A recent invitation by Family TV to discuss the vexed issue of moral decadence in our society led me to a study on the contribution of the movie industry to the moral decay among Kenya\’s youth.
A major worry of every Kenyan parent today is their children being lured into drug addiction and crime.
Yet, unbeknownst to many parents, Kenya\’s children are being introduced to all manner of crime, including drug abuse, through modern technological gadgets, such as Play Stations and other devices of the \’screen\’ era.
And, thanks to such American cinematic blockbusters like The Godfather, Superfly, Scarface, Clear and Present Danger, Training Day and Bad Lieutenant, Kenya\’s movie buffs, who have never seen a real illicit drug in their lives – much less used one – are now exposed to huge amounts of information about the narcotics trade in North America and other parts of the world.
These forms of entertainment are all available on DVD and are pushed to your face by importunate vendors in most urban centres, especially during traffic jams.
Indeed, among the highest circulating untaxed goods in most Kenyan towns and marketplaces are these drug-glorifying movies. They are also sold right in the face of unsuspecting parents.
It gets worse when one realises that the same movies are available on the Internet and on mobile telephones, within easy reach of children.
I was horrified the other day when my five-year-old son excitedly mentioned to me a movie he was playing on the Internet called House of the Dead. He narrated, with admirable eloquence, the deadly characters in the movie, and could hardly disguise his envy of the heroic deeds of these fictional characters. I immediately considered issuing a ban on the movie, including having it totally disabled from the home computer.
But it was my recent study of the world of cinematology in Kenya that left me numb with shock. It would help for every parent whose kids have access to gadgets like Play Stations to closely examine the kind of games they play. Let me lend a snap review of some of the drug-glorifying movies now available on the local market to give you an idea of the dangers our kids are exposed to.
The Godfather trilogy, for instance, stars the brilliant Al Pacino from start to finish as Michael Corleone, favourite son of the Corleone crime family. It was notable for resisting the rise of the drug trade in the mid-1950s and into the 60s.
In one scene in the series, an apologist for the then fairly new phenomenon remarked at a mobsters\’ roundtable meeting to discuss the issue that drugs should be only sold in Black neighbourhoods of US cities in order to keep Negroes contained and busy since they were "animals without souls".
The US civil rights movement went up in arms against films like Superfly, which exposed the post-Martin Luther King Black communities as being in the grip of drug dealers.
Pusherman, one of Superfly\’s highly addictive songs, was hummed by a generation of young people around the world in the later half of the 1970s and the early 80s. Indeed, Pusherman remains the anthem of drug dealing; enticing, hypnotic, soulful, a masterly piece of songwriting and instrumentation.
Al Pacino was also the star of the highly successful and influential Scarface, released in 1982, which told the story of one Tony Montana (Pacino), who washed up on the beach at Florida as one of the thousands of Cuba\’s "Boat People", mostly hardcore criminals, whom President Fidel Castro had deliberately allowed to escape to the US.
Once in America, Montana soon shoots his way into the cocaine dealer scene, killing the godfather who inducts him into the trade and the corrupt senior police officer who protects the don and marries the mistress.
Montana breaks the first rule of the trade – never use your own stock. He goes mad inhaling cocaine by the kilo and Scarface ends up in a spectacular but mindless and totally nihilistic shootout in which he and his beloved sister perish, taking many more lives with them.
Scarface is a study in the psychology of drug lords and their hubris when they go over the top. Looking closely at Tony Montana as portrayed by Pacino, one of cinema\’s all-time great character actors, one easily deciphers the kind of drug lords who recently held Mexico to ransom, facing off with the military in a mini-civil war fuelled by drug billions and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
In Clear and Present Danger, released in 1994 and available on the Kenyan market, the dangers of conducting covert wars on drugs without congressional oversight and approval are brought sharply into focus.
Superstar Harrison Ford stars as acting Deputy Director of the CIA, Jack Ryan, who is kept in the dark about a covert action deep inside Columbia, is being conducted by President Bennett (played by Donald Moffat) and his top aides. The plotters finally face their Waterloo when an Air Force jet strikes at a gathering of drug cartel chieftains who include family and friends, wiping out the whole lot in the missile attack carried out from a remote position 10 miles above the ground.
These are but a few of the drugs-glorifying movies being brought into the precincts of our homes in pirated versions. And, although they pass as mere entertainment, they have such destructive influence on the future behaviour of all children exposed to them.
Studies show, and now experts agree, that some aggressive behaviour or habits such as smoking among some adults were influenced by movies watched in childhood which glorified such vices.
The writer is the Information Secretary of the Republic of Kenya email:emutua @information.go.ke
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