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FIRING LINE: Negative images, what next?


Shantal Munro-Knight

FIRING LINE: Negative images, what next?

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I support completely the move by the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools (BAPPS) to ban the carrying of Sprayground bags to schools.

Although the ban is not total (unfortunately in my mind) and targets specifically those bags whose images are adjudged to be negative or lewd, it at least sends a strong message about what is to be tolerated.  

The fact that principals, as opposed to parents, had to be the grouping which stood up to take a stance on the matter suggests that something is going fundamentally wrong in our households.

It is both sad and disgusting to think that parents would allow their children to buy and wear bags with guns and inappropriate images of women and whatever else. It seems that we have become so desensitised to violence and smut that we fail to recognise it when it comes home to our doorsteps.

Many would perhaps be asking, what is the hullabaloo about bags that people wear on their backs. What is the harm?

Some of the images on the Sprayground bags which are the latest fad in Barbados are just demonic. Yes, I use the word demonic with absolutely no apologies to anyone.

What sort of mind comes up with the images that are on those bags? What is the intent? Even where the images are not lewd, many of them are just ugly and disturbing.   

I do not have the space in this article to go into a big discussion about the meanings behind symbols and how people embed messages. If you understand advertising there is a level of psychological manipulation that goes on in the background in order to encourage us to buy certain products. There are specific images and words that are used to conjure up feelings and emotions. What sort of emotions do we think will be conjured up by our children looking at and carrying around those images all day.

In health terms, we would normally hear we are what we eat. We have also been debating for years the impact of negative images on the television as well as North American music on our young people. The net impact is we are what we hear and see or have the potential to be impacted by what we hear and see. It’s the same thing with clothes and accessories. When we put them on we feel a particular way about ourselves.

So imagine this, a night of violent video games, the Sprayground bag with the image of a naked women holding a gun and a spliff, top that off with a ZR ride to school and what sort of child do we have walking through the school gates?

Somehow with all that, we expect peace to reign in our schools. Those things are not reconcilable.

Our schools are becoming minefields for our children to navigate. I have been told that children are being instructed to walk around with their schoolbags on their back all day if they don’t want them stolen, to walk in groups and not to walk alone. Students are also being forced to become aggressive as well because if you are too soft or nice then you will be taken advantage of. All of these things go together. We are raising and encouraging a group of angry and volatile children.  

I am not saying that the single act of buying Sprayground bags will automatically make your child a bad person or that all parents are bad parents for buying those bags. I think that we underestimate the long-term influence of many of the actions that we see as innocent.

There is a level of exposure that we must protect our children from because in many ways this world and the things that are happening are not intended to help us raise good moral children, but the opposite. If we are not careful we will become part of the enabling environment. Just like building an explosive, it is a combination of things that come together over time.

 Some of the ingredients are often quite normal but when put together this is where the danger emerges.

More importantly, we have to ask ourselves what is next. Many of the images on the Sprayground bags push the boundaries of what is socially accepted and it seems for the most part some of us have no qualms about exposing our children to that – so what else. We seem to be in an age of the permissible when nothing is off the table and everything is okay.

There is a good book which says we sow what we reap. Planting and harvesting happens over a period of time so we should be well aware of what we are putting into our children or in this case what we are putting on them.  

• Shantal Munro-Knight is a development specialist and executive coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre.

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