What is most striking about consumer culture, aside from its unprecedented ubiquity, is its celebration of consumption. The economy is our religious faith, consumption our orthodoxy. This becomes even more frightening when we discover that the targets are innocent children. This article attempts to reclaim our kids from a toxic commercial culture that has spun completely out of control. Children are innately innocent regardless of their belief system. Muslim children have a dual challenge - to knowingly miss the bandwagon of their peers and also to uphold their Islamic values.
Children remind us that the world is full of wonder and possibility. They make us laugh, exhaust us with their endless questions and needs, and evoke indescribable feelings of love. We dedicate ourselves to their well being, and we try to instill within them wholesome values and a dedication to purse establishing good for all.
It goes without saying that raising kids in today's noisy, fast-paced culture is difficult. For good or ill, kids today are exposed to a wider world. The voices of home and community have been joined by a chorus of voices from around the globe, clamoring for our children's attention. Unfortunately, an increasing number of those voices are trying to sell them something. A new generation of hyper-consumers is growing up right in front of our eyes. Most children spend the bulk of their time in one of two places - parked in front of a TV or in a classroom.
- Children watch between 50 and 100 TV commercials per day. That's 20,000 to 40,000 TV ads annually. (Marketing Madness, Westview Press, 1995)
- Coke recently signed a 10 year exclusive contract with a Colorado Springs School District, with school officials promising to heavily promote Coke products in return for small cash grants. Hundreds of school districts across the country are negotiating similar arrangements. (District's Coke Problem, Harper Magazine 2/99)
Advertising targets children creating cravings that are hard to ignore but impossible to satisfy. Neither the parents nor the School teachers are really aware of all that is being pummeled into the little minds today. There is a need to wage a battle against the forces of Hollywood and Nintendo Corporation with full force. Muslims rightfully deserve to be ashamed of themselves as they too are contributing to the problems and not the solutions. Our homes are filled with all sorts of electronic gadgetry in all versions. In most homes, we can find Barbie's and Barney's but not children books on Islam. We spend on everything except on Islamic educational material.
It is a natural instinct to see your children happy and protect them from harm or pain. But that instinct, if not tempered, also comes with a cost. Parenthood, like childhood, is a journey of discovery. We set off from our own memories of being a kid, all the blessings, all the scars. In those memories, we must find the answers to the excessiveness of everything in today's consumer culture. Kids mainly need time and attention and love, none of which takes American Express!
The author of this article knows of a family with few little ones who never owned a Television and whose California born children never visited the perverted fantasy land, a.k.a. Disneyland. And guess what, their kids are normal, healthy and sane! We like to share some of their ideas that you may find useful.
- Sell your Television, VCR and the Nintendo but if you cannot, don't just turn off the TV, but instead suggest them something meaningful to do.
- Buy Islamic books and software for children. Allocate a monthly budget and build their Islamic library.
- Buy a big box of crayons, rolls of shelf paper and sewing supplies for arts and crafts.
- Read with them bedtime stories and discuss the stories.
- Invent ways to help needy and wayfarers. Help them know children who are shot in the alleys of West Bank and Gaza.
- Remove the logos from clothes (theirs and yours). Talk with kids about why you are doing this.
- Go for walks, kick the ball around the yard, garden, do crafts, wrestle around on the living room floor.
- Pray together at least once a day and initiate to help a brother/sister drive by saving a penny a day.
We pray as taught to all of us by Allah "Our Lord! Grant unto us spouses and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous." (25:74)