20 Ways to Create a Caring Culture - Part II
This article originally appeared in Issue# 63
Action Ideas for Children, Families, and Groups
- Nonviolent Computer Game
Using CD-ROM technology, a computer game along the lines of Carmen Sandiego would challenge players to solve conflicts nonviolently. Anger management and conflict resolution skills could be employed as modes of action. The game would be equally effective as entertainment in the home and an educational tool in schools. Design and format could be developed for different age groups.
What You Can Do: Parents and teachers can help kids design a game and submit it to a computer software company or a computer programmer.
- MTV "Rock The Violence"
Similar to the "Rock the Vote" campaign that encouraged young adults to take an active role in the democratic process through voting, such a campaign would encourage and promote nonviolent behavior through PSAs from celebrities, rock stars and musicians with whom the MTV crowd can identify. In fact, MTV aired a 15-second animated spot called "Silence the Violence" in which marching machine guns turned into flowers. This is a good start for a larger program.
What You Can Do: Work with local cable access channels and radio stations to get a pilot program started. Call MTV in New York (212)258-8000.
- Nonviolent Student of the Month
Due to the rise of violence in elementary and secondary schools, a highly-visible media campaign highlighting nonviolent students would help disarm the fear and suspicion that schools are dangerous places. Students who solve conflicts nonviolently or deter others from using violence would be awarded special recognition by the school and community. Promotion would include extensive television and newspaper coverage. Local TV stations might sponsor the program.
What You Can Do: Begin at home by rewarding your own children. Contact the PTA about developing such a program or supporting one already in place.
- Nonviolent Line of Video Games
Already under criticism for the graphic violence in Mortal Kombat, which features bloody decapitations and dismemberment, Nintendo (as well as Sega and Genesis) could develop a line of video games whose characters score points through nonviolent action. Competition would be based on creative thinking, innovative problem-solving.
What You Can Do: "Reinvent" a violent video game with your kids as they play -- propose "peaceful" characters and action. Write to Nintendo, Sega or Genesis with a new game idea.
- Nonviolent Video Projects for Kids
A series of film-industry-sponsored video projects in which children explore alternatives to violence in film and television. Kids would film a scene of conflict and with the assistance of a screenwriter, director or producer, find ways to film the scene without violence. Techniques and methods of filmmaking would allow kids to get beneath the surface of media violence -- how it is used and why -- by promoting a contextual understanding of its purpose in the scene.
What You Can Do: Initiate a program at your local TV station or cable access channel. Organize projects for afterschool programs.
- Ethics Training in Film Schools
Most people preparing for public service professions like law enforcement or medicine are required to take ethics courses during their training. Because television and film are considerable forces in defining American culture, a similar requirement should be made of film and television students. Classes would focus on the role of the filmmaker as a participant in a democratic society, the political and social implications of the film as well as the potential moral and ethical imprint of media on different types of audiences.
What You Can Do: Work with local television stations to develop and implement a community-based public service communcations code.
- Video Comparing Real Violence to Media Violence
An educational video similar to Scared Straight, a film study of prison life, could demonstrate the differences between real and media violence. Primarily shown in schools, the video could also be part of an educational awareness program facilitated by film and television professionals (perhaps stuntmen or news reporters). It might compare the depiction of violence in film and TV to real violence with particular attention to the consequences of aggression.
What You Can Do: Point out the difference between "real" and "fake" while watching "action" shows with children.
- A School Play Promoting Non-Violence
A theatrical play or a performance art piece demonstrating and advocating nonviolent solutions could be performed in a school district as part of an educational program on violence. Written, produced, acted and staged by a multicultural cast of students, the play would emphasize anger management, conflict resolution skills and promote understanding between ethnic groups. The production could travel from school to school and also be tailored to fit a particular school's "personality."
What You Can Do: Volunteer to help produce the play. Work with a local high school drama teacher or young people to write the play.
- A Slogan to Crystalize a Movement to Non-Violence
"Buckle Up, It's the Law" and "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste" both capture their respective causes well. So much so that they're part of our cultural lexicon. A similar slogan to bolster the nonviolence movement could crystalize the public in a massive joint effort to reduce violence. Perhaps a campaign to find a slogan could start in schools and business. PSAs, bumper stickers, T-shirts and similar promotional material would help disseminate the slogan.
What You Can Do: Brainstorm slogan ideas with your family, community group and church. Contact local radio talk show or TV station to promote your slogan.
- Kids' Advisory Panel to Media
Most major organizations and businesses have a board of directors that helps guide the organization. Similarly, a "board of directors" paneled by kids would serve as creative consultants to advise various media. A board could be established in local schools and community groups and sponsored by a local television station. It would primarily function as a way to get children involved in the business of media.
What You Can Do: Form your own "family" kids' panel at home. "Board members" would decide on program selections, viewing hours and video rentals following agreed upon guidelines.
- Nonviolent Promotional Advertising on Products
Stories of individuals who have used non-violence to solve difficult problems could be promoted on products with high exposure to children, i.e., milk cartons, cereal boxes, trading cards and school lunch trays. Besides the traditional histories of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, stories should feature local heroes and community leaders that kids could identify with easily.
What You Can Do: Teachers might organize a classroom writing project to research a collection of stories. A parent group could help find ways to publish the stories.
- TV Show in Which Character Roles are Switched
Action and drama shows often feature only one point of view, usually that of a "good guy" who overcomes obstacles to defeat a "bad guy." This technique creates a false sense of needing to create an enemy that justifies the use of violence. A show that switches protagonist and antagonist roles and highlights different perspectives could promote and urge viewers to understand all sides of an issue before resorting to violence. "Humanizing" the enemy is a valuable way to open the lines of communication between conflicting parties.
What You Can Do: Have a youth group or after school kids club rewrite and replay an "action" show with different members assuming different roles.
- Major Advertiser Endorsement
Leading media advertisers such as Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds and Nike could develop a series of PSAs endorsing nonviolent television shows, products and programs. They could also promote awareness of nonviolent solutions by sponsoring or endorsing educational projects in schools. A commercial slot such as during the Super Bowl would help get the promotion in high gear. Local corporations could use full- page pullouts in newspapers supporting peaceful solutions to community conflicts.
What You Can Do: Lead a postcard drive to enlist a local company to get the idea started
- Red Ribbon Week in School
Similiar to the awareness created by the red AIDS ribbon, a colorful ribbon would represent a commitment to make the schools and the community less violent and a positive learning environment. Week-long projects and events would involve students and teachers in nonviolent activities that raise nonviolence awareness. The ribbon would eventually be profiled by highly-visible celebrities too.
What You Can Do: Make, design and wear the ribbon.
- A Violence "Tax"
Modeled after the idea of "sin" taxes, film companies, cable channels and television networks who use violence as a means of promoting and selling their products would be subject to a violence tax. Since paying taxes isn't a pleasant idea for most people, film producers and writers would give considerable thought before using violence as a means of storytelling or creating action. Especially accountable to this tax would be producers of slasher and horror films which often feature numerous scenes of gratuitious violence.
What You Can Do: Decrease allowances to children who use them to rent Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser or similar slasher films.
- Peace Week on TV
Cable channels and television networks would schedule programming featuring positive, pro-social and nonviolent content. Movies would be aired only if they contain limited scenes of violence whose context was fully explained. Sitcoms, dramas and soap operas could develop special episodes featuring nonviolent solutions to conflicts. Local and national news would make an effort to limit reporting of "negative" stories.
What You Can Do: Schedule a week-long family viewing of only nonviolent programs. PTA or church groups can develop and publicize a list of recommended nonviolent videos and TV shows as well as work with local TV stations on the idea.
- Anti-Violence Fair/Convention
A major community event where national corporations, local businesses, film studios, cable channels, television networks, gather to explore new developments and the latest programs dedicated to the reduction of violence in media and society. Seminars, demonstrations, informational material could be disseminated. High visibility of the event in the media would increase the impact of the programs. Corporations could sponsor school field trips to the fair/convention.
What You Can Do: Organize a block or street party centered around nonviolent activities. Teachers can conduct in-classroom nonviolence "seminars."
- TV Series/Videos with Stories of NonViolent Heroes
Modeled after the Arts&Entertainment Channel's Biography series, this program would highlight a nonviolent historical figure or personality whose use of non-violence serves to inspire others. Besides detailing an individual's nonviolent action, the program would also show the local and global benefits of nonviolent behavior. A localized show could feature community members who have used alternatives to violence to resolve conflicts within their own community.
What You Can Do: Have children interview neighbors or family members about heroic actions they have performed or witnessed. Produce with a video camera.
- Family to Family Media Event
A high-profile media event where families join in group activities to establish community coalitions and de-program ethnic stereotyping. Such an event would foster communication between ethnic groups that have often been portrayed in the media as agnostic. Activities would encourage participation and teamwork within non-hierarchic, non-exclusive framework. The media would participate in either sponsorship or providing extensive media coverage.
What You Can Do: Encourage PTAs or community groups to organize a program. Host a "salon" to discuss with neighbors a particular media issue.
- Cabinet Secretary Post
This presidential appointee would be responsible for coodinating the solutions to violence in the U.S. Working with media industry professionals, health organizations, law enforcement agencies, educational groups as well as parents and concerned citizens, the appointee would help organize the vast resources and programs dedicated to nonviolence.
What You Can Do: Appoint a family member as the minister of NonViolence.