture; unfortunately, reality is far more complicated than anything that can be dictated by the laws of man. It's by expanding our understanding of the situation can we find ways to motivate, rather than dictate changes in people's behaviors. So yes, change is necessary to break the cause and effect of violence, but how to effect change?

The answer, in my opinion, is redirection.

The target demographic for this change is the parents and adults whom children look up to, and their ability to influence those kids. I'll share an example that just came to mind: I was visiting a Waldorf-inspired preschool once taking photos for promotional materials, and a kid picked up a stick and started pretending it was a gun. Waldorf schools don't have representative toys, so even in an environment free of toy guns, this kind of play can creep in--one reason I don't think regulation alone will accomplish your goal. The teacher immediately noticed this and gently suggested they interpret the stick in a different way, and the kid redirected his imagination and the stick became something else completely. It was amazing how elastic the child's interpretation was, and the the teacher subtly turned them from a path of normalized violence to a more positive interpretation. This kind of approach is a simple, repeatable tool that can be taught to parents to help influence their children without dictating to them how they can and cannot play. Engage the parents, motivate them to want to steer their children from violent play (I can imagine a compelling ad campaign that juxtaposes a child playing war games and actual images of violence), then give them easy methods to use and habituate to.

I'm currently reading an excellent book about enacting change called Switch, and I highly encourage you to take a look if you can (wow, I even found a PDF version of the book here, so no excuses!). The book is quite insightful and full of examples of difficult situations that were able to improve with the right approaches. It's broken down in an interesting way as well; read the first chapter to understand the metaphor of the Rider and the Elephant, and I doubt you'll stop there.

I. Direct the Rider:
- Find the bright spots
- Script the critical moves
- Point to the destination

II. Motivate the Elephant:
- Find the feeling
- Shrink the Change;
- Grow your people

III. Shape the Path:
- Tweak the environment
- Build habits
- Rally the herd
 
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When I was a kid I always liked soldiers and war toys. However now that I am an adult I think that you should not buy lots of toys to your kids. Then I have learned much about my christian faith and it is not about war but good deeds and love. However in the New testament it is written that the wars must come and that we should believe. Then I think that some percent of the population must be soldiers to protect the country and if they have played with war toys it would only be a good thing. However pacifism is something that I am having respect for and writers like Tolstoy.
 
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Then I think that some percent of the population must be soldiers to protect the country and if they have played with war toys it would only be a good thing.
Well, so much for the early Christians who allowed themselves to be crucified. I think they were the real believers.

I also enjoyed playing with toy soldiers. But I think these expensive and highly detailed war toys are a bit too glorifying of war compared to my simple green army men. I also think I got a fair amount of guidance against war and violence, but I can imagine that parents who buy war toys like this would be slack in that department.
 
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As a 16-year-old, I see where you're coming from, and I also find these toys distasteful. Not only because they bring all these fancy expensive shell-throwsers as "cool things to play with", but because they represent something to major and impressive but have been shrunk down into a little plastic toy that doesn't even come with a little booklet of history and specs or something. I can imagine a younger person screaming in joy at the "realistic sounds" of the cannons.

That aside, I accept video games far more. The new fancy things that underage kids seem to love these days (I heard "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare"'s pretty good, but some dudes say it's just another typical CoD game that's not centered around the horrors and cooperativeness of the original WWII-based games) may seem similar to these toys and may even be worse due to their far more realistic and flexible depictions, but oftentimes the sheer realism, noisiness and minimal amount of physical effort in these games bring a better idea to a child's mind than, say, "Let's blow up Barbie with this tank! Boom boom!". And the devs like to bring some better ideas to the plot too (In Battlefield 3 and 4, you have to save fellow soldiers, cooperate with the enemy when it's actually necessary for the greater good, walk around in an annoying pile of rubble, panic when you see a tank...Sure, all in hilariously ineffective amounts, but still existant). They're still bad, but they're not as bad as these toys that are, ultimately, just toys.

Weren't these toys originally created to instill a sense of patriotism? They make tons of money too, because the stereotypical young boy of times past kinda liked the idea of moving a bunch of toy soldiers to "attack the Commies" or just kill dinosaurs. Our kids these days, with their computers everywhere, would hardly find such things amusing anymore. Since they don't play these toys as much, you don't get arrogant amounts of loyalty to the country and an admiration for the explosions and destruction of war anymore. So, yes, we could complain, but nothing to do about it. They're already dying. If you want them off the shelves, just wait another 20 years. I can almost guarantee that the toy shops won't be able to sell those kind of stuff (unless they make them more fancy and packed with goodies like historical biographies of these stuff, which would then end up appealing to a more mature audience who won't really be influenced into a silly state by these things anymore) by then without change.
 
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When I was a kid I always liked soldiers and war toys. However now that I am an adult I think that you should not buy lots of toys to your kids. Then I have learned much about my christian faith and it is not about war but good deeds and love. However in the New testament it is written that the wars must come and that we should believe. Then I think that some percent of the population must be soldiers to protect the country and if they have played with war toys it would only be a good thing. However pacifism is something that I am having respect for and writers like Tolstoy.
Wars are not a joke. Even if you want happy and strong children that are willing to protect the country, I personally believe that they should at least know what's going on. Blind patriotism is strong, but ultimately nobody appreciates a close-minded person. Would cause havoc whenever somebody who's not so patriotic tries to tell their opinion to these soldiers from child-up.

What WOULD be a good thing would be to convince your population, not with toys and parental teaching from the young, but instead with propaganda and debates. A proud soldier is a person who knows who he's fighting for, what he's fighting for, who he is fighting, and why he is fighting. The ups and downs of morale won't affect them as much because they are legitimately fighting for what they have learned, decided and believe in, instead of a "childhood fantasy" that may come crashing down to them when things don't quite exactly go as planned, and the U.S. turns out not to be always the greatest country in the world.

Give children the gift of Sid Meier's Civilization. Let them learn how to balance between war-mongering and building in peace. That'll probably give the best impression. Probably.
 
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What we need is more nanny government telling us what toys our kids can play with, instead of leaving it to free market demand.

The free market sometimes offends our sensibilities, but that's the price we pay to have it.
 
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What we need is more nanny government telling us what toys our kids can play with, instead of leaving it to free market demand.

The free market sometimes offends our sensibilities, but that's the price we pay to have it.
But people are always advocating for more autonamy from the government though. A government literally guiding the population on a seemingly trivial matter such as toys might be misunderstood.
 
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There's no such thing as a free market, and if there was it would offend far more than sensibilities.

We all choose how we want to limit markets. I'm personally against selling babies to cannibals. Also, not a fan of slave trading.
 
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I don't have a very strong opinion of these pictures on either side. I don't really see an issue with it -- It's not like these are glorifying the death of innocent people, or actual war. Can you agree that simply being interested in guns, tanks, jets, etc. is extremely different from somehow enjoying feelings elicited by images of actual war with death and sadness?

As a child, I was taken to air bases to see the planes that were used in WWII and learn about them. I got to sit in the gunner's seats and experience the exact perspective that the airmen back in the day did. I also attended plenty of airshows where we got to see the Blue Angels and other exhibitions with actual fighter jets. I never associated that with war in my child or adult life. It's the same with guns. I was trained to use firearms at a fairly young age, and I completely intend to teach my own children how to handle guns themselves. The intent is to have fun and sharpen their marksmanship, and, God forbid, defend themselves if they need to. Being raised around guns and military stuff hasn't really done anything but cause me to have more respect for the power behind them. And by respect, I mean the "we need to handle this with care" respect.

Also, I think we may be looking at it the wrong way right off the bat. These toys are based off of the popular media. And say what you will about the popular media, but I don't think that they really -promote- war. I love movies, games and TV shows about war. Most people do.
 

Mike Cash

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As a child, I was taken to air bases to see the planes that were used in WWII and learn about them. I got to sit in the gunner's seats and experience the exact perspective that the airmen back in the day did.
Without identical prospects can there truly be identical perspective?

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As a child, I was taken to air bases
Well Tamayo, for starters, that's you.

But still, I read your post and I find a distinct lack of anti-war sentiment. War neutral may as well be pro-war.

Then I read Mike's excerpt from The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner. I feel I can rest assured that Mike Cash won't be silent in the face of war and war junkies.
 
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It's not like these are glorifying the death of innocent people, or actual war.
In a roundabout way, yes they are! Thanks to technology it is possible to fantasize about and love war without ever seeing the carnage. You don't hear people scream or see them blown to bits from the bombs you dropped or the missiles you launched. You just see explosions and buildings on fire. You blow up a tank and you don't see the bodies inside.

Even the media "protects" us from the images of the real horror of war. You don't see blasted off limbs and dead babies on the news. Oh, no. Its all sanitized.

Even images of coffins coming home is curbed and deemed "unpatriotic". But its obviously about whitewashing war.

Can you agree that simply being interested in guns, tanks, jets, etc. is extremely different from somehow enjoying feelings elicited by images of actual war with death and sadness?
Yes and no. I say that because I feel you are obfuscating. Once you are hooked on the toys of war, it becomes easier to selfishly ignore the death and sadness, just as NRA members could not really give a flock how many innocent people die needlessly from unregulated guns in America. Dey loves dey guns! And I am sure that mass producers of weaponry also love the weapons they make and certainly the money they make. What do they care? They never see the bodies either!

Now, as per actually enjoying the death and sadness, yes, I can see that as a somewhat separate issue. But as per my first paragraph in this post, it does not really matter which is floating your boat if you are dropping bombs and launching missiles, or lobbing mortars or firing a cannon. But, once hooked on the toys, it becomes easier to become enamored with war. Maybe it did not happen to you, but I do believe it happens with a great many people.

And those people may join up and engage in war for their fascination with it, only to change their mind after experiencing it. War hawks count on this. They know full well young men can't think past their own noses on such issues. But what good is it to learn the horror of war and become anti-war AFTER you have joined up and are fighting? The horse has bolted. Again, war hawks count on this. You won't be going home until after you have served your tour. You are trapped.

Anyway, I get the feeling you believe all or most soldiers signed up for love and defense of country alone, and I think that is a crock. I think these young men are above all fascinated by certain aspects of war, and I think these war toys are part of why they are so.

I say all this as someone who was once extremely fascinated with hand to hand weapons. I had a drawer full of knives. I made a sword when I was a teenager. I made bows when I was a kid. I had throwing stars and nunchaku. And I STILL play war games. But I am well aware that I am not so weak of mind as most people around me. Most people just don't have the testicular fortitude to protest even what will be had for dinner! Protest a war? Ha!
 
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Mike Cash

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Well Tamayo, for starters, that's you.

But still, I read your post and I find a distinct lack of anti-war sentiment. War neutral may as well be pro-war.

Then I read Mike's excerpt from The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner. I feel I can rest assured that Mike Cash won't be silent in the face of war and war junkies.
That's the entire poem.

I like a good war movie as much as anybody, but I think when the movie is screened a random audience member should be removed from the theater each time anybody on screen is killed, and similarly never get to see how things turned out.

I would be fascinated to see the planes and sit in the gunners' positions as well, but I would be keenly aware of the humongous difference between how I approach it as a Lookie-Lou knowing it poses zero danger to me whatsoever and the aspect it must have presented to men who would climb in knowing there was a significant chance they would be so ripped to shreds by machine gun bullets, cannon shells, or shrapnel from AA guns that they too would be washed out with a hose.

My perspective couldn't possibly be the same unless I faced the same prospects they did....and their prospects were grim.
 
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I think acceptance and expression of violence in a household has far more to do with acceptance and expression of violence later as an adult than which toys the child played with.

Lots of kids play with war toys, very few of them become violent. Blaming the toy instead of poor parenting and education seems, to me, to entirely miss the point.

That said, I don't think war toys do anything to improve the situation. I'm just not sure they're much of a factor. If a child is taught violence, all toys become weapons.
 
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I think acceptance and expression of violence in a household has far more to do with acceptance and expression of violence later as an adult than which toys the child played with.
I think you lost the plot. What message does it send when a parent hands a kid a war toy??? Acceptance and expression of war!

Lots of kids play with war toys, very few of them become violent.
I see that as a strawman. My point was acceptance of and desire for war. I never said they went out raping and pillaging or grew up to be wife beaters.
 
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Without identical prospects can there truly be identical perspective?

...

I would be fascinated to see the planes and sit in the gunners' positions as well, but I would be keenly aware of the humongous difference between how I approach it as a Lookie-Lou knowing it poses zero danger to me whatsoever and the aspect it must have presented to men who would climb in knowing there was a significant chance they would be so ripped to shreds by machine gun bullets, cannon shells, or shrapnel from AA guns that they too would be washed out with a hose.
Mike! I've missed you, man. Interestingly enough, one of the retired airmen who toured us on one of these visits to an airbase recited this poem as he talked about the hardships that the gunners faced in those days. Luckily, much of my education about war technology in general has been deeply supplemented with stories and lessons about the awful truths just beneath the surface.

I should note: I DID just mean that I was able to visually see from the same perspective, not that I could even begin to comprehend what the gunners actually experienced.


But still, I read your post and I find a distinct lack of anti-war sentiment.
Meh. How exactly would you define quantifiable "anti-war sentiment"? I figure that it should go without saying that most people don't want war, and that even if they do, it's not because they want to see death and sadness. If I can make an actual difference with my words, then I'm happy to do so, but I don't think anything particularly good or special will come of me simply stating that war is awful.

I feel that explicitly outlining my disagreement with the general idea of war would be nearly the same as a "Not that I'm racist, but..." disclaimer before stating my opinion.



Thanks to technology it is possible to fantasize about and love war without ever seeing the carnage.
Maybe you and I just think of the relation between the media and actual war differently. Much in the same way that I would hope people don't associate pornography with actual sex in real life, I honestly don't associate the media's romanticized version of war with what REALLY happens in the world. I understand that many people won't make that distinction, but I look at that as a problem of stupidity rather than a problem of misinformation.



Even the media "protects" us from the images of the real horror of war. You don't see blasted off limbs and dead babies on the news. Oh, no. Its all sanitized.
Eh, there's a time and place for everything. I've seen real footage of a lot of terrible things online (maybe to the point that I've let myself become a bit desensitized to it), but I'd be pretty shocked to see it on any big news station. I agree with you that the reality should be drug out into the open so everyone can plainly see it, but rather than blaming the news for not doing so, I think we need to promote the sources that do (namely online sites).



Yes and no. I say that because I feel you are obfuscating. Once you are hooked on the toys of war, it becomes easier to selfishly ignore the death and sadness, just as NRA members could not really give a flock how many innocent people die needlessly from unregulated guns in America.
Heh, what could I possibly be obfuscating? I, for one, think that the military is badass, and I love learning about helicoptors, jets, tanks, guns, you name it, but that doesn't mean that I enjoy the thought of war and am not filled with sadness over the massive amount of people who have fallen victim to it. Honestly, I attribute war to war toys as much as I attribute violence to violent video games. I'm actually a little surprised that you don't see it more that way yourself.



Anyway, I get the feeling you believe all or most soldiers signed up for love and defense of country alone
Of course not. I mean, a great many of the people who enlist are looking to serve their country, but I'd be willing to bet that they're in a pretty convincing minority. Especially in the branches that see the most combat, I think that people tend to sign up because there isn't much else for them to do. (Not that I'm projecting, but) I do have several friends in each branch of the military, and a lack of education/decent income seems to be a trend among the ones who've settled for becoming soldiers.
 
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I figure that it should go without saying that most people don't want war,
I wish that were true. Its not. Nobody comes out and says they want war for war's sake, but mouths lie. People are easily deceived about such things, and thus, we keep having war. What war was ever started that had a completely valid and legit reason for starting? Pretty much when any war starts, its because some war loving clown at the head of a group of war loving clowns started a war because they wanted a war, even as a means to some end, such as a power grab. The excuses are always thin enough. It boggles the mind that people cannot see through them instantly.
 
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