Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Unthinking Human, Part 1

Lately I've been irritated about the sheepish, unquestioning nature of most people. Okay, anyone who knows me - or who reads CF with any regularity - certainly knows that my irritation in this arena is ANYTHING but "lately." Still...things have been coming to a head over the past few weeks, to the point that I need to get it off my chest before I explode.

(Heh. I said "coming," "head," and "get it off" in the same, non-dirty sentence.)

So, to begin a series of short rants: toys. You'd have to be living in a cave (one with no electricity or cable, no less!) to have missed the fact that, basically, any toy coming from China is to be viewed with deep suspicion, if not outright hostility. Between lead and possible date-rape drugs, it seems like every day the news another big toy recall. I was inadvertently watching the local news last night (something I try to avoid with every fiber of my being, as I hate the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality of the nightly newscast), and solemn, serious-looking store owners were assuring the public that "every reasonable step" is being taken to safeguard the children of America. (They didn't mention WHICH America, but never mind that...) Shoppers who were interviewed seemed concerned about independent testing, and concerned about which toys were "safe," and concerned that their children might not have enough toys to play with come Christmas.

The single concern I never ONCE heard - not ONCE! - was any sort of comment about the point of origin of any of these toys. NOT ONE PERSON even FLOATED the idea that, gee, if toys from China seem to be tainted (heh - "taint")...well, why not FUCKING AVOID TOYS FROM CHINA?!? This, to me, seems the simplest solution. But nope: all of the interviewees "moo-ed" and "baaa-ed" their way around the store, nattering on with scrunchy eyebrows and much wringing-of-hands, "Ohhh, dear! How do I tell if this toy is good or not?" Hey, numbnuts: look on the back of the damn box, whydontcha? If you read "Made in China," put it back and BUY SOMETHIN' ELSE!

Okay, to the chorus of well-established parents out there: shut up. I KNOW I'm new at the toy-buying game, and sometimes you just HAVE to get her a Dora doll, or a fuck-me-with-a-broomstick Elmo, or whatever. Yes. I GET IT. I'm not trying to play a holier-than-thou trump card here, like I'm oh-so clever. Roslyn has PLENTY of toys that originated in China, and she loves them all. I'm just talking about the idea that people didn't seem to even KNOW that there MIGHT be options. For instance:

• While searching for non-Chinese toys for Rozzle this season, we happened across the Oompa Toys site, which has TONS of cute, wriggly figures, and blocks, and other cute shit. We registered for a bunch of stuff from Haba, a European toy manufacturer.

• If you want to keep things REALLY close to home - and maybe save your neighbor's job and the U.S. economy in one fell swoop - Toys Made in America is a wonderful site that links to scores of other places where you can get quality toys made rah-cheer in dis here country. Among my favourites: the Slinky, Lincoln Logs, and Gibson Guitars. Rock ON, America! BOO-yah!

Naturally, there isn't necessarily any indication that these toys are any SAFER. I suspect that the reason we're hearing so much about Chinese-made toys is that the ginormous majority of toys that people buy these days ARE made in China. No one does a safety check on Lincoln Logs because, quite frankly, who else but some lame-o excuse for a dad would BUY Lincoln Logs as a serious present for his child? When there are electronic toys that play with themselves available, you want your kid to actually BUILD something? Feh. Okay, I admit it: THAT was a little holier-than-thou. But I stand by my point: there are simply too few people asking the right question. I always try to teach my students to THINK, dammit!, and not just follow the herd, lemming-like, off the metaphorical cliff of blind adherence. If enough people would just look at the box this season, just think ENOUGH to make that one small change, maybe we could get ourselves back on the path that frees us from cultural zombiehood.


Blogger Fun Guv said...

Actually on the Lincoln Log front, we have 4 huge containers of them downstairs and Jimmy asked for more for Christmas this year. He LOVES building with those things. I find villages all over the house! So that's not a lame-O gift in this house.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

As a parent-in-waiting, I get all righteous and think things like, well, MY child won't have any plastic toys, he/she is going to play with rag dolls and wooden blocks from the great-uncle's construction business like I did back in the good ol' days! A lot of things freak me out about parenthood and one of them is the fear that my home will be taken over by endless strewings of plastic shit. I'm sure that my purist fervor will dissolve into some sort of compromise upon arrival of actual child...

Lincoln logs are cool. So are Legos. How come no one gets Legos anymore? Do they still exist?

2:30 PM  
Blogger Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Hey, Steph. Not only do Legos exist, but they are a well and thriving part of my son's toy collection. Jamethan's current fascination is with the "Mars Mission" set. He'll be getting some of those from Santa this year, I bet, along with some Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. If it's something to build with, he'll play with it.

On a side note - when in NYC last week, Jamie and I went to FAO Schwartz, where we found life-sized models of Ron, Hermione, Harry and Hagrid, as well as C3-PO and R2D2, all made out of Legos! And in a shameless bid to promote my own blog, I can even tell you that pictures of these will be available of said Lego creations, sometime next week (after I finish the 10 page research paper, 5 page research paper, 2 page topic summary, and 5 page speech all of which are due between tonight at midnight and midnight on Monday night).

11:00 AM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

Lincoln Logs and Legos rule. Tyler enjoys them immensely.

That being's a bitch to step on 'em.

5:09 PM  
Blogger LauriO said...

This year we are forgoing anything toy. Hunter is getting catcher's gear and Grace a bike. That is it....we are adopting a family from this area and giving them a Christmas. Seems my kids have severely lost site of what it actually stands for. XO

9:57 AM  
Blogger Strangeite said...

Believe it or not, but I have found that it gets easier as they get older. Having a 9 year old and a 15 month old, it is much easier to buy cool non-toxic educational toys for the 9 year old because he is distracted by such geeky items like board games, erector sets, legos and electric bread boards.

On a completely unrelated note, the toy that both my son and daughter have become most interested in playing with lately, despite the 7.5 years of age difference, is my old "Captain Power" starship from 1984. It got pulled from a box about a month ago and Riley flys it around the house and Sophie hugs it just like her teddy bear.


10:03 AM  

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