“Who is responsible for what we teach our kids, is it the Internet or stars on television?” So asks the Paris based Nigerian singer – Asa in her “Fire On The Mountain”. Being a ’21 century’ parent has to be one of the more stressful undertakings around especially when one takes into account how many guile force are constantly lurking and are ready to pounce on many impressionable youth. The far reaching and, at times, ineluctable influence of musicians, actors, writers, politicians and, indeed, sporting personality leaves many a parents with headaches regarding the type of ideas that are forging their children’s understanding of the world and the conduct imbued by such influences. Truth be told people are most likely to accentuate anything uttered by a ‘recognizable’ person as opposed to that which is said by an ‘unknown’ one. But why is it so? Could it be that we, as the ‘rank and file’ of the human race, still perceive television screen and magazine gracing people as people of a better cast, make up or even origin to such an extent that what ever they promulgate we take as the gospel truth?
Very few can argue against the assertion that “sex sells” and this evident in music videos, which are mainly of American origin, that are on heavy rotation on music channels. The Beyonces, Lady Gagas, Rihannas, Lil Waynes and a plethora of pop stars are favoured because of the heavy sexual flavour in their work. Radio stations also paddle music whose content is dripping with vulgarity and violence. All these influences can’t be scantly pushed as “just music”. In the mid 90s, when the east and west coast rivalry was at its height in the American rap community, there were youngsters across our country who were imitating what was happening across the Atlantic, and at times the results were fatal. Such is the influence of musicians, especially those from the “Land of the free”!
When we see children mimicking the deeds they see and listen to respectively, do we ever ask ourselves what has happened to parental responsibility in this sordid picture? Parental responsibility is central in this particular instance. How approving are parents of the information that their children interface with and consume daily? The first people a child interacts with are those of the house hold and as such parents must talk to their children and explain to them what is a ‘proper’ way of conducting themselves when they are in the greater world which, by the way, does not always have their best interest at heart. Restrictions must be imposed if necessary on the type of programmes to be viewed, music to be listened to, websites to be visited and other influential products. Your children might not nominate you for parent of the year but I doubt that parenthood ought to be a popularity contest.
Negligence in this regard will give tacit approval for the kids to consume whole chunks of all and sundry because of lack of objection. Just because parents aren’t actively involved in the lives of their kids doesn’t mean that insidious forces are taking it easy. If your child is a fan of a John Terry, Ashly Cole, Tiger Woods, Jacob Zuma, Colby Bryant, Zola, Chris Brown and many others and they read of their unbecoming ways and disappointed by their conduct, as a parent it’s up to you to inculcate it into their psyche that there’s no need to look that far for role models because you are there, if, indeed, you are.
In the August of 2008, Morne Harmse, a teenager from the West Rand shocked the nation when he butchered a fellow student and injured numerous others when he graced the school ground wielding a samurai sword. He has since been sadly sentenced to 20 years for that incident. It was claimed that in the media that his heinous deeds were encouraged by his liking of heavy metal band- Slipknot. Those who also listen to the said band acknowledged the sullen tone and death imbuing content of the band. But can we ascribe the gruesome conduct of Harmse to Slipknot alone, if ever? Where was parental oversight? Marshall Matthers better known to us as Eminem says this in his 2003 hit “Sing For The Moment”, “They say music can alter moods and talk to you, well can it load up a gun and cock it too? The next time you assault a dude just tell the judge it’s my fault and I’ll get sued.” Musicians make music for different reasons and as such can’t be blamed for people’s interpretation and eventual conduct after listening to their work. Not everyone who listens to hip hop calls females bitches, whores and sluts even though those terms are sadly ‘normal’ in hip hop circles. Just like not everyone who listens to heavy metal is a blood thirsty, sword swinging barbarian. The influences do overload the minds of impressionable children but that’s the reason there are age restrictions placed on album and dvd covers. There isn’t a duty on us as the music and television viewing public buy into the said products but at times one comes across work that mirrors one’s exact feelings and experiences and at that point one ‘finds’ oneself consuming that work because one is able to relate to what the producer of the said work is conveying, whether musically or otherwise. But that should not give us the impression that we know these artists because we don’t, and even if we think we do our ‘knowledge’ of them goes as far as the work allows us to.
The moral make up of famous and ‘role modelled’ people is rarely known to us. We can’t expect them to perceive the world as we do. They too are human who bleed, love, cry and ultimately die like all of us will at some point. We choose to place them on pedestal of moral paragons because we, as humans, are always looking a hero to dump our expectations on. We are forever looking for an ‘ordinary’ person to ‘worship’ forgetting that we are just as capable to lead ‘proper’ lifestyles which can be emulated by those within our immediate surroundings. There’s no requirement to switch on a tv for that. Eminem further says, “Everybody just feels like they can relate/ I guess words are a motherfucker, they can be great or they can degrade or even worse they can teach hate…That’s why we sing for these kids who don’t have a thing except for a dream and a fucken rap magazine.”
The immorality that artists’ content is accused of having has a source: Society! So, to the parents I urge you raise your children and to intervene where possible and don’t leave to advertiser lusting corporations to raise your kids. In a world where advertising space tunes out billions for the entertainment industry the viewer is merely collateral damage and shareholders’ profits are the goal. Don’t let Mtv raise your kids and remember that Eminem isn’t a parent but Marshal Matthers is.