- Do we need to encourage violence?
Well, the inevitable has happened: Dirilis (Ertugrul), the Turkish play dubbed into Urdu, an enthusiastic project of the Prime Minister, has taken viewers by storm in Pakistan. Now the usual army of desi gawkers and self-righteous blockheads have a brand new target, Ertugrul’s on-screen wife and Turkish actress Ezra Bilgic. The poor girl has been trolled endlessly about what she wears in real life until recently she lashed out and told the offenders to just stop following her, in other words, ‘shut up and get lost.’ Not that that will make any difference.
But for now, let’s ignore the pestering of women that is such an integral part of this society and talk about other aspects of the matter.
It isn’t clear whether people everywhere tend to confuse television shows with reality but they certainly do in Pakistan. That makes the blockbuster serial Ertugrul a great risk here- as has been warned earlier; but the powers that be are not known for their sense, or their will to do the right thing. Just as Bilgic’s trolls presume that her on-screen pious character should conform with her appearance off-screen, many viewers of the show are certain to expect that the Turkish war against ‘infidels’ that took place in the 13th century should carry on in the 21st. Which makes it extremely ominous that toys meticulously modelled upon the weapons used by Ertugrul and his people– swords, knives, daggers, axes, all stamped with the Kayi tribe symbol– are now selling like hotcakes in Pakistan.
Does it matter if children are taught violence via their games?
Toys are not just cute little things that children spend their time bouncing up and down or talking to. They are crucial to the development of every child’s brain. This is why too much time spent playing with electronic toys is not a good thing because they adversely affect a child’s attention span, intelligence, and social and emotional development, although some electronic toys undoubtedly do foster intelligence. But there is little chance of pushing the genie back into the bottle now and electronic toys and games are here to stay, but parents can restrict their use to a small span of time each day.
Meantime there is also the much larger segment of society for whom electronic toys are just dreams. Of course the specific Ertugrul toys will also be beyond their reach, but should children generally be allowed to play with guns? Swords? Should they be allowed to play ‘kill, kill!’?
The best pastime for children are interesting games that foster values we care for: creativity, inclusion, patience. Games and sports that promote skills, strengthen muscle coordination and team spirit, sportsmanship, and toys, simple ones, including basic things such as string, old boxes, tape, and so with which children can use their imagination to adapt, innovate, create, and build. Whatever children play with must promote that most important thing of all, peace. Older children must play with younger ones part of the time. It is up to parents to ensure that both employ courtesy, patience and kindness, that no one calls the other ‘stupid,’ or ‘mad’ or ‘langray’ or ‘motay’…the name calling that unfortunately takes place all the time. Even when used in ‘affection’ such names should be firmly disallowed. The aim must be to foster virtues we claim to possess but which are fast becoming a very rare commodity: the virtues of adab.
- It is an undeniable fact that, in Pakistan, authorities refuse to do their job unless they are forced to do so by means of violence, such as in Karachi where citizens are protesting DHA’s inaction following the rains, by threatening to resort to riots. Violence appears to be the catalyst to action, because that is what we grow up with. Even apart from the violence in games it is considered kosher for parents to threaten children with slaps, ‘meri jooti,’ a whipping or some other form of brute display of power
There are toys appropriate for each age, sound and movement for the very young, hand and eye coordination for the somewhat older, size, shape, push and pull and take apart things for children between the ages of one and two.
Then follows the pretend stage, dressing up, painting, all of that.
Never, ever should violence come into play except as something to be avoided, something to be employed as a very last resort in self-defense.
The problems we are having in this part of the world are all to do with violence and with those who are trained to employ force. Life appears to be imbued with it. In news today is the story of soldiers martyred and injured in North Waziristan as a result of an IED attack, of wars and violence everywhere.
It is an undeniable fact that, in Pakistan, authorities refuse to do their job unless they are forced to do so by means of violence, such as in Karachi where citizens are protesting DHA’s inaction following the rains, by threatening to resort to riots. Violence appears to be the catalyst to action, because that is what we grow up with. Even apart from the violence in games it is considered kosher for parents to threaten children with slaps, ‘meri jooti,’ a whipping or some other form of brute display of power.
Is there a way to raise a new generation along a calmer theme? If so then is it wise to encourage shows such as Ertugrul– gripping as it is– to be shown on national television? Or now that the damage is done is it time to realise the importance of toys that foster peace and creativity rather than bloodshed?