Lego, as I knew it in the 1970s was all about constructing mini houses, farms, vehicles (both family and service) and a great use of constructive imagination.
I remember the joy of kids receiving Lego packs – especially if they contained more windows that worked, doors that worked and even mini interior cupboards – that worked. (That is, doors that opened and shut)
Certain roof tiles were very much prized!
Not to mention base plates, fences and gates.
All the Lego ‘people’ wore happy faces, with interchangeable hair and hats.
Building with Lego was FUN!
It was creative; buildings were able to be knocked down and rebuilt in a different format depending on the ‘builder’s’ imagination and desires.
Sadly…very sadly…looking at Lego displays in department stores now can be depressing. In place of the brightly (primary) coloured packs containing all those happy bricks of varying shapes and use-ability, we see many more drab colours on the boxes that contain figures and props for ‘Super Heroes’, ‘Star Wars’ and some sort of monster creature called ‘Ninjago’ (whatever he/it is – it’s not pretty!).
Weapons of all types are very visible.
Imaginative use is limited.
Is this what our kids’ world has come to?
I’m sure that the answer from the Lego creators and manufacturers is that “it’s what the kids want”……but it’s not the kids who design and make these depressing ‘toys’, is it?
Some adult somewhere designed and created the models for these newer Lego models.
WHY do they do this?
It’s the same (non) reason why adults (yes, ADULTS) create war-like computer games and war-like movies.
“It’s what the kids want” they say.
But, it’s only then, AFTER the ‘toys’ are created and produced - and the games and movies are produced - it is THEN, and only then, that the kids are EDUCATED into thinking that it is what they want and what they need!
It is simply not fair.
And, as for Lego – I could weep!
The Australian Prime Minister was travelling (with attendant media) on a train - possibly in an effort to promote the wonderful (?) public transport system. When the train stopped at a station, a middle-aged woman entered the compartment and was greeted by a cheesy smile from our number one politician.
Looking blankly at him, she asked, “Who are you?”
The PM uttered something about being a train employee and the woman walked off. (Maybe she thought he looked slightly familiar?)
There’s an election coming soon – or not so soon – for Australians. Did you know?
Well, of course you did!
Who are the main contenders?
Watching a news/current affairs show on TV last night, we saw a reporter go ‘out and about’ with large photographs of the three (yes, THREE) major party leaders.
The reporter showed the photos, one at a time, to random pedestrians as they came by.
“Who is this?” he asked, as he held out a photo of our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
“Don’t know” was one reply.
“Not sure” was another.
“I think he’s a politician”. Another offered.
Then (phew!) a youngish man paused and said, “Is that our Prime Minister?”
As for the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, there was almost total NON recognition.
But the award (some award!) goes to our Greens party leader, Richard Di Natale, as not one person showed even a glimmer of recognition.
Hopefully (HOPEFULLY) this reporter deleted the replies of those who DID know who the politicians in the photos were.
It was certainly a depressing spectacle to watch.
Which brings me to compulsory voting: While many people think to make voting compulsory is the best and only way to conduct a poll, I wonder if it is not better to leave the voting to the people who have at least given some thought to their choice. That is, voters who have listened, read and understood what each party stands for and have made a conscious decision to support the political party that will do (hopefully!) the best for our country.
I seriously wonder about our citizens who cannot recognise Australia’s Prime Minister – and the Opposition Leader - and the Greens party leader.
Do they never read a newspaper? Do they not watch TV news reports? Do they avoid discussing current affairs with friends, neighbours, family members?
Later on the same (TV viewing) night, I watched a comedian (Judith Lucy) tell some funny tales. At one stage she presented a turnip. Yep, a turnip…and asked members of the audience to identify it. The first two people had no idea. Two more people suggested it was a swede – (you know, that old-fashioned orange coloured turnip look-alike).
Others in the audience finally correctly identified it.
The comedian then went on to relay some information from a survey she had recently read. Apparently, 67% of people can’t recognise a turnip when shown one.
40% cannot recognise a leek and 20 % are unable to name a pumpkin! (With one respondent suggesting it was a type of onion - and another thinking a pumpkin was a cumquat).
So, maybe, just maybe there’s more to recognition than meets the eye (excuse the pun!) if people cannot identify a pumpkin, to not recognise our current Prime Minister is maybe nothing to worry about.
But I do. (Worry, that is).
What sort of ‘blindness’ would you call it?
Noni Hazlehurst, long time TV presenter and actor, spoke at a television awards night on Sunday.
What she had to say comprehensively echoed my sentiments.
She spoke of the daily bad news bombardment that we and (especially today’s kids) are faced with.
She mentioned depression, anxiety and suicide,
Noni: "We're all living under a heavy and constant cloud of negativity … I think it's because we're surrounded by bad news and examples of our … human behaviour…”
It brought to my mind that old Skyhooks song (written by Greg McAinsh) - ‘Horror Movie’.
In part it goes: ‘Horror movie, right there on my TV
Shockin' me right out of my brain’
‘The planes are a-crashin'
The cars are a-smashin'
The cops are a-bashin', oh yeah
The kids are a-fightin'
The fires are a-lightin'’
‘It's bound to be a thriller
It's bound to be a chiller
It's bound to be a killer, oh yeah’
And, of course, it turns out to be
‘Horror movie, it's the six-thirty news’
How very true…but how can we escape it?
"So here is my pitch: I'd love a channel that features nothing but stories that inspire us and reassure us and our children that there are good things happening and good people in the world.”
"I know it's a lot to ask for. But at the very least, a show that tries to redress this overwhelming imbalance, that counters bad news with good that encourages optimism not pessimism, that restores our empathy and love for our fellow human beings and the Earth, that redefines reality, that heals our hearts.”
Yes, I’ve written and spoken about this before but, to me at least, the need for some happiness, inspiration and positivity in our daily news feed is becoming almost urgent.
I appreciate the fact that we should know about what’s happening in our world today. But the fact that news broadcasters ignore what they possibly assess as simple and mundane in favour of the terrifying and tragic needs to be addressed.
By the time the “News” turns to sports and weather reports, I am usually feeling totally dispirited…and I’m a mature woman. If our young people are affected likewise, I hate to think what it’s doing to their psyche – and to any feelings of belonging in this (what’s portrayed as) awful, terrifying, crime-infested world!
Our local TV news station even has its own commercial asking for viewers to send them ‘News’ when they see it. The ad is accompanied by scenes of screeching police motorcycles and generally dramatic and (quite possibly) illegal activities.
What would it take for even the local ‘News’ station to, instead, suggest people send in leads to interesting and positive stories of people and happenings. Stories that might bring a smile to the viewers and even a feeling of contentment and achievement?
Surely ‘news’ other than wars, police stories, murders, robberies, car chases, fire catastrophes and terrorist activity can be found.
Sure, I know that people watching TV like to see some action, but don’t tell me that dramatic vision of a happening on the other side of the world is all that relevant to us as we sit in our lounge-rooms in Australia. But…action sells and this sort of negative action is what is also being dished up in movies – especially those aimed at kids.
What a bloody shame!
Have we really missed our chance to offer (on TV) a balanced and happier view of the world to our young people?
A positive view of life?
To reiterate Noni Hazlehurst’s words, can we please have something:
“…that encourages optimism not pessimism, that restores our empathy and love for our fellow human beings and the Earth, that redefines reality, that heals our hearts.”?
At the end of World War 2, Robert, the little boy across the road, had no Daddy for us to watch going off to work, mowing the lawn or doing fatherly things.
“Mummy, where’s Robert’s Daddy?”
“Oh, Darling, Robert’s poor Daddy was killed in the war.”
When I was a small child, the phrase, ‘he was killed in the war’ was an often heard reply to a query as to the whereabouts of someone’s father, husband grandfather, brother or friend.
Pause and think about that.
It was as though the dreadful war machine had randomly plucked men from their rightful places in the midst of their families and obliterated them.
How truly awful it was.
Sadly we accepted it; we had to.
On Monday last, I was a spectator at an ANZAC Day commemoration. (ANZAC = ‘Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’).
I was there for a reason not of my choosing so was not really a willing participant in this celebratory occasion. But there were hundreds of people there – maybe thousands; people of all ages and stages of life, from infants to the very elderly.
Some had medals pinned to their chests – left side (over the heart) if they had earned them; right side if the medals belonged to someone else.
I saw huge clinking banks of medals on the chests of old men and some single medals on youngsters.
Seating for the occasion was arranged in huge semi-circles, with each chair bearing the name of a person or organisation.
There were seats for soldiers, sailors and airmen - old and new, chairs labelled with names of brass bands, schools, service associations, ladies’ auxiliaries, ‘carers’ and more.
I found an unlabelled seat far away from the stage.
As folk gathered for the celebration – as that was what it seemed to be – a party atmosphere grew as people chatted and called out greetings to friends.
A choir began to sing but no one listened. As the singing of ‘Amazing Grace’ reached a crescendo, the excited talking and laughing coming from the group of people sitting behind me seemed to increase as well. Did they not hear the choir? Or did they not care?
Finally two brass bands appeared (walking), followed by a regiment of cadets, then vintage jeeps bearing old soldiers. As the vehicles drove slowly past most people stood, briefly stopping their talking, and watched the parade.
Next there was an address and speeches. Then the singing of the New Zealand and Australian National anthems and a formal laying of floral wreaths.
The crowd eventually became subdued by the time this more serious service was underway and I have to say that during the playing of the ‘Last Post’ and the one minute’s silence, there was a definite silence.
But, I also have to say that I was aghast at the circus-like atmosphere that pervaded most of the day’s proceedings.
I ask myself, ‘why do we do this?’ Why do we make such a performance of commemorating ANZAC Day? Is it to make the idea of war and the resultant killing and maiming of fellow man into something acceptable?
Is it really to remember or is it to take the ‘nasty taste’ away?
To make us more comfortable about what went on and what continues to go on in the name of protecting our land and our way of life?
My father reluctantly joined the armed forces in World War 2 and I was left without a dad – but only for three years, as (unlike Robert’s dad) he did return - slightly damaged and very cynical about the reasons for wars - and forever distrusting of politicians who agree to participate in them.
As a returned soldier he vowed to never accept any military medals that may have come his way.
What a brave man to oppose the general sentiment of the time.
(After my father died, we found some medals hidden in the back of his sock drawer; medals we could have worn in marches such as the one I attended, but they were not for display and I am somehow glad of that).
So, back to last Monday’s ceremony.
It was a day of celebration, but I was unsure of what was to be celebrated.
To me, respect seemed rather thin on the ground around some groups gathered to watch the proceedings.
There was a lot of chatter and laughter.
But then, I suppose some would say that the ability to talk and laugh freely with friends is what we celebrate; it has been said that it is this happy situation for which we owe so much to the men and women who ‘gave the ultimate sacrifice’, so that we and our country can live in peace.
Is this so?
I am confused.
Lest we forget.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.