Thursday, January 27, 2011

Play: Let's put the "Party" back into politics!

My friend Austin just sent me one of the videos from that excellent TED series regarding how the human mind works. In
this video, entitled "Play is More than Fun," psychiatrist Stuart Brown tells us why "play" is so important -- both for children and for adults. Here's the link:

According to this video, the infamous 1966 Texas Tower sniper Charles Whitman hadn't been allowed to have any playtime when he was a kid. "He was found to have deep play-deprivation when he was a child," states Dr. Brown. Studies of the infamous 2007 Virginia Tech murderer also show that he didn't have enough playtime when he was a rug-rat either.

Who knows how much playtime Jared Louchner was allowed to have as a child -- but one can speculate that it probably wasn't nearly enough.

And just look at all those poor sweet Taliban boys over in Af-Pak who were raised in the strictest of maddrassas and later went nuts with the AK-47s. And what about those poor, driven, over-achieving prep school kids like George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld -- who grew up and went on to kill over a million people? And all those "Spare the rod and spoil the Child" types who raised happy children like the infamous Lizzie Bordon. Or even look at Hitler's childhood for that matter. There was no Sesame Street or Gymboree for him!

Playtime seems to be REALLY important for kids. In fact, according to this TED video, the physiology of play is as important to learning and survival as dreaming and sleep.

Fine. I want to play. Count me in. But what exactly IS play? According to Dr. Brown, "It is an act that doesn't have a particular purpose. If its purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it's probably not play." Rats. There goes my hope using the theory of play to help clean up my apartment.

In addition, "play" helps you spend more time working with your hands. "If you haven't worked with your hands early in life, you can't problem-solve," according to Dr. Brown. Not even a little bit? I bet you could still be able to solve a few problems even if you hadn't done the Play-Doh thing as a child. I bet you could still figure out how to take the cap off the toothpaste or lie your way into a war -- but other than that? Who knows.

"Curiosity and exploration are part of the play scene. Body play, play with objects, rough-and-tumble play, imaginative solo play are fundamental parts of the play scene. So what does play do? We don't exactly know. The funding for studies of play isn't exactly overwhelming."

So. What does "play" have to do with politics? Seriously? You even have to ask? The stuff that goes on in Washington these days is so freaking serious that it's scary. And just look at what happens on Wall Street and in the back rooms of top global corporations or whenever national and world leaders meet. Everything is so freaking serious these days, it's almost like we were back at the Reichstagg.

"Nothing lights up the brain like play," states Dr. Brown, "or gets the cerebellum working, fires up the memory, stimulates creativity" -- and all that other good stuff. "Play is imperative to our survival."

So much for the theory of "Tiger Moms".

If Dr. Brown is right and play is almost as important as sleep, then if America is ever to get back on track, we obviously need to put the "Party" back into our politics. And we especially need to put playfulness back into the sadly-misnamed Tea "Party," the party-pooping "Party of No" and the Pentagon's "War" party too. These guys are all downers!

Let's also consider all those whiners who are constantly complaining about how much they hate "Big Government". These guys need to learn how to lighten up! After all, they are the ones who put all those glum and greedy corporatists who now own our government into power in the first place. But wouldn't it be more fun to stop whining and crying about this phantom "Big Government" that they themselves created -- and send all those greedy corporatists to jail instead? "Party at the Big House!"

For right-wingers and Teabaggers to complain about Big Government nowadays is like complaining that your neighbors' music is too loud -- but only after you bought them the latest high-tech stereo sound-surround system, Metallica's entire CD collection and a copy of Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy". Not a legitimate gripe.

Further, according to Dr. Brown, "The opposite of a life without play is depression". Can't disagree with him on that one either. And since America is clearly in the middle of a huge economic depression right now, there is only one sure way to cure it. Let's play our way out!

It's never too late to have a happy childhood, America. Let's spend seven trillion dollars on kids' toys instead of on war toys.
Let's put the "PARTY" back into political thinking. Let's fix what's wrong with our nation and savor what is right with it -- and let's have fun doing it too.

PS: Human beings play. Corporations do not. According to Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens,
“Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires...." They don't frolic, gambol or score touchdowns. Corporations are serious as a heart-attack. Ergo, a corporation is NOT a person.

PPS: My three-year-old granddaughter Mena just came home from her first day at a "play-based" pre-school -- and here's what the blurb they sent home with her says about that: "In this program, play is seen as the leading skill-development activity for young children. The teacher's role is to support the development of intentional dramatic play, which fosters self-regulation, memory and focused attention as well as developing academic skills in literacy and math."

So. I'm thinking that people like Glenn Beck and John Boehner, who apparently are able to whine and cry on cue, might really benefit from a refresher course at Mena's pre-school. And what about all those other corporatist party-poopers who we constantly see sobbing -- all the way to the bank? Obviously they could benefit from Mena's pre-school philosophy too.

And the boys in the back room who run our Congress, White House and Supreme Court would also clearly benefit from learning about "self-regulation, skill development and focused attention" -- instead of just wasting their formative years grimly and bleakly studying ways to rip America off.

PPPS: Does spending major time on the computer trying to win at solitaire also count as play?