CHILDHOOD UNDER SIEGE
HOW BIG BUSINESS TARGETS CHILDREN
From the writer of the hit film and international bestselling book The Corporation comes a shocking venture behind the scenes of the widespread manipulation of children by profit-seeking corporations—and of society’s failure to protect them.
Childhood Under Siege reveals big business’s discovery of a new resource to be mined for profit—our children. A journey through a world of unabashed exploitation, clued-out parents, and governments that look the other way, it tells the chilling and at times darkly humorous story of business’s plans to turn kids into obsessive and narcissistic mini-consumers, media addicts, cheap and pliable workers, and chemical industry guinea pigs. Not to mention pharmaceutical pill poppers—psychotropic drug consumption by children has increased fivefold since 1980.
It’s a winner-takes-all battle for children’s hearts, minds and bodies as corporations pump billions into rendering parents and governments powerless to protect children from their calculated commercial assault and its disturbing toll on their health and well-being.
I remember vividly one hot summer night in the early 1970s. I had escaped the cramped and humid hell of a Catskills bungalow (my extended family had met there for a “vacation”), and made my way to the Teen Glow Ball Disco at the big hotel down the road. Girls, a mystery to me (I was thirteen at the time), had become intriguing over the previous year, and one of them on the dance floor caught my eye. After mustering the courage to ask her to dance—she said, “Yes”—I knew my luck was doubly blessed when a slow number came on. We embraced, awkwardly, and began to move together to the music. I thought I was in heaven.
But suddenly the lights came on, the music stopped, and the glow ball ceased to glow. Two men, their necks craned and eyes squinting, made their way slowly to the middle of the dance floor. One of them, my father, had a flashlight tied to his head with a bungie cord; the other, short with bandy legs, knee—high white socks, and Bermuda shorts, was my uncle Ben. Later that night I would learn the two men had been dispatched by my panic-stricken family to track me down and bring me home when they realized I had gone missing. But at that moment, standing there stunned on the dance floor, my dark—adapted eyes stinging in the harsh, unwanted light, I knew I had to do something, and fast.
I pulled my princess close, kissed her hard on the lips (a first for me), bolted the dance floor and fled the hotel. When I hit the unlit road, I took a last look behind me. There I saw the strangest sight—a disembodied light bobbing eerily up and down, about six feet off the ground. It was, I realized, the flashlight attached to my father's head.“It's me, I’m over here, I'm okay,” I shouted.
Now, for most kids, certainly for me that night in the Catskills, parents can be a real drag—clueless, embarrassing, sometimes humiliating, overprotective, and always uncool. They make rules, curtail freedoms, spy and monitor, assign chores, require homework be done, limit computer use and TV watching, curb candy and soda consumption, forbid sex, alcohol and drugs, impose curfews, and vet friends. Even young children, and certainly tweens and teens, understand that parents get in the way of fun...Read More
"The assault on childhood in our corporate-dominated and profit-driven society, painfully dissected in this penetrating study, is a tragedy not only for the immediate victims but for hopes for a better future. It can be resisted, as Joel Bakan discusses. And it is urgent not to delay."
"To be a child today, even inaffluent countries like ours, is no longer a time of innocence, idyll and discovery, as Bakan reveals in Childhood Under Siege. Most children today grow up on a planet in which billions of tons of toxic chemicals have been poured into the air, water and soil; in a big city where the opportunity to encounter nature has been replaced by concrete, fast cars, video games and shopping malls; in a world in which childhood represents a marketing challenge and opportunity. Read this important book and then start working for change."
—David Suzuki, co-author of The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature