Tag Archives | young people

Heart of Darkness

Rebelle (War Witch)
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Starring Rachel Mwanza, Serge Kanyinda, Alain Lino Mic Eli Bastien
2012, 90 minutes.

War WitchKomona is 12 years old and lives in a small village in war-torn Africa. One day she is out gathering food when she sees a gang of rebels closing in. She runs back to warn the village but the rebels are soon upon them, killing the adults indiscriminately — they are recruiting child soldiers. In the aftermath, Komona stands facing her parents, shadowed by the towering presence of the rebel captain. She is handed a gun and told to shoot her parents. If she does not, the rebel captain will kill them instead. With a machete. Komona meets her parents eyes for a long moment, and then it is time to choose. Do it, her father says. She does. The rebel captain congratulates her — “Now you are one of Great Tiger’s rebels.”

Did Komona do the right thing? It seems odd to describe killing your parents execution-style as doing the right thing, yet most of us would similarly hesitate to say what Komona did was wrong. It seems like an impossible situation, but impossible situations happen more often than you’d think. Most of us will be fortunate enough never to find ourselves confronted with Komona’s choice, but all of us can recall the experience of being faced with a decision where there are no good options. In moral philosophy, this is known as a tragic choice.

From an intellectual perspective, tragic choices are untidy. It would be nice if we could come up with some all-purpose general formula that allowed us to decide the right thing to do in any given situation. Indeed, much effort has been expended by countless clever people on just this kind of project, the assumption underlying their theories being that if we follow the process faithfully, the good thing will happen. When reality intrudes on these kinds of fanciful musings however, we may find such formulas are not really up to the job of facing life’s complexities. Continue Reading →

Seen But Not Heard: Age Prejudice and Young People

Age-based prejudice toward young people is so rife and so naturalised that even advocates for young people often have trouble recognising it. Professor Bessant casts a sceptical eye over the stories we tell about ‘youth’, throwing light on where they come from and how they work.

Prejudice is at its most powerful when it becomes so naturalised that it goes unnoticed and indeed is taken for granted. When it becomes internalised, such prejudice can in turn shape the identity and lived experience of those at whom it is directed.

Age is one basis for this kind of prejudice. Many of us fear it or seek to hide it. Have you watched one of those ‘reality’ TV shows designed to scare you into taking up a healthy lifestyle? The ones that feature ordinary people with histories of partying too hard who are offered make-overs by celebrity doctors and lifestyle coaches. These shows use digital technologies like age progression equipment to produce morphed images of their rapidly ageing faces and bodies, or statistics on the party-goer’s health in ten, fifteen, or forty years. Similar techniques have been used by governments in public health awareness campaigns like Britain’s ‘National Care service’ involving a campaign aimed at promoting ‘the secrets of ageing well’. During the initial rollout of the campaign, Britons could access online software that generated sneak peak photos of what you would look like in 10 or 20 years.

What this technology underscores is what we all know — wrinkles, saggy skin, or white hair are negatives, markers of decline that many people will want to disguise or even remove surgically. Conversely, youthful wrinkle-free faces or blooming skin tones are typically read as attractive and desirable. This preoccupation with age and ageing is not just about the culture and psychology of modern life. It is also a major political and policy issue. And it produces an odd, even contradictory effect.

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