Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 7

I’ve just had a peaceful and lovely weekend outside of Tokyo, leaving behind all the noise in my poor head. The town was deadly quiet. Even at the heart of the city, all stores are closed by 8ish except some bars and karaoke joints. No seductive excitement in evidence anywhere. It seems even young stars stay home, except the wildest ones, and do whatever they feel like. I’m quite sure their interests are not so different from that of teenagers in Tokyo, though. Like everywhere else, their ultimate goal is to be the definitive local color of cool.
One of my friends is from Ehime prefecture, one of four prefectures, located on the smallest and least populated island in Japan. I was astonished to discover the sub-cultural differences when we talked about our “young and stupid” teenage era. I had always thought of myself as one of the wildest and stupidest of all in one of the most conservative private girls' schools in Japan. After exchanging our reminiscences of our high school days, I realized I had actually been a relatively decent girl. Most of his stories were about quite life-threatening situations. At the age of 12, he was addicted to smoking and heavy drinking with his gang. I was totally shocked to learn this,  as the thought of smoking, taking other drugs or drinking had never occurred to me at the stage of my life. The adrenaline  that I had rushing though my system was thrilling enough to deal with, I suppose. It was only much later, in my high-teen era, that I was tempted to smoke just to attain the cool image of being a female smoker. Intrigued, I asked him the reason for his addiction. He said, “ Trying to be cool is one thing and bored is another.” Another friend from Prince Edward Island, in Canada, which lacks the crazy excitements of city life but where alluring nature still remains, also made a similar comment once.
Those experiences led me to this question today:
In a recent survey conducted in this country, it was found that up to 20% of twelve year-olds in some schools were showing early signs of nicotine addiction.
In the eighteen to twenty year age bracket the percentage was as high as 70%. A large contributing factor to this high level of addiction is attributed to the uncensored TV advertising of cigarettes.
For this reason all cigarette advertising should be banned.
People tend to seek a reason for an issue. The main reason for this attempt is for our own peace of minds, I believe. Having a clear reason makes you feel better, or at least less confused. Perhaps having no concrete reason is disconcerting. Parents and teachers ask badly-behaved teens the reason for their rebellious and self-destructive attitudes. However, even if the teenagers understood the forces that drive them, would that knowledge help them to control their lives any better? Nobody feels secure and blissful in a chaotic environment. Simply because they have no idea what is going on inside their heads and bodies, they feel confused and distressed. The uncontrollable aspects of life are intimidating and fearful for their pre-mature hearts. 
I personally have experienced this mysterious magnetic force of rebelliousness, with an overwhelming fear for the uncertainty of the future. Since I had been a rather quiet and obedient little girl in my childhood, my dismayed parents asked me the reason for my excessively unfriendly attitude. If I had known the answer back then, I would have made this list for them:
1 Rapid and radical mental and physical change
2 Peer-pressure for being cool
3 Stress for being excellent academically 
4 Excessive energy as well as irritation
5 Insecurity for the unknown future
6 Loss of childhood innocence
7 Discovery of the absurdity of the world 
Considering all the aspects listed above, it would be strange or even worrisome if teenagers all handled their adolescence in an obedient manner. Those who don’t become rebellious are likely to be either exceptionally mature-minded or apathetic to life. The latter is the more likely the reason and apathy is more problematic than disobedience. In other words, rebelliousness in teenagers should be considered a healthy symptom of personal development. All of us go through the stage in order to mature our minds and souls. Without the inner chaos, full of philosophical questions, dealing with absurdity of life in adulthood would be unbearable. 
The excessive amount of information we receive from multi-media might  be an additional source of confusion for the pre-mature minds of teens. It can also, however, stimulate their rational minds, providing an opportunity to view the world critically, given the appropriate guidance. Banning cigarette advertisements will lead to total control of their minds. It is the same censorship mentality as banning books. In an overprotected environment, freedom of thought will be banned as well. No individual thinker can be nurtured under such control. 
In conclusion, far from banning cigarette advertisements, we could use them as opportunities for open discussion and research on social issues such as teenage addictions.  

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