Does anyone else remember Miley Cyrus when she was sweet little Hannah Montana? The witty girl with the double identity of famous country rock star and the ordinary schoolgirl... Well if you do you may like me by really struck by her recent and almost Black Swanesque metamorphoses into the iconoclastic new her. All traces of sweet little Hannah Montana have been obliterated by the new tattooed, twerking and all turned up Miley...
Hannah it seems is now a long since gone distant memory as Miley herself has grown into a young beautiful woman with a desire to be seen as a grown up artist with an identity and act to match. Now I could comment on her recent spats with Sinead O'Connor about how young women can prostitute themsleves to the industry in the way it has been suggested Miley did by wearing nothing but her birthday suit as she straddled a wrecking ball in her not so subtle metaphor laden video for the song of Wrecking Ball, but there is something else that I would like to comment on, something that is more insidious, complacent and destructive - in Miley's new world it seems we say 'hell yeah' to drugs...
I bought the .mp3 of her song We Can't stop. I think it is a great pop song...honestly! I was playing it on guitar and singing it with my daughters and noticed that we had to change one of the swear words at one point but then read the verse that said:
"And everyone in line in the bathroom
Trying to get a line in the bathroom
We all so turned up here
Getting turned up, yeah, yeah"
Getting a line in the bathroom...an obvious reference to drug use and one that I ended up having to carefully explain to my Hannah Montana adoring daughters what that was. Now I know Miley is all grown up now and that she must break free from the constraining old identity of Hannah and in some ways I am really happy for her but what ended up happening from that song lyric was a learning opportunity for us... I ended up sensitively explaining what cocaine was, where it came from and about some aspects of what it is like for families growing up in countries where Drug Lords and the horrendous levels of violence that we hear of impacting on family life in some parts of countries such as Colombia, Peru, Mexico in order to serve the habits of those partying and getting all turned up in Miley's grown up and sybaritic world.
What an opportunity and a doorway in to exploring the real world of drugs and drug taking... deconstructing the carefully crafted new image of a valuable commercial asset such as a pop star like Miley to reveal what they are actually saying and how the lifestyle being portrayed is in a word - ugly. How being part of the turned up world might get you years in jail as a drug trafficking mule, how corruption can become rife where you live , how fear can become a part of everyday life, how execution and murder can stop people from using their mouth to say what they want to.
I saw that a Colombian diplomat is currently giving a lecture at UK universities about how we should be Rethinking the War on Drugs. it seems that Colombia and other countries blighted with an indigenous drugs industry are looking at changes in policy to help address the challenges that they face in this regard:
"One of the main drivers behind this is that of course it is the Latin American countries which are drastically affected by a trade where the demand does not lie in their own countries, but largely in North America and Europe.
'These are countries which have been ravaged by this trade for decades and are now looking at how they can approach it in different ways. This talk will be a fascinating insight into an international debate that will have major repercussions in years to come."
Maybe it is the case that we begin to rethink the way we educate our young people about drugs and its impact on communities around the world? Maybe situating the learning in the cultural domains learners inhabit and by subverting these we can help challenge established media driven views? Maybe a more critical and empathetic understanding of global citizenship can play a small part in helping countries such as Colombia and Mexico meet their long term aspirations? Maybe there are ways in which we can raise the understanding and consciousness of our young people so that they can deconstruct the messages that are fed to them via culturally valued mega-stars such as Miley? Maybe we can create a culture in our schools that helps our young people develop a critical and informed world view that helps them recognise injustice and oppression and the way in which their actions can play any part in its perpetuation...
Maybe... meanwhile, I have two young daughters who are beginning to develop an awareness that the pop culture that envelopes their world is not as lovely and innocent as it might appear and that saddens me.