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Children and War Toys and Violent Video Games and Action Stories

Little Harry blinks at me through his heavy Sellotaped glasses. "What's that for?"

"It's a submachine gun," I say. "It fires lots of bullets." I mime. "Bang bang bang!"

I'm helping out on a school trip. Normally I avoid volunteering - it's too easy for self employed parents to end up as the school's go-to. However this visit is to Edinburgh Castle and my daughter Morgenstern was very keen I should put in a showing...

So here I am helping to herd 5-year olds through the military museum. Morgenstern is nowhere in sight, but little Harry has latched onto me.

"Oh," says Harry. He copies my mime and sprays the room. "Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang."

"Not like that," I say. "Three round bursts or you'll run out of bullets. Plus the thing pulls up." I mime. "So like this: Bang bang bang!... Bang bang bang!"

Solemnly, Harry discharges three imaginary bullets. "Bang bang bang!"

"Right," I say, "Now, the other side have guns too. You have to use cover... better if you have a hand grenade, of course."

His blue eyes widen.  "What's a hand grenade?"

So together we have a great time clearing each gallery with imagined grenade, automatic fire and bayonet.

Later on the way back to the bus Harry says, "My Daddy says wars are bad because people get killed..."

Yes, I had in fact spent the afternoon teaching (my best recollection of) World War Two house clearing tactics to the son of a local clergyman and peace activist.

* * *

In my defence, that's pretty much how I've raised both my kids ever since I was shocked to catch a 4-year-old Kurtzhau running across open ground going, "Drrrrrrrrr!"

Kurtzhau seemed so horribly vulnerable and I had just received these Osprey WWII Infantry Tactics books and it turned out that he and his friends quite liked following the diagrams...

Which of course takes us to how very uncomfortable most middle class parents are when their children - mostly, but not exclusively the boys - start playing at war, first with toy guns (or sticks or anything they can find), and then with video games.

We hate to imagine our kids as adults getting hurt, we are twitchy when our blond haired darlings cheerfully contemplate bayoneting Germans, and - perhaps most of all - it seems in very poor taste when there's so much real death and violence in the world.

And yet after something like fifty years of peacenik parenting, Tom Clancy is still rich, Baen Books are doing fine, Bernard Cornwell is still in print, and first person shooters still top the video game charts.

It follows that parents can have little or no effect on whether kids - or the adults they become - want to play at war or read about it.

The flipside is that - anecdotally - playing at war as a kid seems to have little or no impact on adult politics or life choices. I also note that the 50s, when jingoistic war films were the norm and everybody grew up refighting WWII in their backyard, gave birth to the 60s and its anti-militarist counter culture. 

Some people want to treat violent video games as a special category, threatening to society. Grossman makes a good argument that first person shooters may make people better at going on the rampage (and the US army has long used modified FPS as training sims). However, given that - according to Stephen Pinker - we are becoming less violent per capita, it's unlikely that these games are to blame for the actual rampages.

Really we're seeing "moral entrepreneurs" exploiting feelings of cooties and confirmation bias. It's like back during the Dungeons and Dragons Moral Panic (go read my review of a book on this over at Black Gate, which - by the way - won a World Fantasy Award this year) when law enforcement would routinely fish out the Players Handbook from the bedrooms of teen suicides and spree shooters and blame that - and Satan, of course - rather than, say, troubled teens having easy access to firearms. Certainly the two highprofile UK mass shootings were not in any way related to computer games.

It follows that if you have a messed up angry alienated teen who balances his (and it will be a boy - toxic masculinity for the win!) time between misogynist tweeting and playing video games, you should probably (a) try to deal with his feelings, and (b) keep him away from firearms and big sharp blades.

The rest of us parents have the thankfully simpler problem of what do about kids, war toys, books and violent video games.

I think our objective as parents should be to create happy, moral adults who can function and reach their full potential in modern society.

The world would certainly be a better place with less war in it. However, it's not clear that censoring the games and imagination of my kids would in any way help make that happen. (You could even make the argument that more people with progressive values should make an effort to understand military matters.)

As you might guess, I'm therefore not very interested in any kind of statement parenting, nor am I keen to deploy my kids as the shock troops of the progressive millennium. The tiny chance of making a tiny difference would not be worth the cost.

Because there is a cost in mandating a pacifist childhood, and it's threefold:

First, you're making it harder for your kid to fit in.

"A pox on fitting in!" you say. "A child should learn stand up for their principals."

However, really these are your principals you're making your child stand up for.

And if a child doesn't fit in, they don't get to join in. They don't get the sandbox they need to learn all those useful social skills, including the moral ones of standing up for principals in real situations such as when bullying is going on, or somebody takes steals something, or just gets too rough.

You also miss out on all the other healthy wholesome activities that take place under the guise of playing at war, e.g. working as a team online, or building tanks out of cardboard boxes, or bases and forts in the woods, or just climbing around in the garden going, "Bang!".

But I talked about all that last time (link).

Second, in resisting a child's interest, you're missing the opportunity to help them learn from it.

The elephant in the room is literacy skills.

People still whinge that "boys don't read" (and yes, this is mainly a gendered problem, for now) and then hand them a diet of prize winning lyrical stories about social issues and sharing, or else zany fart orientated comedy. Of course these do engage, but only a proportion of the audience.  

Children, like adults, have their own preferred genres and it seems odd - perverse - to expect the kids who'll grow up to read Simon Scarrow or David Weber, and who go home to play Halo or Call of Duty,  to want to settle down to Michael Morpurgo's liesurely plotting.

As it stands, it is stupidly difficult to get realistic children's books about soldiers and soldiering. Of the classics, only Rosemary Sutcliff gets past the filters, but you can still find second hand copies of Ronald Welch's excellent "young officer finds his feet while experiencing the tragedy of war in a variety of settings" stories. The modern but little known books by Jim Eldridge, a former soldier, are good, and boosted Kurtzhau's reading age overnight... especially the Black Ops series.

I think it's a bit like sex education: if kids can't read realistic books about soldiers, they get their ideas from odd places like computer games!  

The same goes for parental attitude.

If you ignore or censor their interests, you miss the opportunity to help them understand not just the hazards of war, but the moral issues around it:

"Glad you had fun playing laser tag; how many times did you die?"

 "Why is it important to take prisoners and not just shoot people?"

"What does collateral damage really mean? Is it ever justified?"

If you engage with their interest, you can also help them toward appreciating and understanding the context, most obviously the history and politics, but also the life lessons to be learned from the decision making and engineering, for example the parable of the Panther and the T34 (tldr: "Good enough now is sometimes better than perfect, later.")

You can even view stories about soldiers and soldiering as workplace adventures, since most of them hinge on office politics and team building.

And, in this context, the violent video games are just another learning tool, for all that they are also fun and a way to let off steam.

The third cost is more nebulous: imagined agency.

Children don't have a lot of real agency, and, not only is it hard for a child to imagine modern adult agency, it's also not very exciting. 

One of the reasons action stories are compelling is that the main conflict is explicit and easy to grasp, and character agency simple and tangible: you know who Sharpe is struggling with because they are trying to kill each other; and you know he has agency because he has a unit of men, a rifle, and that big French cavalry sword.

It's just much much easier to play soldiers in the garden, than aid worker, doctor or even adventurer. After a certain age, a child can only spend so long pretending to climb a mountain or pushing through the jungle undergrowth, but they can spend an entire afternoon enjoying  a running skirmish, especially if they have those cool laser tag guns that actually track hits.

If you take away the plastic gun (with it's don't-shoot-me orange cap), ban Call of Duty, and censor books with guns and explosions on the cover, then -- to me -- it feels like you're saying, Don't imagine making important decisions, balancing risks, or being proactive. 

* * * 

If you don't mandate a pacifist childhood, then you still have to have some kind of policy. For what it's worth, we have evolved the following de facto rules for imaginative play, books and video games:

  • Nothing where you just run round going "bang" - no character shields, you must respect the imagined hazards.
  • No war crimes (including especially torture and shooting civilians) or being a criminal.
  • No racism or misogyny (unless it's the bad guys doing it - as Kurtzhau put it when playing one of the Bioshock games, "Shooting racists is good, right Dad?")
  • No contemporary military settings - at least until the child is old enough to understand the real context and, most importantly, not spout off about the campaign in public, thus causing offense to veterans and real soldiers, or their loved ones.
  • If anything gives you nightmares, that's your problem. Please don't wake us up.
  • We buy and wear Red Poppies and think about what that means.

It is of course possible we are bad parents. There are also other ways of handling all this. What's your experience? Where do you stand?


M Harold Page is the sword-wielding author of books like Swords vs Tanks (Charles Stross: "Holy ****!") and is planning some more historical fiction. For his take on writing,  read Storyteller Tools: Outline from vision to finished novel without losing the magic (Ken MacLeod: "...very useful in getting from ideas etc to plot and story." Hannu Rajaniemi: "...find myself to coming back to [this] book in the early stages.")

162 Comments

1:

And the parable of the M4 (Sherman) and the Tiger - Quantity has a quality all of its own.

2:

I'm not a parent, but other than being from a time "Before Video Games" this sounds a lot like my childhood, and I'm well balanced (ok except that I think that racists and religious extremists are legitimate targets unless they're trying to surrender).

3:

When I had my first child, I was given two pieces of parenting advice that I've tried to keep to:

1) Only place limits on your child when they're not mature enough to handle the consequences of their actions.

2) Teach your child to build a consistent model of "good" and "bad", and to think through the consequences of their actions.

Point 1 means that it's OK to let a child touch a radiator - it's hot, it'll hurt, but it won't damage. It's not OK to let them pull a pan of boiling water off the stove - the damage is permanent. As part of this, though (point 2), you need to ensure that your child has a good mental model of what will happen when they touch the radiator. Over time, this model gets better, they get better about consequences, and you can discuss the outcome of wars etc, knowing that your child has enough context to realise what's going on.

4:

One interesting thing about humans is not how violent we are, but how violent we are not. Most military training programmes work to try to make their intake of young people (historically usually young men) think of their unit as their family, and act as a team protecting that unit. However, no matter how much conditioning you put onto them, it still takes quite an effort to make people kill other people.

Furthermore there seems to have been a rather strange hormonal shift back in the Stone Age, when male skulls started to look a lot less exaggeratedly masculine. The only explanation is that male testosterone levels in adolescence dropped; certainly human males now grow up somewhat differently to how they historically developed. Modern people grow beards much sooner than they historically used to, and probably stop growing much sooner than was historically the case. One case that I do know of, likely an extreme one, was the people of the Medieval village of Wharram Percy, who seemed to carry on growing until almost in their thirties, with an average at death only just into their forties!

Modern people seem a lot less aggressive than they have been historically, and humans are much, much less aggressive than are comparable apes and monkeys.

5:

I have no problem with kids shooting laser guns at monsters and robots. I have no trouble with Lara Croft shooting neo-Nazis trying to call up demons from ancient ruins and what not. The first thing Call of Duty Black Ops 2 asked me to do was machete rebels in the Congo. It had an "elite" team from the 1980s which consisted of white men with WASP and Irish surnames. Even fucking WWII movies had "ethnics" and people of color. They retconned the Afghan rebels into betraying their "real enemy" America. So I would ban Call of Duty based on your principles (and mine.) Plus it would teach them "history" and "strategy" they would have to unlearn later.

But I have no problem with shooters per se or with children playing them, in balance with a dozen other activities and as long as people are actually talking to their kids about what they are experiencing.

6:

Crime is down, Violence is down. The Video Game Era is the safest era in human history. (It may be more tied to abortion or leaded gas actually).

The other thing is male hunting behavior and bonding rituals are probably easily explained by this. Now there is a bit of a risk of gendering all things. Boys do tend to like war a bit more than girls though.

Besides when hormones hit, juvenile males need a productive and harmless way to vent. In moderation, these games are fine. And even those 'harmless' games can hide a lot of sadism. People destroying towns in Simcity, or lives in the Sims.

The big trick is kids need more than one things in their life. An outdoor activity along with the video games. A few sports and academic clubs to try out. Maybe they don't care for soccer, but do end up meshing well with the swim team. Maybe chess club doesn't work, but maybe debate does.

7:

While Tom Clancy is, indeed, rich, he also died three years ago. So I'm not certain if that counts as a win.

8:

The sad and amazing thing about such parenting decisions is how inconsequential they are.

You sweat, worry and discuss issues about how best to raise them. But in the long run kids raised all sorts of different ways turn out just fine.

9:

I agree with that. I would also say that people are rarely matched with the child they would be the optimal parent for. At some point you just have to say, "I've done what I've done and now it's up to random cosmic forces what happens to them."

10:

A series of 'why did you do X' and 'what if' can provide a kid good exercise in anticipating consequences. Rescues are harder to plan and provide a humane reason for the activity vs. just killing off 'bad guys'. Also, some kids will change their tactics depending on who-all are playing and what roles they're playing ... shows they're paying attention to different friends' abilities and tendencies. Taking turns being the good or the bad guys is interesting because some kids never want to be the bad guy even though the only joy these kids seem to get out of playing is shooting everyone.

11:

Happy childhood memories of digging trenches, emplacing heavy machineguns and learning bayonet charge techniques, here.

12:

@3 I heard similar advice before (and after) the birth of my child (age 2): that my job as a parent was to allow my children to make mistakes while shielding them from any *permanent* consequences. A 6-year-old mouthing off to an authority figure or taking something that isn't theirs gets a life lesson and a punishment; a 22-year-old who never learned that lesson gets potentially life-altering consequences. A 13-year-old who is redirected from going to kid parties and being unsupervised with other kids ends up a 20-something without the social skills to form relationships with strangers. Everything in life takes practice, and the point of childhood is to practice everything you can in an environment where it's safe to take risks.

13:

Back when I had Sim games on my desktop, it got so that my favorite thing to do with Sim Earth was to drop a rock into the Atlantic Ocean, wipe out all life, and then watch thing go on from there.

14:

One of my favorite scenes in George R.R. Martin's Armageddon Rag (the novel of his I like best) has the viewpoint character visit a commune where one of his old college friends is raising her children to believe in peace and love, with no exposure to violence. On the way out he sees two of the boys playing at being a couple of Marvel Comics characters in a fight. . . .

15:

Something like that happened in real life. Google "games without frontiers" -- not the song, but the actual games after which the song is named.

16:

We'll confess to being inconsistent...

I'm not too keen on first-person shooters (see: Grossman), but allow the boys to play Destiny. My beloved isn't keen on letting the boys join the Rifle Club at their school, but bought them several Nerf guns. We wanted out kids to grow up gentle, but encourage them in a full-contact martial art (Judo). We've put off the whole shooting-as-a-sport thing by pointing out that both parents are experienced coaches, and if anyone is going to teach them it would better if it were us...

Firstborn is an advanced reader; he "got" a lot of Toby Frost, because he'd already devoured a few of the classics such as Dune (admit it, you giggled at the mystical art of Shau Teng). His Warhammer 40K habit meant that he wanted to read "Black Library" books set in the 40Kverse, I just got a bit nervous about the approach of the books to war.

So, before he was allowed to read them, I insisted that he read "HMS Ulysses" and "Quartered Safe Out Here", just to add some context (I considered "The Cruel Sea", but didn't want to push it). Not to worry, while he read William Dietz, I also threw in Linda Nagata's excellent "Red" series. Dan Abnett's "Embedded" was fun, too...

My best man (similarly, a reservist infantryman) and I agreed that we wanted our sons to grow up gentle if possible. Because we knew that it's a lot easier to condition in aggression to a gentle lad, than to train self-control into an aggressive one...

17:

Can't recall which video game this is - but at least one single-shooter game's reward for the 'hero'/single-shooter depends on his behavior over the course of the mission. If he shoots every enemy during his mission, he gets offed on his way to collecting his reward.

18:

Obligatory reference: Saki's short story, "The toys of Peace". Pre- WWI. This is in no way a recent discussion.
http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/ToysPeac.shtml

Personally I have no objection to "violent" games (i.e. make believe games involving weapons), but I wouldn't insist on five year old kids learning realistic weapon-handling and squad-based tactics. I value imagination in kid's games over verisimilitude. It would be like correcting their lego creations to make them conform to some adult engineering standard (which my engineer dad used to do, and which I hated). They'll get there eventually if they're inclined.

19:

In another thread on this blog, there was a comment pointing out that the world is sliding backwards exactly as World War II fades from living memory. (I paraphrase, of course.)

This blog post seems to be exactly the way in which that happens. Declaring war games progressive and conscribing opposite notions into the loonie bin of history.

Based on the given anecdote, neither the son of the local clergyman nor little Kurtzhau actually asked about how to most effectively spray bullets from a submachine gun or specifics of conquering open terrain. Talk about your vs. the child's "principals"...

And playing war games to "fit in"? Is it already that bad that a child is significantly less likely to fit in if it does not play war? If yes, that in itself should send alarmbells ringing. (in this context: #12 imho scrutinizing authority is a good skill for a 6-year old to learn.)

And make no mistake: self-efficacy, confidence, team work, you name it... all of these can be learned, arguably better, in sports or other hobbies.

Although I should say that my actual beef with this blog post is not in itself the specific content: I played "Doom"/"Wing Commander"/"Unreal Tournament" on the computer, and Cowboy vs. Indians and whatnot in real life, and will ultimately let my kids play those, or whatever is en vogue then. Not every game that has a gun or contains the words "pew, pew" are war games.

20:

Sorry, in the last paragraph I meant to write:

"Although I should say that my actual beef with this blog post is not in itself the specific content: It is the apparently unreflected leveling of different types of (conflict) play with war games, the apparently total disregard for (scientifically accepted) childhood stages, and an uncritical ignorance on why (certain aspects of) war games can be harmful to begin with. I played "Doom" [...]"

21:

Good post ... thanks!

Even the US Surgeon General came out with a warning about violent play and childhood development. (And you may recall how long the USSG took to publicly recognize the link between tobacco and cancer ...?) At this point, claiming that violent play has no consequences is akin to being a climate-change denier.


http://www.apa.org/action/resources/research-in-action/protect.aspx

Intro - excerpt:

'Hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may:

become "immune" or numb to the horror of violence
begin to accept violence as a way to solve problems
imitate the violence they observe on television; and
identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers

Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see. Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may show immediately in the child's behavior or may surface years later. Young people can be affected even when their home life shows no tendency toward violence.

While TV violence is not the only cause of aggressive or violent behavior, it is clearly a significant factor. Parents can protect children from excessive TV violence in the following ways: ....'

Re post 8 ... Some kids may grow up okay despite their parents because someone else within their developmental circle of influence cared enough to teach them how to be a human. Similarly re: physical development: families where the parents never cook but the kid gets adequate nutrition because the kid's school cafeteria provides nutritious meals and/or he/she spends most evenings/weekends at his/her friends' homes. That's not parenting, that's running a rooming house.

22:

The Surgeon General warning appears to be against having children watch violent movies. Given that the current level of violence in most 'violent' media is much higher than you'd expect to survive in a war zone...that isn't surprising. Our child doesn't get to watch violent movies...and...honestly...won't. Our worst problem is adds for video games showing up in youtube. Such nightmare fuel.

It doesn't necessarily follow that [given that watching multiple dismemberments and mass murders for hours on end has negative effects] that playing with a bow and arrows in the backyard is anything other than positive.
Martial arts training might reasonably be expected to have analogous effects. Review articles indicate that it is at least possible and more likely probable that martial arts training seems to improve disposition and decrease aggressiveness.

Unlike global warming, [I really hate climate change as a label.]* it is perfectly reasonable to believe that violent play is normal and healthy and that stopping little children from playing is actively unhealthy. Boys denied war play tend to disengage or find covert substitutes.

--Erwin
*Okay. First off, in academia, changing the name of your field of research is what you do after the research failed so thoroughly that no decent journal will publish any more. That's exactly what quantitative image analysis is in mammography, as explained by an expert in the field. Second off, there's a very robust argument related to CO2 infrared absorption that increasing CO2 concentrations will raise global temperatures. The fossil record seems to bear this out nicely. I'm very skeptical of anyone casting doubt on global warming - those doubts tend to reflect more on their character or ignorance than on the scientific evidence. Climate change appears to be the assertion that, because things are getting warmer, the climate will change in unpredictable ways. Climate change isn't necessarily wrong, but it is harder to test. If someone doubts the validity of climate change, I'd listen without assuming logic along the lines of, 'CO2 doesn't cause problems because a carbon tax is bad.'

23:

Review articles indicate that it is at least possible and more likely probable that martial arts training seems to improve disposition and decrease aggressiveness.

From a kid point of view, the culture around the martial probably matters as much as the actual form. If you're learning karate at the local school-to-prison factory the lessons are likely to be quite different from even the most overblown judo gladatorial arena. The latter being all about collecting ribbons for winning fair fights in a decent way, and the former... scars for winning? I may be biased, the only thing that stopped me being thrown out of karate was the demonstrated inability of the criminal in charge to throw me at all. Ahem. Back to judo with my tail between my legs I did go.

24:

Also, how the material is presented. I can imagine someone keeping kids enthralled by teaching actual infantry tactics, and I can imagine some pompous twit getting all the kids to work out a way to actually kill him (in self-defence, obviously, bored to death being the alternative).

I know taking the back off an old CRT TV had my cousins in raptures for about an hour when I was baby-sitting once. And not just because it was forbidden, even a 6 year old can understand sparks :)

25:

Regarding the use of "Global warming" or "Climate change", I recall reading 15 or 20 or so years ago, some people or organisations wanted to use climate change, because in terms of local weather fluctuations it was better than global warming.
However there has never been, to the best of my knowledge, any sort of scientific consensus or political consensus of the best label to use. I read an interesting article on it nearly a decade ago, but the nearest i can find is this:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-change-global-warming.htm

Which indicates that both have been around and used for decades. Moreover, that article says:

"The second premise is also wrong, as demonstrated by perhaps the only individual to actually advocate changing the term from 'global warming' to 'climate change', Republican political strategist Frank Luntz in a controversial memo advising conservative politicians on communicating about the environment:"


26:

It's at best foolish and at worst dangerous to raise children who are ignorant of violence. We humans are and have always been an extremely violent species. What matters is not where we've come from, but what we plan to do about it.

There are undoubtedly children who are adversely affected by seeing too much violence -- particularly when no context or thought is given to its meaning -- just as there are undoubtedly children who aren't affected by violence. The latter probably have a better grasp of the world and their position in it than most of the former group.

As parents, I think our role is to understand our children well enough to know the kind of guidance they need to cope with a violent world without themselves contributing to the problem. We need to teach them history so they can avoid repeating the parts of it that shouldn't be repeated. War is part of history, and also needs to be taught. None of htis is at all easy, and I say this as someone who lives in one of the safest countries in the world (Canada). Among other things, I've tried to educate my children to the fact that the relative lack of violence we experience is not shared by all Canadians (people of color, people of different religions, LGBT folk, etc.).

We make the world a better place not by hiding from it, but rather by engaging with it and seeking solutions. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that war toys and games are the solution, but as a bit of anecdata, I can say that I grew up playing war games, both IRL and on the screen, have read most of what David Weber has written, and have occasional violent thoughts when confronted by dangerous idiots (ahem, Trump, ahem). Yet here I am one of the most pacifistic souls you're likely to meet. Q.E.D. *G*

27:

Guthrie noted: "Regarding the use of "Global warming" or "Climate change", I recall reading 15 or 20 or so years ago, some people or organisations wanted to use climate change, because in terms of local weather fluctuations it was better than global warming."

This is an example of why I'm on record as saying that scientists should not be allowed to speak to the public without adult supervision. (And I say this as a science editor with a fairly intense science background and who has worked with scientists for nearly 35 years.) They simply lack the training, and they don't really understand anything about the needs of their audience. (For every Neil deGrasse Tyson, there are gazillions who are completely incoherent when speaking to civilians.)

Global "warming" makes no sense to the typical U.S. citizen, who has minimal training in science and can't understand how warming gave them last year's -20C temperatures due to weather in Canada. (It doesn't help that all U.S. weather maps end at the Canadian border, as if nothing exists beyond that point.) Calling this "warming" makes no sense, and creates opposition from a combination of suspicion that you're being lied to and fear that there's something complex but important that you're not getting.

"Climate change" is much clearer and more accurate. It's also more complex, but if you don't start the dialogue by encouraging your audience to think that you don't know what you're talking about, you're not going to communicate successfully about the problem. Get them listening to something they can accept as vaguely plausible, and you have a chance to communicate some of that complexity and create an ally.

28:

Geoff, you do know that as soon as you claim to be an editor you're going to commit some kind of editorial disaster, I assume.

if you don't start the dialogue by encouraging your audience to think that you don't know what you're talking about

Mission accomplished! :)

29:

Getting back on track, I'm going to pitch out a couple of ideas that largely get overlooked.

--Violence has changed over time. For example, we've had US presidents as presumably corrupt and incompetent as El Cheeto Grande (paging Harding and Jackson), but they didn't have nuclear arms under their sole control or the imperial presidency to screw up with. Context matters.

More to the point of this discussion, "primitive war" would be labeled gang violence now. When we compare the rates of war over time, we need to factor in current criminal violence, guerrilla war, and all that other gnarly stuff, just to make sure we're not getting fooled by a frame shift in how wars are conducted. There's still a lot of violence out there, and just because we've had lessons in the carnage inflicted by firebombing and nukes and tried to avoid doing it again, it doesn't follow that people have stopped knifing each other over turf.

Another concept that everyone needs to work more with is the spectrum of force. This ranges from verbal altercation to nuclear war, with every shade in between. Cops specialize in dealing with one segment, SWAT teams with another, Marines with a third, Coast guard with a fourth, SAS with a fifth, artillery with a sixth, and missileers with a seventh. And I can keep going ad nauseum. It's worth realizing that playing a game based on one part of the spectrum doesn't necessarily translate to another. For example, playing the old card game "nuclear war" doesn't make you better at unarmed combat. I don't mind kids playing with the various levels, but it's worth teaching them that different skills apply to different parts of the spectrum, and there is no such thing as a universal soldier. Helping them get skilled at the part of the spectrum they'll inhabit as adults doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Along with that, I was stunned recently when a researcher pointed out that wrestling, in some form, is pretty much universal in humans, but that things like hand-to-hand combat, weapon-based violence, and so on, are not (there's a huge diversity in the latter). This is critically important, as it suggests that wrestling is fundamentally different from other forms of violence. In traditional societies like parts of Australia (where this researcher was based), wrestling was seen as a peaceful competition between groups, in stark contrast to war, where the goal was to kill members of other groups using a totally different set of techniques and tools. If you think about this, it's pretty universal. Yes, wrestling can get amped into a form of unarmed combat, but in general, it's a sport, a way for young men to compete without killing each other.

There may be some untapped biology here, as a lot of mammals play wrestle, and it's a different behavior than killing for them. In this spirit, I'd suggest that letting boys wrestle is not (necessarily) a way of making them more violent. While this isn't to put down karate and friends, perhaps we make a mistake by lumping wrestling, boxing, and martial arts together as variations on one thing.

30:

My parents, crunchy granola flower children that they were, were utterly adamant that I would not own toy guns. And so the yardstick my mother used for sewing became a rifle for much of my childhood, as well as basically anything else that was vaguely shaped like a gun when the play demanded it.

We now have two boys and I have never given them a toy gun, only because birthday gifts have seen to it that we have a yard full of nerf and water weaponry in various states of repair.

I am quite certain that if I didn't let my boys run around pretending to shoot each other they would either act out in other ways (i.e. light my house on fire out of boredom) or they would transition into sullen couch potatoes.

Honestly, when there are a gang of them running around shouting 'bang bang' and playing capture the flag etc, I see it as an excellent activity. It involves multiple ages of child (mostly but not all boys), multiple roles and tasks, constant negotiation focused on keeping the game 'fair' enough that everyone wants to keep playing.

Yes, it reflects some fascination with the abstract notion of war. Video games, in some ways, are even more abstract (while also being more real-ish).

Yet my kids understand the difference between real and make believe. We all do if we are functioning humans. When my brother-in-law talked about his high school friend who suicided shortly after returning from a tour in Kandahar, my boy was greatly disturbed by how that poor man had been ruined by his experiences in war.

It is a different thing and we all know it, excepting those of us who have a drum to beat. The moral panic about Grant Theft Auto is a classic example. A very well written and realized series of games are excoriated and the subject of much pearl clutching and vapours attacks, almost entirely by people who have never once actually tried the game(s).

The GTA games are not what people think they are, but the issue people have is that it is possible to behave reprehensibly within the game. It is also possible to behave altruistically (within the context of a criminal life, anyway). Apparently games are only acceptable if they restrict players to make only the most morally appropriate choices - meaning they are not actually choices. Yet we see much worse in almost every other form of media.

31:

Very rarely do I see in the "warming change" debates any mention of particulates (aside from cloud formation). Is it not commonly understood that inhalation of soot is bad for health (especially for children and the elderly)?

Even if global warming/climate change is a huge conspiracy, shouldn't that be reason enough to transition away from burning old fuels for power? Can't be done tomorrow, but why oppose any progress? Renewable energy tech has progressed so rapidly in the last half century, and I know no reason why that should not continue in the bear-to-mid future.

Maybe, maybe, because that pollution can be shipped overseas? But if Trump wants to bring all the jobs back to the United States, maybe there will be some more discussion around this. Good thing they already have decent knowledge of solar panel manufacturing and installation.

Back on topic - I can personally attest to the validity of #22 and #26. I won't watch violent TV. OK, I watch TV (it's mostly violent), but wanton torture or gore is a no go for me. At the same time, I loved laser tag as a kid and still enjoy violent FPS video games. Maybe I won't past the Uncanny Valley, I don't know (definitely will with Ender's Game).

Was it because of how my parents raised me? Maybe a lot. Certainly some of that influence is from my childhood friends and their parents. And some more came only through my own experiences.

32:

I'm sorry, but my war nerd impulses will not let me stay silent:

The Panther was *not* a "perfect later" solution. The Panther had a transmission that would reliably fall apart before the damn thing even ran out of fuel for the first time. The Panther was, if it managed to limp onto the battlefield in operable condition, effective at the tactical scale. However, it's absolutely abysmal logistical and mechanical issues--worse than the Tiger, even!--meant that operationally and strategically, it was no more, and often a damn bit less, effective than the later Panzer IV models. Tanks are tools for winning wars and Panthers were only ever useful for winning battles. Even if the Germans hadn't already been losing by the time they started rolling off the production line, this would have been true.

Sure it had a nice gun and sloped armor, but if you can't road march more than a hundred kilometers without the entire battalion needing to pull over to the side of the road to conduct major, invasive maintenance, you've got a lemon on your hands. Early T34s had maintenance issues as well, but never on the scale of the Panther. Not even close.

If anything, the Panther is the story of the good reputation of German engineering, even when it's not deserved.

33:

That quote was by Stalin, about the T34, compared to the Panzer IVs.

34:

His Warhammer 40K habit meant that he wanted to read "Black Library" books set in the 40Kverse, I just got a bit nervous about the approach of the books to war.

Yeah, good call. I am fascinated by WH40K but the big problem with the Black Library books is that they don't make clear that the humans are also the bad guys. Lots of war crimes get tossed into the mix with nary a peep, and meanwhile all the (fascist, genocidal, exterminationist) Spaaace Mehreens are treated like heroes, both in text and in how the characters speak to and about them.

35:

Picking up your points from #32 through #34 inc:-

#32 - Agreed; I suspect that the issue is with the number of people who look at the guns and armour of tanks, but never look at the MTBF of the engine and/or transmission.

#33 - I couldn't have said "Stalin" or that context, but I'd suggest that it's more than equally true in the case that I posited?
Also, and I suspect you know this, it's probably one of the most frequently used without attribution quotes of WW2?

#34 - I've never read a WH40K book (or played the game) but suspect that there isn't actually a "good guy" in that universe (or if there is it's the Eldar?)

36:

32 - Yeah, exactly. People forget that the purpose of a tank is not to win armor duels, though that does happen, but rather to win the fucking war. The most important part of winning is showing up, and no tank showed up in more places than the T-34. Why? Because you could drive it for days on end and it wouldn't spontaneously fall apart.

This is not to say that the T-34s never suffered mechanical failure--all tanks do, even to this day. But the weakness of the Panther really was something abnormal. By day 6 of the Battle of Kursk, for instance, only 10 of 184 Panthers available were still operational. Most Panthers that were out of action not been damaged by enemy fire. Later in the war the problems were ameliorated somewhat, but were never fully resolved.

Panther commanders found themselves chained to the nearest rail line, since that was the only reliable way to relocate over distances of more than about 20 kilometers. Since the Panther was on the defensive for its entire career, they could somewhat work around the problem, but to be honest at that point German resources would have been better spent upgrading their StuG line of assault guns, which were great for defensive fighting and more importantly didn't break down when the driver farted too hard.

33 - yeah, it's often stripped of context, and isn't exactly wrong in other contexts, but given that we were speaking precisely of the issue he made that quote to fit, it seemed impossible to resist pointing it out.

34 - Correct. There are, offically, No Good Guys in the WH40K universe. Someone forgot to tell the Games Workshop staff, however, since they have an unabashed hero worship for the Speece Mahreens and some parts of the Imperial Guard (which are now called some weird doglatin name for copyright reasons but fuck'em they can't control me because I'm a rebel). One of the reasons I really wish they'd hire me to write a book for them--and also the reason they never will--is that I'd take a big bloody ax to the unconscious assumptions of most contemporary WH40K media.

37:

My own personal experience: I was a kid in the end of '70 and start of '80.

My mother, being a pacifist and believing in the importance of education and all that, tried to grow me up in a totally non-violent way: we had no tv in the house, and at first she only bought for me plushies, toy cars, Lego and other educational toys.

Notwithstanding this, I started fabricating toy gun with branches, create fortress and tanks and organize dolls like soldiers and other such things.
I always loved Lego over everything else, but the things I built with them were hardly pacific ones.

I even started reading and greatly enjoyed SF by delving in SF like E.E.Doc Smith, where the heroes routinely perform genocides as problem solving.
After a while seeing this she relented, and I greatly enjoyed creating armies of toy soldiers, I studied weapon system statistics and so on, read war-based comics and growing up as a teen I enjoyed in particular strategy games and so on.
Obviously also went on studying martial arts, fencing and so on.

Still, as soon as the first surge of hormones started subsiding as a late teen, I quickly became a very pacifist, liberal-minded, socially-progressive, economically socialist and environmentally conscious guy.

The lessons about consequences, perspective, empathy that I got as a kid started clicking not only in abstract form, and I recognized what was really important and "good" and what was not.

There is still a part of me that sings when seeing a nice piece of military hardware, be it a fighter jet or a nifty sword, and I see no trouble appeasing that part of me in an innocuous way by enjoy some virtual entertainment form like conquering the world in a strategy game or playing a very retrogressive barbarian in an rpg session with friends, but that part is not in charge, not even close.

My personal conclusion, even if it may not be true in all cases, is that it's likely quite useless to fight those innate tendencies *directly*: some level of fascination for violence, power and so on is there, stronger or weaker depending on the individual, and you will not eradicate it.
Buuut, you can fight it by putting it into context, giving the tools to understand the consequences, and instilling the proper values. Critical thinking will do the rest once the peson will mature.
I recognize in myself the seeds for a very different individual than the one I grow up to be, a violent, reactionary a****le, but I was lucky enough to having been given the tools to understand, think, and choose.

An anecdote not a data point make, still, throwing it out there...:p

38:

32 - We're in agreement here; must be reliable.

33 - I tend to use it only in places where sheer numbers have beaten "great kit and/or elite troops".

34 - {Passes you a file, for removing GW copyright numbers} ;-)

39:

That's a really interesting point. I suspect some martial arts - particularly Judo and maybe taekwando - can be included in the wrestling section, whereas others are specifically designed around hurting people - Krav Maga or Muay Thai for example.

But definitely the culture surrounding the sport or martial art has a huge impact. I know people who do MMA as a form of exercise, working out of gyms that treat it as a sport, yet MMA emerged out of televising vale tudo and the underground street fighting scenes, where the more violent the better. It takes a certain frame of mind to merge the two.

Getting back to the original point, I don't think that the games children play or the toys they play with are likely to make them more or less liable to be violent as adults. I do think that the attitudes of the society and the culture they grow up in will, and wonder if a lot of it has to do with population density.

As an outsider, the US and Canada are effectively equivalent countries - both are large, modern and westernised with borders that have long been safe and a relatively diverse population.
Yet the US has a big problem with violence, with rapes and violent crime at a rate of 16-150% more than their neighbour.

Looking at the homicide stats a bit closer, the US figures for the Northern states are similar to Canada, whereas the South is up to six times that again. So what is it about the South that makes it so much more violent than the rest of the US? Stats here

40:

I agree too many lessons from WWII are being forgotten (like not voting for adventure, fun and excitement) but banning violence from books, movies and games was never one of those lessons and, if it were at all possible, it would in all probability make things a lot worse. Hitler wasn't stopped by legions of grim pacifists strongly disapproving his regime; that is one of those lessons apparently being forgotten...

Besides, we have behind us at least 60 years of violent TV. The first generation of kids used to watching violence on screens at home every day has already retired. We can safely say they didn't become cold blooded killers immune to the horror of violence, and our society didn't become more violent, quite the opposite. Comparisons with global warming will have to wait until 2050 or later.

Also, my experience is the same as others reported here. If kids are forbidden to play with 'violent' toys, they will learn to make their own in a matter of minutes.

41:

Not so much offed, but the Metro series is an FPS with neo-nazis and neo-Stalinists and mutant monsters where the character's choices influence the possible outcomes. If you play as a murderous bastard, you'll die in the end, if you avoid killing when possible you (and yours) will survive.

42:

I do find it plausible that the violent content in some movies / TV could be detrimental and desensitizing to children. Qualitatively, the difference between that content and snuff films is that fewer people die and there's less blood in the snuff films. I kind of suspect humans didn't normally see violence on anything approaching those scales prior to very recent history.

Violent toys though - unless you believe in continuous supervision - your choice is between purchased and home-built. Given that a former boss shot his friend in the head with a homemade bow and arrows (fortunately - no permanent harm done) - I prefer nerf. When I was a wee laddie, my mother was quite cautious about buying weapon-like toys. As a result, my siblings used real knives when our parents weren't home...with a pact to make sure our parents never found out.**

--Erwin
*Renewable...glak. Here's the thing. We have one energy source with enough economically viable fuel to power civilization for the next thousand years. It has zero carbon impact. And releases fewer radioactives than coal. At most minor research breakthroughs are required to switch over to a clean, essentially unlimited source of power. We have another energy source. It works fine as long as the sun is shining. And requires occupying large portions of our world's surface. Unfortunately, we also have no economically viable means of storing power. Which means that, regardless, we need a second set of energy sources to deal with long winters. So. naturally, we focus on the source which has no chance of significantly impacting carbon emissions. And, even, a lot of people trying to switch to renewables will demonstrate against the first energy source.

Long-term, for human life on this planet, global warming is a significant impact. I'm out of date, but the last time I checked, burning all the coal reserves should result in global temperatures around 35 C. And, there's a fair amount of uncertainty there. It wouldn't be civilization ending, probably, but it would wipe out most of humanity. Big storms and climactic shifts will be costly - but - the choice of climate change looks like something calculated to create an artificial sense of urgency. I don't think it helps. The simple global warming argument is easy to understand. Climate change is complex - and unlikely to persuade people to take action because it is too complex for them to take the time to understand. I think that choice is a mistake.

**Also, particularly if you're a devout Christian, don't have the 14 year old watch the other six unless you want them to reenact scenes from the Bible. Apparently our neighbors kids started with the Crucifixion...annoying little brothers are less bothersome when they've been hung up by their thumbs.

43:

Highly amusing.

But - did the fuckwit parents learn from this, though?

44:

Great article, M! Nothing to disagree with, gonna grandstand on a few points loosely related to this.

This touches quite a bit on my professional life, where I work hawking books to vulnerable and impressionable younglings. I have thoughts.

My main thought is that we should stop talking to boys like they're stupid, hopeless little pigs devoid of compassion and empathy, on their way to becoming Trolls Against Democracy when they're on the whole sensitive lads who don't mind a little simulated bloodshed. The boys I encounter who enjoy violent literature are often the sweetest and most thoughtful among them. Also, stop trying to 'empower' girls by taking away their princess books while offering no alternative they'd be interested in. Breaking down gender norms is the fight of our lives, don't expect to win it by making children the enemy. My other main thought is that parents should read with their kids, and be prepared to negotiate on content. Third main point, books about sassy, punk-ass kids having fun and getting in trouble are always good, for both genders. In this respect, books for boys are always more imaginative but less funny, books for girls more down-to-earth but generally better, I would love to get more boys into books I like featuring wolf-like and delightfully feral young ladies. Ivy & Bean is my top pick, everyone with kids & a sense of humor and chaos should read this to them (and expect to talk to them about rules & expectations afterwards). I have more, lots more, in the form of lists.

Also, for dads in the picture, for the love of God, take an interest in your child's reading. Don't make it a 'mom' thing. Read with them. Buy them books. Talk to them about the books. If you son wants to read 'Booger-blaster Fart Boner' with you, do it, be enthusiastic, then crack open Wizard of Oz afterwards. If your daughter wants to read 'Princess Femmy Buttercup & The Shoes That Didn't Match the Skirt', don't see this as an insult to your masculinity to be involved. Moms have done so much for children the last few million years or so, dad, not so much. This changes, the world gets better in a few decades, dad's gotta do more. The future of Western civilization is literally residing on this, I'm not kidding, I'm not being hyperbolic.

45:

It occurs to me that if someone made a game like ARMA, but made sure that it had a compelling, playable, and bug-free single player campaign to go along with an accessible and well-structured multiplayer game, it might be a decent way to show little boys that they really don't want to go to war for trivial reasons.

"Hey Jimmy did you see how you only started being able to tell what was dangerous to do and what wasn't after about the eighth or ninth time you died without having time to react? How many do-overs do you think you'd have for real?"

The closest thing I ever saw to this was America's Army, which had some pretty unforgiving damage models built into a reasonably compelling multiplayer game. It was, alas, a recruitment tool, and was not just rah-rah let's-go-to-war but also cheesy about it, too. The idea for the game I'm talking about is to get kids not to want to fight, so adjustments would need to be made.

46:

Another parallel ...

Saying that because violence is inherent it therefore must be okay is (IMO) the same as saying sweets must be okay because kiddies naturally prefer sweets. Okay, both are hardwired into humans: they are impulses. But guess what: growing up means understanding and controlling one's impulses, not romanticizing them.

47:

For a reality check, esp. regarding child soldiers, read these:

Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD

AMZN excerpt:

'In this piercing memoir, CDN Roméo Dallaire, retired general and former senator, the author of the bestsellers Shake Hands with the Devil and They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, and one of the world's leading humanitarians, delves deep into his life since the Rwandan genocide.'

Below: Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children Trailer (2:39)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrXFdXloS2c

48:

Moz, you caught me out. As my excuse, I invoke the philosophy that only God is perfect, and that one should intentionally commmit errors to avoid seeming hubristic.

That's my story and I'm a'sticking to it! *G*

49:

'Princess Femmy Buttercup & The Shoes That Didn't Match the Skirt'

Please tell me that's a real book. Or write it. Because I am laughing just at the title, the book could easily be brilliant.

And Geoff, I was pointing out the law that says it's not possible to make a claim like that without having a major error. People like you make printers sweat bullets, because they know that no matter what they do your business cards will read "edditor" or something equally obvious.

50:

The cynical answer to the riddle of American violence is our long history of slavery and genocidal expansion. American capitalism was built on the backs of slaves, just as the New England financial industry was built around slave labor (remember the triangle trade?), parts of the insurance industry were built around it, the American cotton industry was built around it, and so forth.

Why yes, the British Empire profited from slavery too, until it got more into subjugation without ownership, and found that industrial equipment could work better than slaves. And outsourced slave ownership to the Americans.

In any case, there's a lot of cultural baggage around the idea that America=white and profits are rightly made on dispossessed brown backs, which is why "they" have to be kept down. There are books (The Half Has Never Been Told) that go into this in gruesome detail, but the culture of (industrial) white might is right is deeply woven into our social culture, our laws, politics, and so on. I'm not saying it's right either (it's not), although as a white male I benefit from it. Still, it's so deeply built into a culture that you can provoke whites into violent rages by so much as accusing them of racism ("Why, I never! The very idea!") or worse, pointing out that they're no different than the people they've looked down on their whole lives (which seems to be the equivalent of getting bitten by a werewolf for some people. They will take extreme action to make the Becoming the Other go away).

Probably I'm overgeneralizing, but I suspect that everything from the violence at Standing Rock to Black Lives Matter to the abuse that Obama dealt with to the current election come from a common set of memes that made a few white men rich and kept a lot of poor white men tolerating their station in life, because they weren't at the lowest rung (until now). It's worst in the South, but unfortunately, it's present everywhere. The advantage of northern US cities is that industrialization and massive immigration made urban whites a bit more used to everyone else.

If you want to see how insidious it gets, realize that illegal immigration has been an enormous financial windfall to big farmers who profiteered by paying substandard wages to illegals, and kept them under control with the threat of deportation if they spoke up. It's worth being intensely cynical about threats to deport illegals. What's happening here is that owners want, well, don't call them slaves, but unfree people laboring as hard as possible for as little as possible, simply to maximize profits. This kind of crap goes on all over the world, but it's particularly odious here.

I'm not sure how well democrats and populists will be able to turn the American Race War meme into a Class War meme, given our country's virulently anti-communist history. I suspect that any attempts to replace race with class will be met with violent opposition (cf: the history of the FBI).

51:

There's a case to be made, although it can be a slippery slope into glibnness, that the use and abuse of illegals, undocumented workers, call them what you will, in the USA and elsewhere is Slavery 2.0.

In the original version of plantation slavery in the US, the Caribbean and such the human capital assets were closely held in part because they had a large pricetag and upfront costs to obtain. They also had downside costs, feeding and clothing, securing them from escape, treating them when they were sick or injured etc. etc. The New Slavery is a cloud-based rental system with none of the financial downsides for the organisations that use the human assets. A farmer needs a crop harvested by hand, she talks to a gang boss, money changes hands and a couple of truckloads of swarthy folk turn up and do the work and then they go away again. The farmer is confident another team of workers will be there when she needs them next but they're not her responsibility. A meat-packing plant, same deal. Large e-retail warehouse, ditto. There are no shacks behind the big house, no darkies singing spirituals after the workday is over, just untraceable cash payments and no withholding, worker's comp, health insurance etc.

52:

I'm not sure it quite works that way, because there is housing (shanty level) for migrant laborers on many of the bigger farms, and some farmers work out deals wherein they see the same migrant laborers year after year.

What is happening is that workers are not tied to the land and cared for in the slack season, so they move nomadically from job to job throughout the year. They don't have to be "owned" by anyone to be less than free. I'm not sure there are historical precedents for this kind of migrant labor. If there are, it's in areas where nomadism was a lot more common and tolerated than it was in western Europe.

53:

Historical precedent... well, navvies in the UK, for a start. And seasonal agricultural workers. (Still much the same for them now, they just come from further away.)

54:

What is happening is that workers are not tied to the land and cared for in the slack season, so they move nomadically from job to job throughout the year.

That's absolutely the normal pattern for horticultural labour, and for many other kinds of farm labour. Shearers, for example, are a traditionally very strong labour force who you do not fuck with. The "wide comb dispute" in Australia saw government action to break the union, as one example.

But more generally, I grew up in an area that was full of people who worked seasonal jobs in a whole range of industries and did quite well out of it, right up until the neoliberal revolution cut their wages and conditions past the bone. Fishers and forestry workers had their seasons, tree fruit had their seasons (from pruning, thinning through to picking and packing), then the tail end of the vine fruit season after that.

They don't have to be "owned" by anyone to be less than free.

No, but the core factor is the wages paid. When I was starting high school you could make the adult average hourly wage picking berryfruit, which mean schoolkids could make good money and adults could do ok (the average wage for 8 weeks is not an annual income). By 10 years later a highly skilled adult working as fast as they could would be lucky to make minimum wage in the 2-3 week peak of the season.

Other conditions also matter. When you could rock up to the dole office with your final pay stub from the fruit picking job and sign up for payments starting that day that were enough to live on, picking fruit was a good way to boost your income and a perfectly viable way of life. But today, one day picking fruit means no dole for 6-12 weeks regardless of your actual income after that. Which makes it a high risk job. And when the pay is carefully calibrated to meet minimum wage at the peak of the season, there's no way for "dole bludgers" to make it work.

I will skirt around other changes, like the pay being enough for me to save in 3-4 summers enough to pay my way through a four year university degree. I left high school with enough saving to pay for university. These days a schoolkid would need to be in the top 10% of taxable incomes for four years to do that. Welcome to modern Australia, home of the fair go and an egalitarian mate's paradise.

55:

This is where it gets interesting, because I'm in California and you're in Australia, so we get different issues, as well as different immigrant communities.

56:

Very true. And not even slightly relevant to the original topic, so I will leave it there :)

57:

Over the entire course of the war, the majority of Panthers were in fact destroyed by the Germans, having broken down during one or another retreat.
A defence of the Sherman, however, requires rather more than a quantity/quality apposition; there's that 'Good enough' hurdle.

58:

And outsourced slave ownership to the Americans.
Not even wrong, I'm very sorry to say.
I would remind you that the anti-slavery movement in the UK was well underway, before the slave-owning colonies rebelled. [ Mansfield decision, 1772 ]
However, your other comments are unpleasantly true.
In the light of the sayings of the alt-right, now revealed to all, about "Until a generation ago this was a WHITE country" - which, of course wasn't true - are very troubling, to say the least.

59:

I invoke the philosophy that only God is perfect, and that one should intentionally commmit errors to avoid seeming hubristic.
You are being ironic/sarcastic - aren't you?

We all know that even if BigSkyFairy does exist, that he/she/it/they is/are undetectable & therefore totally irrelevant - did you miss ht message?

60:

"Hitler wasn't stopped by legions of grim pacifists strongly disapproving his regime; that is one of those lessons apparently being forgotten..."

So true. Hitler was stopped by millions of Russian soldiers sent to their certain deaths by a ruthless Soviet Russian dictator who had killed other millions of his own people virtually at random before the war had even started, would continue to kill millions more, and would subjugate entire countries, allegedly "liberated", for half a century.

But some people don't know that because nationalist glorification frequently skews the actual events of WW II in favour of their nation's military achievements. That's one of the reasons I am so critical of war play, because to children it normalises activities that instead they should have been told by their parents not to do (even if they would do it anyway).

See, my parents - who still witnessed WW II as children - told me never to "pew pew" shoot at people. Not with toy guys, not with sticks imagined to be toy guns, not even with fingers. I did it anyway, of course, but I was always aware that it was better not to. My parents didn't meant to turn me into a pacifist (which I don't think I am), they just remembered what the Hitler Youth had tried to do. They just wanted to impress on me that killing people is not a game.

61:

I am mortified that I accidentally scheduled this a week early and missed out on joining in the discussion!

62:

Thanks for the praise further up. Quite a number of good and informative points in your posts, thanks! I'm starting to suspect however that despite the topic of the post, many commenters are less interested in findings of empirical child psychology and more in tank engineering. Because tank engineering really tells you what is good for a child.

63:

People as whole don't run around randomly killing people, and mostly historically didn't, even in more violent times.

It follows that most kids in most cultures grow up knowing "killing people is not a game" - presumably they can separate fantasy from reality, and see the behavior of "not spree killing" modelled around them.

Discouraging such play therefore seems to me heavy-handed. I can see, however, that to people with certain life experiences, watching children do this could be very distressing.

64:

It's never too late to join in! It's your post after all.

65:

Kevin - we have similar attitudes. These days my daughter (9) has me read her HP Lovecraft. Not so long ago, it was "Ruby the Fairy Tale Hairdresser". There're all stories.

66:

Because tank engineering really tells you what is good for a child.

:) Yup. :) Key examples include the concept of design tolerance, and "design for manufacture"; that "excellence is the enemy of 'good enough'"; to fit the design requirements to the user's doctrine and circumstances (by sheer coincidence, there's currently an animated debate on the Army Rumour Service, on the nature of future tank design).

One of the advantages of being an Army brat came when our next-door neighbour in Germany took me up to the tank park for a morning to crawl around their kit (this being 1982 or so, before boring concepts like "Health and Safety"). Fifteen year olds should all be given a chance to drive a Chieftain out of a garage...

...but make no mistake, we understood the difference between "playing war" and "actual war". Hard to misunderstand it when ACTIVE EDGE was called of a night, and units crashed out to their deployment locations at a few hours' notice - or went off to Northern Ireland to keep the peace and didn't all come back. I was at a school that was founded as a military orphanage; that year, several kids in the school watched a parent sail off as part of the Op CORPORATE Task Force. The next year, the first children arrived who had lost a parent in that conflict.

The Pipe-Major of 2nd Bn The Scots Guards, composed a tune called "The Crags of Tumbledown"; it was part of the repertoire of our school pipe band - and one of our pipers had lost his father there.

67:

many commentators are less interested in findings of empirical child psychology and more in tank engineering.
That would be aimed at April_D and me? I won't speak for her, but I think you'll find that I did pretty much do an "AOL me too" post before April engaged me with some interesting comments.

Also, I'd suggest that "having something that has built in reliability is better than having something that doesn't" is a valuable lesson to teach children, and that the "tank engineering" discussion is a worked example from history.

68:

Problem is that the few that did kill ended up being praised/recorded as leaders in history.

If you're going to teach a kid war games, please also teach them the consequences. Most kids do not grow up as army brats learning about the real consequences of war such as the loss of a parent, a parent returning minus a limb or with hope/joy drained out of them (and they can't tell you why). Considering the crappy neo-nationalistic sentiment that's making headlines in several countries just now, kiddies' war games are taking on a different significance and are losing their innocent fantasy aspect.

69:

Mal, I can assure you I didn't need to be told that. While I'm well stocked in defects, Stalin-worship is definitely not amongst them... also if you ranked European countries by how far they are from Russia mine would win silver, I think, only behind Portugal. Soviet military achievements leave me so cold as US, German or Chinese ones.

Still I didn't agree with you saying that war games are being declared 'progressive and conscribing opposite notions into the loonie bin of history', I didn't agree that was 'sliding backwards', and I don't agree that kids making pew-pew at their friends 'normalises' violence... whatever that can mean (if anything 'normalize' seems to appear an awful lot of times related with someone trying to censor or forbid something)

In fact I think progressives that, like me, hold that the People (capital P) should be willing and prepared to fight for their freedoms are very much a minority, and becoming even more so. Still my model will keep being Switzerland. Weakness doesn't achieve peace nor freedom.

Also, of course killing people isn't a game. Who wouldn't agree? The problem is, you are assuming playing at certain games with certain toys will make kids think it is, and grow into cruel adults. That's where we disagree.

70:

Sorry, I was trying to be sarcastic about how this discussion should imho be informed by findings from child psychology (e.g. child development stages, what games teach kids what, etc.), but few commenters considered that. Instead I consider many comments unreflected and uncritical: "We played with sticks...", "Violence is part of childhood...", "Kids shouldn't be pampered..."

If you're saying that there are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned from WW II engineering, you're preaching to the converted. ;) The A4/V2 was an engineering marvel but a strategic blunder because it consumed manpower and resources (more than the Manhattan project, some say) without strategic impact. The Me 262 was ahead of its time, too, but a strategic bomber or more piston-engine fighters might have been more useful. The Me 163 was an impressive waste. The Tiger I was overengineered and the T34 simple, but robust and reliable. I actually understand that in hindsight the failure of the allies to provide heavy tanks as opposition to the Panthers and Tigers on the Western front is judged a mistake as large quantities of medium tanks did not have the desired effect? In any way, a lot of history of engineering here.

Now, let me invite you to stay in history, but let's take a step away from engineering. Look at how uncritical German military followed Hitler's deeds, often because they had been raised to believe that duty and honor were more important than integrity and ethics, that a superior's command was without reproach, that being in the military, "serving your country", was the highest things of all to aspire to.

In other words, glorification of war and army.

I'm simplifying for brevity, of course. But in short that's why we should be crticial not so much of conflict play (Cowboy vs. Indians, Police vs. Thieves, let's say), but of anything that serves to set kids up towards glorifying war.

71:

Ah; I'm not a child psychologist (or, as stated earlier, a parent). I think one or both of these caviats apply to most of us?

Since you've opened the other cases:-

A4 - Agreed, but it did cut years if not decades off the "space race".

Me-262 - The turbojet was an idea who's time had come (witness the Gloster Meteor and Lockheed P-80 (which only just missed having an in-service date that would have had it see WW2 service)), and the Jumo-004 was the first usable axial-flow jet, so the forebear of pretty much all current engines.

Allied "heavy" tanks - UK Comet, and the Centurion 1 is another design that only just missed service. USA M-26 Pershing just saw service in WW2.

And I'll disagree with you about the Wehrmacht High Command, since their following of Hitler was partly about his personal charisma and partly about them liking their heads attached to their necks!

72:

Agreed! I hope I covered that in my article.

73:

Some people are careful to use the phrase "chattel slavery" for the Atlantic system as a method of clearing a rhetorical firebreak between discussions of contemporary debt bondage, trafficked labour, and other exploitation versus the Atlantic system of state sanctioned racially-defined owning of people and their descendants. Forced labour = slavery is an important definition to hold, but it is worth exerting some effort to remind people how uniquely horrible the Atlantic system of slavery was.

(Here endeth the sidenote. :-) )

74:

Hitler etc: This is actually a good example of how if you engage with a child's interests, then their learning can take them useful places where moral and political lessons await.

The WWII computer game "Blitzkrieg" introduces the player to some interesting corners of history, including the 1939 campaigns, Allied clashes with the Vichy French, and the mighty Africa Korps.

With Kurtzhau, at least, that in turn led to wanting to know about the background, e.g. the French and British betrayal of Poland (OMG don't antagonise the dictators by mobilising!), appeasement and Hitler's rise to power. Also the Desert War takes us to Rommel, which leads to his suicide, and thence back to the German army and their attitude to Hitler. And so on.

There's another thing I should have mentioned in the article: the child has other sources of information about life, morality and history. These days schools bombard kids with books about all the grim reality of war and racism, from Anne Frank through to Morpurgo's Warhorse. Also, most family history is tangled with the tragedies of WWI and II.

75:

Hitler and Stalin: My point here was that Hitler was, for the most part, not stopped by people who had valiantly applied the knowledge gained from playing war games in their childhood (what I understood you to suggest in both your posts), but by another maniac. No credit for either Hitler or Stalin here. And of course I honour the dead.

Wargames being declared progressive: I understand this blog post to be praising playing war - not competitive games, not conflict in play, but war. And the post does state disadvantages of discouraging playing war. It certainly is not critical of playing war, and I think it should be.

normalising violence: You're demonstrably wrong. Nobody is saying that teaching a 4-year old realistic infantry tactics, or another (similarly aged) kid how to apply a submachine gun correctly while "emptying" a museum will scar the kids forever. But no matter how often you tell them that it's not a game, they will perceive it as a game because pretty much anything you do with 4 year old kids will be perceived by them as a game.

In a way I think you implicitly conceded the point already because you seem to suggest that kids playing war has anything to do with people being willing to defend their freedom.

76:

However, Hitler - and Stalin, actually - was stopped by people prepared to use military force, not people power, nor vigils, nor debates nor calls for dialogue.

War - though tragic and tragically messy - is morally neutral. George Orwell:

“Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me'.”

So drilling a pacifist message into your kids may be less distasteful, but is still as morally dodgy as bringing them up to be gungho militarists because.

As somebody summarised Orwell: "...people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

Though I don't think wargaming (in all its forms) turns people into soldiers, I do think it teaches people to think about strategy and grand tactics.

War games have long been used by the military to train commanders in tactics involving larger units. Kriegspiel goes back to 1812. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriegsspiel_(wargame)). I know several modern soldiers who are also tabletop gamers, and I believe the British army has used WRG Modern rules as a training tool

Perhaps had there been more gamers around in the 1930s, Hitler would have been stopped earlier.

Finally, kids play stuff in order to get their heads around things. They also play "fire brigade" without turning into pyromaniacs (mostly), "hospitals" without succumbing to Munchhausen's By Proxy, and "Mummies and Daddies" without immediately breeding on passing puberty (we hope), or then embracing strict gender roles.

Fighting fire is not a game either. Nor is fighting disease. And so on...

77:

I agree that computer games can be an effective, if somewhat random, teaching/learning aid. I'm not a native English speaker and my grades were horrible at first. Only when I started playing Hitchhiker's Guide, Space Quest (I-III, with the text parser) with a passion did my grades pick up because the games forced me to look up vocabulary. ("You pick up a comforter"... what the hell is a comforter?)

But I believe we agree that most kids playing let's say Battlefield I do not pick up history lessons, and are in fact more likely than not to pick up completely incorrect notions of war in general and WW I in particular.

With that I don't mean Battlefield I et al. should be forbidden. That's what age rating is for.

I mean that, yes ok, kids can learn why the T34 was in context "better" than the Tiger I, or what the evils of Vichy were, let's say. But I wish kids would also learn that the fault of the German High Command was not that they built the Tiger I, but that they unquestioningly followed an unethical and in fact highly criminal agenda; that going to war is not glorious and not a last resort, and overwhelmingly in younger history has caused more problems than it solved.

I'm not opposed to teenagers playin Battlefield I or whatever. I played the respective games in my time. I'm certainly not opposed to martial arts. But I am very critical of telling kids that "This is what soldiers do, it's fun! It's honourable!"

Am I the only one here who feels that the history of WW II is not only about the "valiant allies" and the cool machines, but also about soldiers who unquestioningly followed orders of their superiors and in the process committed horrible crimes? If you think WW II is this black-and-white affair that it most certainly wasn't, then how about WW I? Should WW I not tell us how dangerous it is to glorify war and military?

78:

Sorry, meant to write that going to war should be the very last resort.

79:

> Sorry, meant to write that going to war should be the very last resort.

Yes.* I think engaging in wargames and military history teaches this.


*Though there is the agonising snag that you may not see the moment when it comes.

Kissinger called it the "problem of conjecture". In a nutshell, (a) The more perfect your information, the less timely your intervention. (b) The more timely your intervention, the harder it is to justify.

Ask yourself: had you a time machine that would let you convince the politicians of 1930s Europe to move against Hitler much earlier, which date would you pick? And how would that subsequently look to history?

80:

Re: 'These days schools bombard kids with books about all the grim reality of war and racism, from Anne Frank through to Morpurgo's Warhorse.'


Depends on the country and/or state ... until the mid-90s most US kids were not required to take any world history courses in order to graduate high school which is why only about one-third bothered .. usu. the university-bound. That leaves a large chunk of the population that learned its world history via movies/TV shows and more recently, video games. (And if you factor in the high school graduation rate in the US, any knowledge of world history is even worse/lower incidence.)

I wasn't able to locate any stats on how well students in various countries performed on history courses ... seems STEM is more amenable to such tests. May be a lesson here: a unified world history textbook for all of the world's students (and their parents).

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-myth-of-americas-historical-educational-supremacy/2012/07/02/gJQAwpgAHW_blog.html

81:

I'd have said that pacifism was objectively pro-$enemy rather than specifically pro-fascist (well at least to the point that a fascist regime that allows a significant pacifism movement to exist in time of war will be as hindered by that movement as any other government.

82:

> If you think WW II is this black-and-white affair that it most certainly wasn't, then how about WW I? Should WW I not tell us how dangerous it is to glorify war and military?

Exactly. (Though I think the problem of trust also featured.)

All those people playing Battlefield 1, some of them will want to know the context. Both of my kids used to make me recite the chain of events leading up to the war.

83:

"Perhaps had there been more gamers around in the 1930s, Hitler would have been stopped earlier."

War gamers, you mean? Then we have found, I think, the nucleus where we disagree. Because I think - and I know historians on my side here - the glorification of military - the dagger stab myth that the Imperial German army had never been defeated in the field, that WW I could have been won - was an integral part of Hitler's ascension. Veterans were on Hitler's side.

Kids and fire: Maybe you've been extremely lucky and Kurtzhau never longed to play with fire. I'm sure if he had, you would have been very restrictive in how and when he can play with fire. Other than that, I really think there are a number of false equivalencies here. When you play "Fire Brigade", "Hospital" or "Mummy" with them, they really learn that extinguishing fires, healing people, or caring for babies are generally good, right? So when you play "soldier" with them, what makes you think they are not learning that killing people is good?

Because afterwards you tell them, "Listen, what we did today was play, but you must never do that in real life?"

What is not appreciated in this thread but should be is child development. Generally speaking, children below the age of 5 have not fully developed empathy yet, children below the age of 10 do not generally forsee abstract consequences of their actions, and children below the age of 12 do not really understand death. (Don't take it from me, check the literature. And if you're about to say, "But my 4 year old nephew...", you haven't understand and should check the literature.) Not because nobody has told them, but because they have not made that development step yet.
So, if you teach a let's say 6 year old how to use a submachine gun and how to apply military tactics and how entertaining it is to do so, they will perceive it as a game, and no matter what you say they will fail to acquire at that time the moral compass necessary to classify their experience because they are not developmentally not yet equipped to do so.

84:

Well then you have a problem with your education system! Better to make a fuss about that, and for parents to rectify as best they can.

However, at least having, e.g., a WWI game will mean people know it happened. Some of them might look up the WikiPedia entry.

85:

Well... but wouldn't you say that if you need a game to let people know WW I happened, THEN you have a problem with your education system?

Ok maybe I'm missing something. I live in the UK btw. and it is extremely difficult here to overlook that WW I and II happened. Only trivialised myths about why it happened, though...

86:

> So when you play "soldier" with them, what makes you think they are not learning that killing people is good?

Here is where we differ. Some people (e.g. Nazis) in some contexts (when they are soldiers on a battlefield) need killing.

When young kids play "make believe", they generally imagine being the good guys. They aren't playing at killing, they're playing at "beating the bad guys" same as they play at "putting out fires".

When you get them to think about tactics, you *are* helping kids get their heads around the mortality and tragedy because tactics are predicated on people shooting back and bullets being lethal.The same goes for proper wargames.

All this teaches that there is a butcher's bill.

When - as you say - kids grow up and grok death and grief and tragedy, they will understand that.

And yes, of course it's all a fun game, but most good learning is.

87:

"The next year, the first children arrived who had lost a parent in that conflict."

I don't know of course, but am I wrong to assume that this was the event that gave war a completely new meaning for you?

88:

(That's what I just said. If kids only source of info is a game, complain about th education system, not the game. UK too, btw. And thanks for engaging in such a lucid and reasonable way.)

89:

"They aren't playing at killing, they're playing at "beating the bad guys" same as they play at "putting out fires"."

Exactly. They don't actually know what they are doing. They internalise that pointing the gun at somebody and pulling the trigger is just another game.

Helping kids get their heads around mortality: see what I wrote about development stages and death further above. I don't quite understand what you mean here.

I think we're turning a bit in circles. Ultimately I think you're too uncritical, but thanks for engaging with my posts.

There is something else my parents taught me: you don't interfere with how other people raise their children. I didn'T understand it as a kid, but I do as a father. We're all just winging it. So, please let me say I have the highest respect for how you choose to raise your children, and I am sure they turn out fine, because you seem to engage with them very much.

91:

Actually, the kids are almost home from school, then I'm off fencing, so let me sign off with this illustrative anecdote.

Early last year, Kurtzhau (11) and I watched a documentary about Napoleon's Italian campaigns. In one battle, a flanking action didn't materialise, so Napoleon just threw men across a bridge until they took it.

Kurtzhau was shocked. "He just ground through! I mean... if that was a game then it would be well done. But those were real men."

92:

It seems like your argument cuts both ways. After Age X they are likely to develop the moral compass typically seen at this age. Is there evidence that their war gaming before Age X will prevent them from learning/changing appropriately at Age X? Aside from children actually sent into real life combat, most children will actually achieve new moral developments as they age and not be more inclined to kill or to make war than other people, I would assume.

93:

...am I wrong to assume that this was the event that gave war a completely new meaning for you?

You are. Probably every year group (of about 35 children) had at least one child missing a parent; most commonly because of the Provisional IRA / INLA. My parents later explained that their approach had been to normalise life as much as possible (for instance, when we lived in Northern Ireland in the late 1970s, checking under the car was done out of our sight, the personal protection weapon on the mantelpiece was uncommented) while trying to develop our independence as much as possible / sensible.

When I arrived in 1976, the school had only just given up doing "Bomb drills" alongside "Fire Drills"; by this point, the risk of an attack on us as a Ministry of Defence facility was so low as to be negligible - and the ground rules had been laid down to the Players* (for instance the Married Quarters for those resident in Northern Ireland: "go after our families, and the gloves will very definitely come off").

In the 1970s, many of the teachers at the school were ex-Forces from the Last Big Mistake. My PE and Chemistry teachers had been Bomber Command aircrew; my primary teacher was ex-SAS(V); the Woodwork and Art teachers had done North Africa and Italy as infantry; the French teacher was Free Polish, and had allegedly spent time in Colditz. The School's Commandant had fought at Cassino with the Gurkhas; the bursar was a Commando Gunner; the school RSM was WW2 and Korea as infantry. It was... unusual.

94:

Apologies for butting in ... but yes, earlier childhood trauma whether emotional and/or physical has longer and deeper effects. Part of the reason for this is that these early experiences are quite literally what the rest of that person's development grows around/on. Most development occurs in a pretty linear and systematic way with little/no chance to go back and re-do some bit of development. Basically Nature says: Do this now, and then go to next step. If trust/cooperation don't happen/get laid down via interaction with environment (family/friends/society at large etc.) when they're hardwired to occur, well then ... that kid's screwed. Neural plasticity only gets you so far.


Also, some people/kids are more resilient than others but at present there's no surefire way of identifying which kid will bounce back. If you subscribe to a do-less/no-harm philosophy, then it's best to limit adverse experiences in childhood.

95:

Suggested reading re: trauma and the developing brain.

http://www.aaets.org/article196.htm

96:

You know where my anger and aggression issues come from? A childhood of incessant trauma, neglect, and abuse.

You know what one of the few golden bright spots in a terrible childhood was? The day I bonded with my first friend in my new town in California. We played Command & Conquer together, and had a lot of fun burning up the little digital men with the flamethrower units. Pretty much all we did together involved the killing of fictional people. His friendship saved my life, in an immediate, literal sense. Children die when the things that happened to me happen to kids without friends.

You know what might have been another golden bright spot, but wasn't? If my father, a law enforcement officer and former gunner's mate in the Navy, had seen fit to bond with me over my (always furtive, somehow shameful, because what I needed in life was more shame, I suppose) interest in martial subjects. Violence was a man's job for him, not a boy's hobby.* Instead of teaching me about it, he treated me like a boring chore because we had nothing in common he cared to engage with me over. We could have had war. I wish we'd had war.

Pious moaning about child psychology studies is well and good for neat, clean discussions about a sanitary ideal of childhood. They almost instantly fall apart when exposed to conditions outside the lab, though. You can't control for childhood. You can study neat little slices of it, but you can't simulate the whole ugly thing in a fucking laboratory. I only wish I'd had a father who taught me the things Mr. Page is teaching his kid.

The world will never be as tidy as you want it to be. Those journals you're pointing to are arguments against letting kids seek out whatever gory horrors they want unsupervised; not against pretending that none of them have a fascination with violence, or that none of them will grow up to face it.

*NB: Trans.

97:

April_D I wish I had been your dad. Hugs.

98:

The most important part of winning is showing up, and no tank showed up in more places than the T-34. Why? Because you could drive it for days on end and it wouldn't spontaneously fall apart.

Errrr..... not quite. Which gives us another worked example for the kids, along the lines of "No, Blackadder Goes Forth isn't history, it's very good comedy". Check the sources, don't trust what the History Channel asserts.

From the link above, "...Soviet tests on newly built T-34’s (15) showed that in April 1943 only 10.1% could complete a 330km trial and in June ’43 this went down to 7.7%."

In reality, the Soviet Army was heavily reliant on 4100 US-built Lend-lease M4 Sherman and 3800 Canadian/British-built Valentine (apparently, half the tanks defending Moscow were Valentines). Unfortunately, "brave Soviet soldiers driving foreign tanks" doesn't play well in the propaganda stakes.

The big advantage of the T-34 was that they were in an attacking army; if you break down, don't worry, the repair and recovery teams will be with you to fix things in a few hours. That's not really possible if you're a retreating army...

99:

But still therefore "good enough, now."

100:

When I think of my childhood, I think of this John Cooper Clarke poem.

Give him scars and khaki to wear
Remove his balls, he'll go anywhere
He doesn't speak, he doesn't dare
Death sneaks, he isn't scared
Minus balls, he doesn't care
Jacks beware, action man.

He can ack-ack Ackrington
Bomb Berlin
Reduce your car to a heap of tin
Wage war, what's more - win
Punctured skin means nothing to him
The human grenade, minus pin
That's him, action man

A chin with a thin Kirk Douglas cleft
Squad by the bleeding left
Don't shout he's deaf
Head over heels in love with death
Beware of the wrath of the man bereft
No marriage plans for action man

Such a huge arsenal of plastic weapons, but no balls at all.

My childhood was a mass of machine guns, pistols, grenades, walkie talkies, fun size bazookas and Scorpion tanks and Jeeps - all paid for by the actual weapons of war HMG paid my late father to fix
(Cranberries and Frightnings), at least until the 1980 defence cuts

I was probably the most war-besotted child in my family (the first adult book I ever read was 'Enemy Coast Ahead' by Dambuster pilot Guy Gibson VC, aged 8)

And probably still am.

But I'm the only one male in my family since Rorkes Drift to NOT serve in the military.

I would be kicked out of the recruiting office for a variety of reasons.

101:

I guess I would question whether what Mr. Page and others are describing could be classified as "trauma," though it would be fair for you to bring it up as an analogous case for brain plasticity, I guess. Considering how much trauma almost anyone born before 1945 experienced in ordinary life, is the argument being made that (Western) Baby Boomers were the only neurotypical generation in history?

People routinely killed animals, watched people die in horrible accidents, were exposed to ridiculous does of toxic substances, had no prenatal care, were subjected to alcohol and lead in utero and in breast milk, were given strong drugs as pacifiers, suffered or watched other people suffer horrifying and debilitating ailments, were sent to work in adult environments, etc. Maybe video games are the equivalent of giving allergy patients extract of tapeworm.

102:

"...is the argument being made that...?"

It does not seem to me that any such problem appears. A reasonable definition of "traumatic experience" must surely include a stipulation that such an experience is a significant excursion from the norm, and similarly a sensible definition of "neurotypical" must be by reference to the average condition of mind of the group of which the individual under consideration is a member. The "early experiences that the rest of a person's development grows on" are (supposed to be) what provides the initial basis for that person's "norm"; in a typical case (since nature does not cater for outliers) they will be the foundation for a kid's development to live in the kind of society they are growing up in. The conditions experienced by a kid growing up in a 19th century slum would be horrific by modern standards, but the majority of those kids would still grow up to be normally-functioning members of the slum community, and therefore, neurotypical by the applicable standard.

Then WW1 happens and they go off to the trenches. The general conditions of trench life don't traumatise them. But seeing masses of their mates get blown up and shot does.

103:

My dad believes in climate change. He believes that the climate changes all the time, and there's nothing to be learned about how it changes or anything to do about the fact that it is changing. There used to be ice ages, and right now we aren't in one. That's two statements about the climate, and as you can see, it changes. Now, the idea that it's getting warmer is different from climate change. Global warming, according to him, is the Chinese conspiring with the scientists, and maybe Obama, to justify taking control of the world's fossil fuels. Nobody really knows that it's going to get warmer. That's why it's called climate change.

(End mockery.)

The problem with "climate change" as a concept is that is has been compromised so much that the main point has been lost. The main point is that most of our energy comes from burning fuels, that burning leaves carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to the average temperature increasing. If the problem is that things are getting warmer on the average, then calling it "global warming" is a first step toward accurately describing the problem. In contrast, calling it "climate change" says nothing and when that term is used, the first step toward understanding the concept will at best happen later and might not happen at all.

104:

It was mostly rhetorical. But your comment was still an interesting excursion on what "neurotypical" means.

105:

"had you a time machine that would let you convince the politicians of 1930s Europe to move against Hitler much earlier, which date would you pick? And how would that subsequently look to history?"

Now, that's an easy one: I would set it to late 1923/early 1924 and make sure that the judges in the trial after the failed Hitler-Ludendorff-Putsch gave Hitler an adequate sentence: 15 years in prison, followed by deportation to Austria as an unwanted alien and denial of re-entry to Germany for life. And of course without giving him the privilege to write and publish a book while in prison.

My point being: the argument that violence/war is good because Hitler could only be stopped by massive violence/war is deeply flawed. Hitler didn't start as the bloodthirsty lord over half of Europe. That was in fact the second-to-last step on his career ladder (the last being a burnt corpse in the garden of the Reichskanzlei), and he could have been stopped at every single step along the line, and at most steps that would have required no war at all and not even any violent action.

106:

"Is there evidence that their war gaming before Age X will prevent them from learning/changing appropriately at Age X?"

In short, yes there is.

107:

I, too, have fond memmories of C&C, though I was more obsessed with trying to mount tank charges. And I never forgave Kane for not letting me assault the Pentagon...

As for your personal experiences, I didn't know any of this and with all due respect and my sympathies of course, it is not relevant. If your point is that Mr Page is a good father because he engages often with his kids. I acknowledged that in #89. Of course, generally speaking, suboptimal games are better than no games.

Giving a moral lecture on the piousness of referring to clean child psychology studies stands in stark contrast to your sanitised, academic remarks on the pros and cons of specific tanks - a much messier affair in real life if you consider how many people died in and from those tanks, and war in general. Yet you never mention that.

Here we discuss, in effect, child upbringing. And you, with your experience, go around reducing this to tank engineering, then have a bigoted go at me for pointing out that there is a fucking human perspective on how war games can affect children and society? This is rich.

By the way, you will find that developmental and child psychology takes the dirty, messy reality into account: it is often based on case studies, not on laboratory experiments, which can't be conducted for ethical reasons.

I felt that in #34 you briefly related a sense of discomfort in the face of vague or lacking ethical evaluation in the Warhammer 40K universe. So I'm not even sure why you're not making the next step with regards to war games in general.

108:

Not "trauma", no. But I think the question is, do war games and violence/war in media affect children? The answer to that question has such an emphatic "yes" that there has been a general consensus to have child ratings. UG/PG13, etc.

And the question should also not only be "do war games turn a child potentially into a sociopath?", but also, "how does the widespread dissemination of war games affect society?" Now take a country like the US for example, which quite readily goes to war (no offense here, but I think we agree that's true) and has ca. 11,000 gun-related deaths annually. Now, it would obviously be too simplistic to blame this exclusively on violent media content, or war games, or gun ownership for that matter.
But how readily the notion is dismissed that violent media and war games might have something to do with it (talking about the messy, complicated, probably not quite simple-cause-and-effect-y reality here), baffles me.

Maybe it is because people would like to see evidence in the form of experiments. But there will never be experimental proof of this because ethical regulations forbid to experiment on children with potentially adverse effects.

109:

Except that's not the argument. The argument is that, when all else fails, violence/war becomes necessary - which is not exactly the same as good. Of course getting young Adolf an Arts degree and a successful career illustrating architecture books would have been a far better solution...

Regarding your first question, generally speaking I ignore alternative history because you can steer it any way you like by carefully choosing what to change.

But making an exception, if we accept the limits imposed (i.e. our time traveller will be an ambassador from the future trying to convince politicians, not a secret agent using clever underhanded tricks like making Hitler win the lottery in 1910) the best moment would be Versailles 1918. Make Wilson, Lloyd George, Clémenceau, etc, see a Punic peace will mean another disaster in 20 years time.

When 1933 arrives is already too late. By then Mussolini has been running Italy for 10 years, Japan has already invaded Manchuria, and democracy in Germany has already failed. Hitler can be at the wheel but he's not the engine.

110:

Very good point, thanks. The entire argument - we need violence to prevent a second Hitler - is highly circular to begin with. Just as "we need good men with guns to stop bad men with guns" just leads to more men with guns, which in turn leads to more bad men with guns.

[sarcasm on] To put it in thread-appropriate terms: "Engineering complexity delayed Tiger I and Panther and also led them to break down in the field! Obviously our tank designs were too simple!" [sarcasm off - just joking, please don't take offense]

The thing is this: pose this time-machine-to-the-30s-to-prevent-WW2 challenge to a bunch of girls. Girl games often involve intrigue, social relationships, how to socially steer people, etc. They will probably come up with a lot of different ideas that will not involve guns or force or violence at all.

(If your answer to this is a funny "yeah they will try to my-little-pony Hitler", you're not taking this seriously, but you should. Girls are much, much, much more emotionally intelligent than boys precisely because they play different games. Girls are much better at intrigue, at manipulating people, at understanding social currents, and at using personal relationships.)

111:

Exactly! Instead of seeing WW I as the "war to end all wars", Versailles should have been the "peace to end all wars".

Of course, we kind of have that now with the EU, just that some people forgot what that originally was about. Which brings me neatly back to my first comment: "Just as WW II slides from living memory..."

112:

Isn't there an element of Prisoner's Dilemma here?

If hypothetically, (a) "war play" as a child makes a future youth and adult more comfortable with violence, and (b) most children are indulging in war play, surely war play is in *your* child's interest, even though it would be better all round if all kids just played with Lego?

113:

No. To have my child do something for the sole and exclusive reason that all other children do it is pretty much the worst motivation for anything.

Further, as I wrote before, the very notion that kids should play war in order to fit in should ring alarm bells.

Hypothetically: What if Kurtzhau wanted to play with dolls? Would you encourage that, knowing it might socially stigmatise him? Or would you discourage that to keep him socially compatible?

Or am I missing the point?

114:

Re: 'Girl games often involve intrigue, social relationships, how to socially steer people, etc. They will probably come up with a lot of different ideas that will not involve guns or force or violence at all.'

However, also consider that considerable harm can be done by language, humiliation, social ostracism - whether face-to-face or via electronic media. And, according to at least one doc I've seen, it was because Germany felt that it had become the laughing stock of Europe that its populace was ready to embrace AH's message of 'let's make Germany great again'. And based on the recent US election, trollbots are not exactly what I'd like to see more of.

Words are weapons too - use with care.

Your name is new-ish to me. If you're a recent visitor, suggest you consider reading the below by Bob Altemeyer (free downloadable PDF) as it's referred to fairly often.


http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drbob/TheAuthoritarians.pdf

115:

Ah sorry, I get it now. No way to edit comments here, so I have to write a new one:

I understand you to ask that in a violent society, isn't it best for my child individually to engage in war play, in order to be prepared for that society?

I'm not a pacifist. When they are old enough, I will encourage my kids to take up Karate, or Jiu Jitsu, or Judo, or another martial arts. But that's not play, and those disciplines offer many more lessons than just the ability to defend themselves. N.B.: the first thing you learn is to run away from violence and only defend yourself when you absolutely have to.

So I guess what I really mean to say is that being violent is not the best preparation for a violent society.

Let me share an anecdote from my youth involving an uncle who was an officer and worked at the NATO HQ in Brussels for a number of years:
One evening in my teens I told him that I wanted to get a gas pistol in order to be able to defend myself against bullies (there were many). He told me in the sternest way possible (I paraphrase):
"Don't do that. It will not help you. First, if you pull your gas pistol, they might pull their pistols - possibly actual guns, so you'd be outgunned. In any way, once you pull the pistol, you have to shoot. Not in the air, not in the leg, but in a way that makes it impossible to shoot back. You have to kill them. Are you prepared to do that, and live with the consequences?
If you are, here's one more piece of advice: never pull the trigger only once. Always shoot twice. If you miss the first time, you might hit him the second time. If you hit him the first time, all you lose is a bullet."

116:

If our kiddo wants to make "guns" out of sticks, that's fine. I'm not going to have her playing with orange-cap guns, though -- I want to very much keep a divide between play and reality, since that's my main concern around violent play. (I'll also probably offer to teach her how to shoot a real gun, for that matter, just to anchor the other side of things.)

117:

Yes, I guess I am kinda new in a way. Thanks for the link, promises to be an interesting read. And yes, of course you're right about girls' play: I'm not saying they're ethically "better". But different.

By the way, there is a lot of evidence that the boy-girl difference is not inherent, but socially constructed: Girls play with dolls not because they prefer them, but because they are expected to prefer them.

I absolutely agree regarding the power of words and hope my preference towards points (in the Churchellian sense). I hope that wasn't a signpost that I have in the past offended anybody here...

118:

My response to "When to Kill Hitler" speculation: how many Hitlers would it take? Hitler was probably an outlier even for fascist madmen, but Germany was going to have some sort of right wing authoritarian in power in the 1930s. In most alternate worlds, they probably get the German equivalent of Franco OR you still get Hitler, but the damage he causes is less extensive. Franco-Hitler actually only wants Gdansk and the Sudetenland. He gets it. Europe simmers as a glowering cauldron of right wing or right leaning anemic economies, until the inevitable war with the Soviet Union kicks off in the 1940s. (With just about every potential alignment, triggering circumstances and outcome you can imagine on the menu.)

119:

There is something culturally osmotic in war play though, since I know one lesbian couple who homeschooled their kids, raised them in a very feminine social environment where there were emphatically no guns or violent toys or many of the usual kids TV entertainments. The older girls were behaving exactly as they expected. And the boy at about the age of three picked up his toy broom, pointed the handle at his sister and yelled bang!
At that point they decided that boys were doomed as a species.

I completely agree with your earlier comments about cognitive development - the understanding of repercussions and consequences is definitely lacking until 10-11ish, and often well post puberty.

But I'm very much not convinced of a link between a young child playing cowboys and indians - which is often effectively just a game of tag - and an adult with a tendency to violence. The kind of tactics and strategy that MHP describes teaching his kids seem to me to combine an educational opportunity (doing this badly is stupid) and a parental bonding session. It doesn't to me imply Kurtzhau will grow up to be a General Ripper out to promote violence as a first response. Granted teaching a school class how to clear a room is fairly odd behaviour but at least an adult is paying attention to the kids and more importantly they are paying attention to their environment and asking intelligent questions.

Social ostracism and bullying, fear, isolation, poor family environment and lack of role models, socioeconomic factors ... these are likely factors in violence. Exposure to adult responsibilities at a too early age, too much pressure, a lack of release valves, sure. War games? Taught with thought, they are more likely to stress that this is a bad idea, without embedding the glory that old men tell young kids to get them to sign up.

120:

Re: 'Girls play with dolls not because they prefer them, but because they are expected to prefer them.'

For this exact reason gave my prog a range of toys as well as, over the years, signed prog up for range of activities/sports. End result (well, so far...) prog has played with all types of toys/games plus a wide variety of sports/activities. Particular favorite toy/activity at any given time depends on mood, available playmates, weather, etc. Most recent toy purge/clearing out: prog was asked to decide which toys/activities to keep vs. give away. Resulting 'keep pile' was a mix of stuffed toys, LEGO, games, techie-machines, books, etc. - overall, a combination of 'boy' and 'girl' stuff. The memories associated with each toy/game was the deciding factor.

Okay - another reason for having both 'boy' and 'girl' toys: There were very few similarly aged kids in our area, so to make kids of both genders feel welcome, I figured we needed a wide variety of toys. And they played with whatever they happened to play with ... it's their fun that counts.

121:

Yep. Right out of the EU propaganda playbook. And people who say this sort of thing - in the face of clear evidence - are one of the reasons why the UK voted to get the hell out of this mess.

My opinion, for what it's worth, is that the next war in Europe is going to be rather like Northern Ireland in the 1970s writ large. Full-scale military response, against the barbarian enclaves that the glitterati have allowed to develop in just about every city in Europe, and continue to encourage, and responding to atrocities. Of course, the elites in their heavily guarded enclaves won't even notice.

The gang rapes, mass-murders and riots on the one hand, and the mosque-burnings on the other, have already started.

Inviting hordes of people who have publicly stated that they want to kill or enslave you is a very poor idea indeed.

122:

Mmmm. Taste that toxic alt-right kool aid!

Never fails to amaze that no matter how often it's explained slowly using small words, folks keep popping up and spouting the same misinformed racist propaganda.

123:

A handful of gruesome atrocities in the West pale into insignificance compared to deaths of Muslims in sectarian violence, and Western [mostly, but not exclusively US] military violence.

The Nazi sympathisers of the self-styled 'alt-right' have kept promising a Muslim cannibal holocaust, which, like artificial intelligence, is always just around the corner.

The alt-right, as with all fascist movements, hate white people they deem to be 'traitors' far more than those who pose an actual threat.

124:

Tank engineering has valuable life lessons. Well, at least the myths surrounding it. Take overengineering. The story I heard is that, in the Second World War, German tanks were beautifully machined, with exquisite tolerances. American tanks...weren't. And needed grooves on their pistons to clear out their metal shavings... Guess which tanks seized up in a Siberian winter? That really is a story I tell my kidling.

More to the point, my impression from the articles I've seen cited so far is that there is a reasonable body of research indicating that watching ultraviolence on TV is harmful to children. Violent video games may also be harmful. Those results don't indicate that violent play is harmful. Findings from, eg, martial arts training tend to indicate decreases in aggressiveness, although there are some studies that indicate the reverse. Also, most of the research I've found indicates that restricting violent play is harmful to children.

125:

My worry would be...if I buy a nerf sword, I know what they're hitting each other with. If I don't, they end up using sticks, and brooms, and knives as soon as they're out of sight. (Personal experiences)

--Erwin

126:

Inviting hordes of people who have publicly stated that they want to kill or enslave you is a very poor idea indeed.

Oh, for sure, keep the white Christians out at all costs. Pizzaro, the Pilgrim Fathers, the Crusaders, the Jesuits, the Bounty mutineers, unscrupulous grasping bastards every one. Anyone who opened the door to those cross-waving raping enslaving murdering thieves got just what was coming to them. There's a lesson to be learned there, never trust a white man.

127:

the next war in Europe is going to be rather like Northern Ireland in the 1970s writ large. Full-scale military response, against the barbarian enclaves that the glitterati have allowed to develop in just about every city in Europe,

Seriously? I would suggest you haven't got a clue. That's either second-rate trolling or first-rate ignorance.

http://www.cain.ulst.ac.uk/ni/security.htm

I lived in Northern Ireland for two years in the 1970s, because my father was a soldier deployed there. His last job in the Army was training soldiers to go to Northern Ireland. Friends and colleagues deployed there through the 1980s and 1990s.

The entire death toll, for thirty years of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, was 2300 civilians (and 1000 soldiers and police officers), for a population of about two million. By contrast, Chicago has a similar population and a murder rate of over 200 per year, every year.

I can assure you that it was nowhere near "full-scale military response"; that "barbarian enclaves" is an insult to an awful lot of people; and to sum it up that way displays a rather impressive degree of ignorance on the subject.

To correct you, the Army deployed there to protect the Catholic population; got some things right, cocked some things up (not helped by local politics or terrorists); and spent the next twenty years attempting "normalisation" and operating in large part as "Police in green uniforms".

A good set of books to help you realise how wrong you are would be Peter Taylor's "Provos" and "Loyalists"; Tony Geraghty's "The Irish War"; and as an utterly fascinating (and very, very well-researched) debate around the use of lethal force, Mark Urban's "Big Boys' Rules".

128:

Curses - said "Chicago", but was looking at the statistics for "Houston".

129:

Given the tone of this and past posts from Fletcher Christian, the very last thing that he cares to do is decrease his ignorance. "Second rate trolling", indeed.

I shall be checking with my father-in-law (amateur Irish historian, focus on 20th Century) to see if he has either of the books you mention in his library (about 4000 books at last count).

130:

I kind of wish you were my sister, because I think we have more in common than I do with my RL sister!!

131:

Nations with higher per capita access to personal and light crew firearms include Canada, Israel and Switzerland; All of which also have lower per capita firearms death rates.

132:

How about this as a personal account? If nothing else, it may make you question how well you've read my attitudes.

Back in the day I had a collection of "Action Men" (including one knock-off "Action Buddy" who had negroid skin tone and features). My sister had a collection of Sindy ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sindy ) and friends. We had a standing arrangement that if one of us wasn't playing with our collection, then the other one could borrow it for their games.

133:

I did actually know at least part of that one (about the German tanks 'dying' of the cold). I was slightly surprised to realise earlier today that the USSR were the main users of the M4A2 diesel Sherman in period.

134:

Not to mention that the leading cause of firearms deaths in Switzerland and Sweden is suicide, not homicide.

135:

What many forget when using Sweden / Switzerland / Israel as "high firearm ownership" examples, is that they are nations with a tradition of mass conscription. In other words, trained to use firearms within the context of a legal framework - and more to the point, assessed over a period of time by peers and hierarchy as to whether they're "sane" or "nutter".

136:

I'll try to summarise a response to various points made in one post while also trying to clarify my position:

First of all, I am assuming the position that war is generally "bad" (I'll touch on the topic of "exceptions" and "just wars" a bit later). People who don't share that sentiment, e.g. by arguing with a straight face that soldiers are exactly as useful to society as nurses and firemen (which is of course an opinion they are free to have), are in my mind arguing against what is one of the premises of Mr Page's original post as evidenced by the questions he asks at its end.

Second, I maintain that there is a conceptual difference between war games and other forms of play involving weapons, conflicts or violence. I believe I'm right to say that Mr Page clearly referenced the former (submachine gunes, clearing an area, etc.). Unlike conflict and violence, children can't "discover" war games by themselves. War is an artificial, social construct with a clear political dimension. Kids might pick the concept up from other kids or from adults, but don't discover it naturally.

Third, I'm assuming that our experiences as a child, including what we play, effect us in later life. I perceive that as yet another of Mr Page's premises. Subsequently and as a matter of intellectual integrity, accepting the notion that games can prepare kids for later life should include acceptance that the wrong games can be detrimental.

Fourth, there is a clear conceptual difference between telling a child something, and having it experience it. In other words, there is a difference between knowing something, and internalising it. Parents will know this as the "Don't touch that, it's hot"-inefficiency. This is frankly something that shouldn't need to be discussed as we all know it from childhood: our parents tell us something reasonable (let's say "do your homework"), and we go and do the opposite because it feels better. Frankly, this concept should not be in dispute. To simplify it: if you give a kid a lighter and then instruct it that it's bad to play with fire, we all know which of the two conflicting messages the kid is going to ignore.

Fifth, it's the jobs of parents to act against the child's impulses, at least some of the time - even when they know that kids (can) do it anyway (in secret). Chances are that if your daughter wants to have a baby with someone at age 14 (it happens), you'll be against that. If your boy wanted to play with the used syringes it found on the playground, you'd probably not let that happen either. So the question really is not whether parents should discourage anything - they should. The question is really only whether war games can have a detrimental effect or not. Besides, while subscribing to the notion that kids must have as much freedom to explore as possible, discouraging war games does not mean permanently and totally inhibiting children's self-realisation. And stating that war games are better than no games is really just moving the goal post.

I realise I'm making rather a lot of assertions here about Mr Page's original article. I am sure he will correct me where I am wrong.

Now, before I go on, let me say that of course all parents must raise their children as they see fit, and there is no shame in playing war games either. Also, my point is not that war games must be banned completely. But I maintain that parents should generally discourage war games, that war games should always be considered critically (i.e. better safe than sorry regarding potential for detrimental effects), and that Mr Page's otherwise excellent article in my opinion is unfortunately not critical of war games at all, when it should be very critical.

As for the actual detrimental consequences of war games: Regarding the individual, I'm not saying that war games alone make a sociopath to run amok. I don't think I need to. If you suspected that a certain substance, let's say alcohol, had a chance of inhibiting your child's development or doubled the chance of it contracting cancer, would you keep alcohol from your children?

In the UK and US at least, we live in comparably violent societies. 11,000 gun-related deaths annually in the US. I don't pretend to know why that is. From what I know, nobody knows. As I have said before, I suspect it's a multitude of factors. I don't see a reason why regular TV or computer game content should not be a factor in this. Is it not as reasonable to be as careful about toys as it is about allegedly dangerous substances, when it comes to your child?

And if that does not convince you: are you sure that playing war games as a kid does not increase your child's chances of dying as a soldier in the dust of a faraway country, wherever a Western alliance invades 20 years from now?

And that brings me finally to the "just war"/anti-Hitler argument. If you feel that encouraging your kid to play war is necessary to prevent another Hitler, then what are you doing to prevent another mess like the 2003 Iraq invasion? Or the atrocity of My Lai?

As a closing statement: I have my own fascination with (not so much with tanks, but more planes and ships of) WW II. And I think there is nothing wrong with that. But that doesn't make it a game for children.

137:

Not to mention that the leading cause of firearms deaths in Switzerland and Sweden is suicide, not homicide.

That's the case in US also.

138:

I wasn't forgetting it. I may have appeared to be glossing it over, but I was leaving the obvious conclusion that firearms are more dangerous in the hands of the untrained, unsupervised and unreviewed than in the hands of those who are all three to be drawn or not by the reader.

139:

That's why I said "writ large". Having millions of people present, who have no intention of or interest in integrating with the rest of society, think that they have a God-given (literally!) right to take whatever the hell they want from the rest and to require the rest to follow their standards, and have a mindset from the Middle Ages is going to cause trouble. And it is already doing so. Ask any Parisian or inhabitant of Cologne. Or Rotherham, for that matter. Or Tower Hamlets. Or Malmo. Or...

It's reliably estimated (at least, as reliable as such an estimate can be) that around 1% of the "refugees" currently streaming into Europe are actually jihadis. That's a hell of a lot of jihadis.

140:

Be interested to see your sources on that "reliable estimate". (Before we even get to discussing the wide grey expanse covered by such a term.)

141:

You may also want to read up on some actual statistics regarding the number of Muslims in the EU, the number who are citizens and the number who are immigrants; and then work on your basic maths skills.

Unless when you say "millions" of people you genuinely believe that every single, or the vast majority of, Muslims in the EU hate all westerners and their adoptive countries. In which case you're a racist f*ckwit, and not worth debating further.

(Addendum: I assume you picked the Northern Ireland Troubles as a comparison due to the religious component -- which just further shows how ignorant you really are.)

142:

The real problem seems to stem from new arrivals wanting to integrate within their new society and being rejected/blocked from integrating.* Further, the pain felt by those who are socially rejected is probably the same (i.e., shares the same neural pathways) as physical pain. This result is coming out of a fairly broad range of studies re: changes in levels of urban violence, suicide, schizophrenia, etc. ... from across the world.

Basically, our folk-wisdom/elders scrambled the cause-effect for this one.


* Don't know if anyone is doing any scientific analysis on this (yet), but I am looking forward to data on crime, economic, and psychosocial measures 10-15 years from now on Syrian refugees who went to Canada, Germany, UK and US. (Two countries/cultures whose populations either publicly welcomed vs. publicly rejected these people.)

143:

Wonder whether the countries with the highest negative perceptions of refugees hold the same view of their former kinsmen who emigrated to the US, UK, Canada and Australia, that is, that their former kinsmen pose(d) a similar burden on their adoptive countries.

My parents emigrated from one of those now-right-leaning countries and guess what: the parents have consistently voted left in their adoptive country whereas their sibs who stayed in the old country vote right. These aunts/uncles also do not understand why their younger generation - some of whom have also recently moved to more western countries - are not being greeted with open arms. Religiosity doesn't explain this either: one parent is uber-religious (churchy things like fasting during lent, mass, etc.) but always votes left, chats up neighbors regardless of neighbor's ethnicity, swaps recipes, etc. (I mention this because it's possible to be a liberal in theory and a bigot in real-life.)

Bottom line: Some folks are dicks and can be found anywhere, including family.

144:

Ask any inhabitant of...

I don't believe that you've ever visited Paris, or Rotherham, or Malmo. Note that watching a bigot-authored youtube video that claims "they're not interested in integrating, they're stuck in the Middle Ages, etc..." will unsurprisingly not count as data.

Might we ask roughly whereabouts you live, and what actual personal experience you have of other cultures?

Because actually spending time in the cities and towns you mention, or (unlikely, I know) talking to a range of people with different skin colours or religions, will give you a more rounded understanding of the world than the narrow-minded propaganda presented by Stormfront or Vanguard.

145:

I'm assuming that the question in your first paragraph is rhetorical in nature? It is of course well known that there are "good" immigrants and "bad" immigrants, and there's an easy way to tell them apart...

(Note: previous statement requires heavy sarcasm tags.)

I'm really looking forward our friend Fletcher providing the links from reputable sources that support his "reliable estimate" of 1% of Muslim immigrants are jihadis. Somehow I think I'm might be waiting a long time for those links to appear. Or maybe he'll just quote a few Daily Mail and Express articles (and cement my suspicions about his ignorance).

146:

Will the Chancellor of Germany do?

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/688368/Merkel-admits-jihadists-migrant-groups

Sure, it's the Express - but directly quoting Angela Merkel.

Or a representative (anonymous, natch) of ISIS?

https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikegiglio/isis-operative-this-is-how-we-send-jihadis-to-europe?utm_term=.ekw2gjw7X#.cxl6gDXwK

OK, not sure about the 1% - although another article I read claims 4000 jihadis among the migrants. (4 is too many. 1 is too many.)

147:

Gee, I wonder what possible reason a group who explicitly wants to ratchet up the tension between Muslims and 'the West' would have to lie about this? With a side order of possibly discouraging attempts to escape Daesh-controlled territory ("the Europeans will think we sent you and will treat you as terrorists"), as well!

I haven't read the Express link, because I refuse to give such a ridiculous hive of scum and villainy money - even the fractional pennies of my ad-views.

149:

No, she will not, given that even if we believe the Mail version she didn't say anything like the things you said (for the record what the Mail claims she said is 'In part, the refugee flow was even used to smuggle terrorists').

Let's be clear: if this pathetic effort is really the best you can do, you are one of the weakest trolls I have ever met. Come on, even if that ludicruous '4,000 jihadis' - source unknown - were true that would fall very, very short of a 1%.

150:

Not to mention that 4000 jihadis - or even the 10,000 one percent of the current million refugees in europe would amount to - even if true is woefully short of the number of disaffected youths in Europe who were born there, yet have associated themselves with radical groups. There are over 500m people in the EU alone, the total number of refugees is pathetic in comparison.

151:

I would like to believe that this is a debate that holds any merit or likelihood of convincing you how wrong you are; but from the tenor of your statements so far, and the kind of "evidence" (already demolished by the last couple of posters) you have presented uncritically to support what you have said, this will by my last reply to you on this topic.

Please go and think critically about the sources you have posted; take on board the criticisms that the last couple of posters have made; just try. You might learn, or even unlearn, something.

152:

Mozi would disapprove of toys. Everybody has a job, and the job of children is learning. Effort spent making toys is effort that could be spent making life better for starving children the world over. Do you want a toy or do you want those children Ethiopia to starve to death? Don't think about it, I'll tell you what to think. You want neither. You and the children in Ethiopia will occupy yourselves with your schoolbooks.

153:

Mozi would of course be wrong, because a "good toy" is a tool for enabling learning as well as for entertaining the child.

154:

Getting back to the original topic, I much enjoyed playing war-games as a boy, often with my grandfather who served in WWI. (We played Wooden Ships, Iron Men for hours.)

Granddad was at Ypres, the Somme, Palestine, Greece — but he never talked at all about the fighting, and not much about the war. The stories he told us most often had to do with his mates and the silly officers who commanded them. (And one story about sharing tinned Christmas pudding with a Greek shepherd.)

To me the games were just cardboard counters on a map, not real at all, and I didn't make the connection between what the game and reality until years later. Between the game and books, yes — I devoured Hornblower — but Napoleonic tactics seemed so absurd that I thought of it as another type of fiction. After all, who would be silly enough to stand in a crowd while someone shot cannon at them?

Years later, playing Squad Leader, I usually ended up as the Russians (my friend bagged the Germans) and lost a lot, because the games were feeling realler and I couldn't do human wave attacks. The idea of a sacrificial unit just didn't make sense to my teenaged brain.

So, I was a pacifist who enjoyed war-games as an intellectual activity — and ended up playing mostly SF war-games as they were obviously fictional.

My game collection has been mostly given to a nephew now. I have no fears that it will turn him into a militaristic thug — didn't happen to me, won't happen to him.

155:

Re: 'Sources that support his "reliable estimate" of 1% of Muslim immigrants are jihadis.'


Okay, just based on ordinary distribution of personality traits across and within A-N-Y culture, it's pretty well a guarantee that 1% will be trouble. Stated another way: So, what's the big deal ... considering that our [X] country historically/ordinarily produces 1.2% sociopaths per generation, accepting this immigrant wave will actually dilute our total pool of sociopaths.


(I'm using 'sociopath' as a handy label to identify any individual that is willing to kill-on-demand, no questions asked.)

156:

I think that, unfortunately, it has become clearer with every comment that Fletcher Christian really isn't interested in facts, actual statistics, or anything real that contradicts his own biases or the narrative he has built on dubious (at best) sources (which have agendas that a blind man on a galloping horse in a midnight thunderstorm could see).

Just look at his numbers:

  • Initially he stated that there were "millions" of Muslims within the EU plotting the downfall of the West (no evidence provided, beyond vague references to infrequent terrorist attacks).

  • Then he stated that "it's reliably estimated" that 1% of immigrants are "jihadis". No sources provided, and working with reasonably current total of Muslim immigrants in EU, gives us around 130,000 or so "jihadis".

  • When asked for some sources on the "1%" claim, he provided links to a highly suspect article from the Express (as I predicted he would), and which contains a suspect out-of-context quote from Angela Merkel but does include the actual number of "jihadi immigrants" caught by German security as 17.

  • He also provided a link to an unverifiable article by a supposed ISIS member, which contains no actual numbers, and is about as much use in support of his case as a chocolate teapot for making a decent cuppa.

  • He rounds out his nebulous "sources" by claiming he read "somewhere" that 4000 immigrants were "jihadis" (around 0.03% of the total current Muslim immigrant population).
  • So the number drops from "millions", to around 130,000, to 4000 -- with his only half-way reputable source showing that Germany identified only 17 ISIS terrorists from the total Muslim immigrant population in 2015.

    Whatever is driving is his logic, it isn't facts and figures. I'll leave the answer to that conundrum as an exercise for the reader...

    157:

    Back to the original point again. While reading a thread on another forum, I came across a post that expressed the dangers of moral hazard and "video game" perspective extremely well...

    https://www.arrse.co.uk/community/threads/remote-control-the-future-of-warfare.259772/page-2#post-7576730

    It's worth reading the whole thread (usual warnings about the Rumour Service apply, it's for grownups) and while only a slight diversion, we're past the 150 post mark :)

    158:

    On the other hand, Mozi could be presented with

    1. Documentation that play, at least in childhood, is universal and
    scientifically proven to be essential to cognitive development.
    http://www.playengland.org.uk/media/371031/a-world-without-play-literature-review-2012.pdf

    2. Broad anecdotal evidence (among the ten thousand people) that all work and no play makes jack a dull boy.

    3. Observed detrimental effects on creativity of policies that extend study hours abnormally and limit play opportunities severely.

    Creativity and imagination are essential to innovation, and clearly innovation has a place. Rather than imitating the ancients slavishly, for were they themselves not innovators, we should imitate their innovativeness.

    Mozi would be persuaded by such an argument.

    159:

    Fair enough. Much the same as my attitude to the Grauniad or that paper that laughably calls itself the Independent.

    160:

    TBF, when "The Independent" launched the title was there to make the point that they were not part of organisations such as Conrad Black's, Robert Maxwell's or Rupert Murdoch's and the title was, at least in those terms accurate.

    That now longer applies AIUI, and in any event they've morphed from a national newspaper to one for London legal and media types IMO.

    161:

    As with most of Fletcher's comments on this thread, his concern for facts or accuracy is non-existent. His dismissal of and attack on the Guardian and Independent are simply a diversion from the shoddy sources he has linked to -- no one has linked to, or even mentioned, either of these publications in reply to any of his comments.

    162:

    Sure, violence isn't OK. However, and unfortunately, there are many people in the world who think it's not only OK but laudable - or even required. And responding to such people with reason, sweetness and light seldom works. "You might not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." "If you want peace, prepare for war."

    On a much smaller scale, various sorts of bully seldom respond to people being nice to them; they do respond to one of their intended victims kicking the shit out of them after said victim has snapped.

    Also, given that violence is a bad thing the best thing to do when confronted with it, particularly on a mass scale as in war, is to go all out and get it over with; the total amount of misery and death inflicted that way is actually less. Compare and contrast WWII and the Vietnam War, in that respect. With due allowance for the scale of the area of conflict, of course.

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    This page contains a single entry by M Harold Page published on November 15, 2016 12:11 PM.

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