One of the traditional purposes of culture is to educate. Before books were common, the spoken word was the essential tool for teaching. Stories are memorable, and so telling stories was an effective way to pass on life lessons, particularly moral lessons.
But in recent times, “information media” have been used overwhelmingly often only for making money. Far from being a means for transmitting and preserving culture, many of today’s movies, television programs, books, video games, etc., are produced purely for greed, in the guise of “entertainment.”
As a result, one sees in modern “entertainment” the same good vs. evil battle being fought over and over. I find this especially galling when I see children’s movies in this mold (Disney crap is the worst offender). If children are to grow up to be healthy, functioning human adults, they need examples of wise behaviour. But the modern movie world feeds them a steady diet of characters who believe doing violence to others is the solution to their problems.
We urgently need to educate our children with stories of love and courage. Consider Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (portrayed movingly by Gregory Peck in the movie of the same name), the brave man who stood up to hatred and put his own life to block its way. Where can we find such an exemplary character in today’s “entertainment?”
One of the most beautiful children’s movies that I know is Balto (also see here). Balto doubts his abilities, but succeeds in the end in his noble task, despite the actions of the evil Steel, because he persists in doing good, and keeps his attention on his noble task. Balto does not battle Steel, he is simply himself, doing good. Steel is exposed by the end of the movie for what he is (a self-serving liar) because of his own actions, not because anyone defeats him in a battle.
Our sick world is awash in violence. We appear to be locked into the same Disney world of good vs. evil. Our current political leaders embrace the image of violence as a symbol of strength; they believe there’s nothing like sending children to bomb foreigners half way around the world to prove that you’re a strong man.
And here is a fragment of William Blake:
But vain the sword and vain the bow,
They never can work War’s overthrow;
The hermit’s prayer and the widow’s tear
Alone can free the world from fear.
The hand of Vengeance sought the bed
To which the purple tyrant fled;
The iron hand crushed the tyrant’s head,
And became a tyrant in his stead.
Until the tyrant himself relent,
The tyrant who first the black bow bent,
Slaughter shall heap the bloody plain:
Resistance and War is the tyrant’s gain.
But the tear of love — and forgiveness sweet,
And submission to death beneath his feet —
The tear shall melt the sword of steel,
And every wound it has made shall heal.
For the tear is an intellectual thing,
And a sigh is the sword of an Angel King,
And the bitter groan of the martyr’s woe
Is an arrow from the Almighty’s bow.