Gotta ban ’em all !

Anyone who has kids knows about the Japanese fad Pokémon. These silly misshapen fighting monsters have captured the hearts of youths around the world. Pokémon, the brainchild of Nintendo of Japan, began as a video game three years ago, and branched out as card games, a cartoon show, comic books, and such. When introduced on the american market, it broke sales records, selling 2.5 million copies in one year. More recently, the new Nintendo 64 title called “Pokémon Stadium” has sold more than one million units in March.

The “Pokémon phenomenon” is slowly tapering down in Japan, but still going strong in the United States. Pokémon : The First Movie, released in November 99, has been a phenomenon all by itself. It also spawned an american equivalent, called Digimon. This troup of monster seems to be similar except with a higher cute-factor, less “realistic”, and with the suffix -mon added to all the names. Pretty unoriginal, even for that group of people.

What is Pokémon ? As I said before, Pokémon was first a video game. The goal of the game is to become a “master trainer” of these pocket monsters by getting all 151 of them. They have various RPG-type skills like fire, lightning or water. They can also “evolve”, something that makes Christians cringe. Some of these monsters look inoffensive, but “evolved” stages look more menacing, and have more power. Some monsters look fairly inorganic, like Geodude (which looks like a small boulder with arms) or Blastoise (which has two cannons in its shell). Some have paranormal powers.

Because of the feverish way in which children have grown fond of Pokémon, many adults are seriously concerned with them. Many schools have now banned the cards from their schools. Some reasons invoked for this are theft of cards, trades during class, and even actual fights. In British Columbia schools, the card game was banned because some older children were winning too much. According to reporter Sam Sloan, Public School 111 in New York City has also banned Pokemon cards. In fact, the centers of banning seem to be New York, New Jersey and Washington, according to CNews. Bans were also reported in Danville (CA) and many other places.

Three elementary schools in Pelham (NY) banned the cards because “they were getting lost or misplaced and the kids were getting upset”, according to Richard P. Limato, principal of the Prospect Hill School. It’s wonderful that we ban things because they get children upset. I’d like to remind the eminent Mr. Limato that teachers get children upset too. Perhaps we should set about to banning teachers.

Public opinion has once again gone off its royal rockers and shot all the way to the Moon, which is not really a surprise. I hate to be the Master of the Obvious yet again but you know what ? It’s just a damn card game. It has become so ridiculous that some people are even comparing the Pokémon controversy with World War II, or the Rape of Nanking ! Just because the Japanese committed war atrocities, suddently everything Japanese is bad. I’m referring here to an article in December 1999 in the Jewish World Review that made my hair stand on end, writted by a rabid conservative called Michelle Malkin. It may be a fringe opinion, but it’s still scary to see that this kind of people are leading today’s medias. Of course you’ll never hear rednecks ask for a banning of German (Nazi) beer or french (Napoleonian) fries.

The whole thing seems engineered by irresponsible, child abusers as parents, who want their child’s life to be solely composed, as Sean Riley aptly put it, of “Sunday school, biblical trading card games, pizza parties with grandma, and youth group bowling tournaments”. It seems that strong emotions and quarrels should be forbidden amongst children, and that we should only let adults bash each other on the head.

Talking about biblical games, Christians don’t like Pokémon one bit either. Of course, that might be expected from people who boycott Disney and children’s books. Many reasons are summoned (pun intended) for this anger. The first is that Pokémon cards were made by Wizards of the Coast, the same company that makes Magic : The Gathering cards, a most hated “occult game”. Even if kids have no way of knowing that, this is seen as a terrible danger that kids may use Pokémon as a stepping stone to more “hard” games, as if it was some kind of drug. Ironically, Christian parents are much more intoxicated by a supernatural fantasy world, but they don’t seem to rail against it.

Christian attacks against the cards also claim that it fosters indepandance and self-reliance. Well, I can see how that would be bad for a Christian. Also, that the child summons monsters with supernatural powers seems to get them in a tissy, and they are quick to drag their old “witchcraft” scapegoat as the source of all evils and worst.

They also accuse the Pokémon evolution system as being opposed to creationism. Actually, they monsters don’t really evolve, they change when they get to a certain level, just like in RPGs. Creationists should love it actually, since it’s a very “magical” kind of evolution, just like “being saved”. Yes, when “Xianmon” gets to a certain level of faith, it changes into “Bornagainmon”. It gains the powers of “biblical babbling” and “empty-headedness”, both skills extremely valuable in fights against those damn “Atheistmons”.

Some other people hate Pokémon for particular reasons. Uri Geller, the world-known paranormal quack, is suing Nintendo for a Pokémon which in English is called “Kadabra”, but in Japanese is called “Ungeller” (or as translated, Evil Geller). This monster is shown with spoons (a reference to Geller’s conjuror trick of bending spoons) and has the power of causing headaches in other monsters’ heads. Well, Geller plans to give a big headache to Nintendo. But frankly, this cheap trickster is just giving us headaches.

Zero tolerance for zero tolerance

Of course children get excited about Pokémon. Can you blame them ? At least they have something real to get excited about. They have real value in their hands or controllers. Adults kill each other when they get excited with nonsense religions about sky-fairies and we say nary a word. Somehow we expect our children to not follow our bad examples, and we call that education.

Should atheists be outraged against Pokémon cards ? Surely not ! Such a decision is, of course, a judgment of the individual parent. But there is no reason why a reasonable people should forbid such toys. Surely we should let our children think and act for themselves and learn the lessons of youth in such a manner. Yes, older children do steal or act dishonestly. Yes, sometimes passions run high. These are all part of life in society, a life that children will soon join. Should we try to hide reality from them, or, on the contrary, let them do what they want in that respect and help them learn from the experience ? The choice is obvious.

I’m not trying to get in child-rearing rhetoric here, and certainly not saying that parents should permit everything. As for any activity, parental guidance is preferable, and sometimes required. But instead of censoring the child’s education, it is much better to help your child learn in, and from, this experience.

Some objection may be raised that Pokémon is mystical, and therefore endoctrinates our children in the belief that supernatural forces exist. But children do not believe in swords and slime monsters just because they play the latest Final Fantasy game. If they already have a propension to believe in such things, in their parents’ education for example, then they are much more prone to accept these forms of powers as being real.

Furthermore, many skills are gained by the trading of these cards, which psychologists were quick to point out to shut up the anti-Pokémon mania. One of them is the ability to trade and exchange with other kids, and socialization in general (thru the Gameboy Game Link, trading cards and even leagues). Furthermore, in the game, players must nurture the monsters they capture and share with other characters in order to win. Many skills could be teached to children by using Pokémon. Some of them are mathematics, coloring or drawing, computer skills (especially by looking for Pokémon information on the Internet or make a web site themselves), writing or reading, and others.

But of course parents and teachers do not seek to educate our children thru what they like. That would be too easy. We must force them to digest insipid loads of information without context or framework. And after that we wonder why children are not interested in science. Simply restraining children to play games out of class because they are too excited is disgusting.

But the anti-Pokémon craze is only a small part of the new wave of “zero tolerance” in american schools. The government has not found anything better to do than attack children’s rights in public schools, as we have first seen with the attacks on the separation of church and school. Now, schools suspend children for any offense that may be construed as even remotely dangerous or offensive.

To give you some examples, a student was suspended in Charleston (WV) for bringing a “deadly weapon”, in accordance with the state’s Safe Schools Act. What was that deadly weapon ? A 30-inch railroad bolt. In Mableton (GA), two little girls were suspended for five days for attempting to practice voodoo. Reports Associated Press, “[a] spokesman for the school called the incident ‘a security and safety incident for the other students'”. Yes, these people are paid to ban little girls who chant innocuous incantations under the excuse that it is a safety risk. Incredible. I could go on and on about all the instances I have read in the media. Children are suspended for writing pseudo-macabre fortune cookies, making shooting motions, bringing a toy rocket or water gun, making a drawing of the Confederate flag, or even because they are critical of the school. Bringing a fingernail clipper got a 7-year-old boy a 45-day suspension in Cahokia (IL). It happens so often that even News of the Weird has classified it as a normal reoccurance.

The obvious solution, of course, is to get the government out of education. If we could only stop the worker-funded brainwashing of children in the lower grades, and let the parents and educators decide of the children’s environment, there would be an incredible freedom in that regard (not to mention the economical advantages). But, as much matter of course as this simple conclusion, the governments in place will never allow it.

Parents themselves are too lazy to teach social skills, so they leave it to the schools. Then the schools forbid any instrument of social skill education. We are reduced to such a state of hypocrisy, where we wonder why our youth is becoming so anti-social… maybe we should look at ourselves first.

And the “Christian moralizers” are just another form of this hypocrisy. They like to censor and ban everything in the name of the children, especially the things they don’t like, but they keep the Bible, the disgusting pictures of a bleeding Saviour-on-a-stick™, and other such atrocities as an example to follow. In August of last year, the school district in Columbus (GA) did not hesitate to censor a famous painting called “Washington Crossing the Delaware” from all their textbooks because they thought his pocket watch looked like it might be confused with his penis.

But who is going to censor the Christ’s bleeding wrists ?