We’re a funny creature aren’t we? No matter what age we are there’s still that love of novelty . We love toys when we are children. We are sometimes emulating something we see our parents do or copying things we see on the television screen or in films. As adults we fetishise objects well beyond their physical function. As children, it might be a nurse’s uniform or a doll’s house for a little girl for example .For boys it might be a little plastic carpenter’s toolbox or possibly a little set of .farm animals or a tractor. Toys seem to mostly fall into gender lines . It’s as though there is an invisible demarcation of the sexes. It’s not always the case because I had a daughter who was fascinated with a little garage full of cars and simply had to have it for Christmas, If Santa could get it down the chimney. This is all seen vaguely as part of play and learning.
A lot of adults love shiny new cars. The love goes well beyond the machine’s function and appears to be an attempt to extend their own physicality or an attempt to apply status and glamour to themselves. It’s more than a machine for some of them and there are now television programmes like “Top Gear” devoted to this fetish. You’ll hear talk about men buying flashy red sports-cars while having a mid-life crisis. That is seen as the man’s feeble attempt to extend his failing virility and apply , in effect, a penis extension to extend his failing appeal. Of course , before we berate the poor man and his insecurities, it has to be said that young women are easy marks for shallow glamour too and lap that kind of thing up, while spending millions on clothes and cosmetics.. We talk now about a “bit of bling” …a little shiny” fairy-dust ” that adds a sparkly glamour to an otherwise dowdy situation.A certain kind of man , and in this case , it appears to be mostly men, “train-spots”. That is , he collects the numbers on trains. I could never figure that one out but i can see why steam train enthusiasts might get fired -up by the restoration of a steam train .It is after all, a huge outsize chuffing toy. A part of each of us always retains that childish wonder.
I was thinking along those lines when a news report came on concerning a nine year old American girl accidentally shooting and fatally killing her gun instructor in America. Before I go further, I have to own up. I have never in my entire life of some six decades and rising , ever held a real gun in my hands; never mind trained with one or fired it.Those things are for killing people, after all.
When we were children , a decade before the Troubles, there were plenty of toy guns on sale for children in toys shops and Woolworths with which we played the schoolboy war games of the day .I had a perfectly formed German luger which had a satisfying feel and heft to it and it fired little reels of explosive caps with a lot of very gratifying smoke and noise and the bitter, nose twitching , sulphurous smell of gunpowder. There was also my Kid Colt outlaw silver pistol and of course the Cisco Kid gun in a holster. There was also many a spud gun which fired potato pellets , a plastic rifle which fired plastic rounds and a gun that shot corks at little spinning “Red Indian” targets. Of course, most of those toys were banned in Ireland during the conflict here and in any case a lot of those cowboy heroes were only a passing television phase that men and boys lapped up like cream.The Sugarfoots, riflemen and Bronco Layne’s were soon an ancient history .
The toy- gun ban was an attempt to protect children and possibly adults from potential death while handling something that looked like a lethal weapon. There was a lot of paranoia afoot and who knew when some jumpy adult in the security forces might mistake a toy for the real thing…..
Back to the nine year old girl …The gun that she was firing wasn’t just a functional pistol either. This was what you’d call a “glamour gun”. Guns are made for killing either people or animals, basically . At a stretch it could be argued that they can be used for target practice, but in reality , their full function is as a killing machine.The glamour gun was an Israeli Uzi machine gun which is basically a rapid- fire hand- held machine- pistol. It is the kind of thing you would see in mindless action films where stars like Stallone would fire them two-fistedly at the bad guys and save the girl in distress..
Knowing all this and understanding the lethal pedigree of such a weapon, you have to ask yourself though, why any parent would allow a child of any sex anywhere near a dangerous machine like that. You wouldn’t let them work in a factory with some potentially dangerous machinery .You wouldn’t allow them to fire up a chain -saw and attempt to cut down a tree .You wouldn’t allow them drive your shiny red sports-car , either would you?
It really makes me wonder…..