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Legos and Violence

May 30, 2016

When playing Legos with my 3-year-old grandsons, I tried to convince him that anyone could build something that was fast and noisy with lots of weapons; the really cool and advanced techno-skills were the ones that could build slow-low-silent-flying planes that ran on solar power and didn’t scare the animals. You could actually see the world that way, and not destroy it.

I showed him pictures on line of the Solarpulse2, (http://www.solarimpulse.com/) which was setting new records for round-the-world flight using no fossil fuels….and was not covered by the mainstream media.

Rather than building warriors, I built two veterinarians, Dr. Piña Colada and Dr. Cheesecake, who healed people, other animals, and broken airplanes.

Then my 6 year old grandson introduced me to Lego books from the library. It was a shock to discover how violent they had become, and how the books, and on-line and TV stories were marketing tools for Lego wars. In one book, the brains were the evil ones; the good guys (Ninjagos) were the ones with the most sophisticated weapons. They were presented as being “community minded” because they visited the little middle class city they were protecting from evil, and signed autographs and talked to people like sports-and-war heroes.

This reminded me of work done by a friend and colleague of mine in the 1990s with the Stockholm Environment Institute. Gilberto was part of a team considering possible global futures – what they called global scenarios. Two scenarios they developed are what are called barbarization scenarios. One of them is “Fortress World”. According to the Global Scenarios website “Fortress World features an authoritarian response to the threat of breakdown. Ensconced in protected enclaves, elites safeguard their privilege by controlling an impoverished majority and managing critical natural resources, while outside the fortress there is repression, environmental destruction and misery.” (http://www.gsg.org/index.html)

This was the scenario being promoted by the new Lego worlds. This also reminded me of a recent article in the NYT about the Humanitarian Summit in Turkey, which very much reflected this way of thinking.

Lego really needs to get better, less fascist, more creative story-tellers, rather than reinforcing the worst of all possible dystopian futures.

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