Wednesday, July 18, 2018
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To be a family again

The Incredibles 2” broke box-office records this past weekend, as expected. It managed to rake in around $230 million from global ticket sales, making it one of the biggest film openings this year. Quite a feat for a sequel to a family movie last seen in 2004. That’s a long wait! I was a mere fifth-grader around that time. This sequel is supposed to be a gentle tug at my heartstrings.

Except that even the first one didn’t quite have that effect on me. I am not the type to be emotional over familial things. “The Incredibles,” with its cookie-cutter depiction of both parents and a trio of offspring, portrayed a family going through a crisis and achieving an ideal home in the end. Can the animated film, 14 years after its first installment, teach the world how to be a family again? And is its image of a family even the norm today?

There has been no time more treacherous and insidious to the family than the one we live in at present. Menacing antiheroes aside, the real villains are circumstances we may or may have not seen coming.

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Last Sunday was Father’s Day, honoring the pillars of our homes. But, in more recent years, this celebration has been driving a subtle but visible divide between families that have fathers, and those that don’t. More and more children are growing in a state of fatherlessness due to broken families and child-rearing outside of marriage. The Philippines had about 20 million solo parents last year, according to an estimate by the Federation of Solo Parents.

Many fear that children who grow up without a father figure may end up leading less successful and fulfilling lives as they get older. Nonetheless, there is no lack of father figures for some. For many of us

who lacked a dad, we knew that, at some point and in numerous ways, we were still taken care of somehow.

Last Monday, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its 11th edition of International Classification of Diseases. The disease is now considered a mental health condition. Some experts still argue over its inclusion in the manual, since it effectively recognizes video games as equally addictive as alcoholic substances, which is already included.

Gaming disorder is defined by WHO as when “gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities.” This sounds like the reality among many kids these days, to the ire of their parents.

The modern family finds itself, in effect, once again at the the mercy of monitors and screens. But, unlike television, today’s screens are more individualistic as they take the form of mobile phones and personal computers. And, with social media, it isn’t just the children whose noses are deep into their phones. It’s likely only a matter of time before addiction to social media will also make it to the WHO list.

Recently, more than 2,000 children were reportedly separated from their parents at the US border. The Trump administration justified the separations as arising from its “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal immigration, with suspected illegal entrants sent to jail to await trial. And, since children can’t go to detention centers with their parents, the kids are taken away from them and kept in separate facilities.

Family separation due to a promise of a better future is the back story of many such family portraits today. The current American policy at its borders should not be accepted as the norm. It is tragic and inhumane.

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Social flux and evolving technology have given rise to a culture of individualism and an urgency for convenience that have made many of us think we are in less need of a family. I used to think that way, too. But, as my teaching stint with young people have taught me, the opposite is true. Perhaps what we can relearn from “The Incredibles” is, to save the world from its villains, we don’t need superheroes. We only need to be a family again.

michael.baylosis@gmail.com

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TAGS: Family, family separation, Father’s Day, solo parents
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