A Culture of Violence

A film I really enjoyed from my college days was a movie titled “Talk Radio” with Eric Bogosian, which was released in 1988.  It was about a controversial Jewish talk show host in Dallas, TX who was assassinated by a white supremacist organization. What I remember most, was not so much the movie (it was a great movie), but an interview with Mr.  Bogosian as he did his press tour promoting the film.  His quote when referencing what the movie said about current times was, “Anger is the emotion of the age”.  It was an accurate summation of the times.  I wish I could say that emotions have since tempered down.  That we are a kinder, gentler society.  But painfully nothing could be further from the truth.  In the age of information we isolate ourselves to only the information that makes sense to us and refuse to listen to those we feel opposed us.  In many instances we choose not to listen but to yell and to agitate.  We want to confront and to intimidate.  To belittle those we believe are against us, to make ourselves feel better at others expense and then to rejoice in their defeat, feeling our existence is validated. Anger is alive and well and the decibel level keeps rising.

If we consult history we have a poor record when it comes to violence.  A history of wars and dictatorships that have killed millions and depending on your point of view many of the leading figures of these events and crimes remain significant historical figures.  History has a way of glorifying horror lest we forget as humans we were convicted of those atrocities.  But it seems to be taking on a new form as the flow if information due to technological advancements is providing more people a window into and an outlet from a world they should not have access to.  It seems to be a spreading disease.  In the latest violent epic, though we still do not have all the details of what happened in Boston, we do know the culprits were online to get the necessary information to build bombs.  Bombs that shredded lives for all the world to see. Were they isolated informationalists (I just made a new word)?

We live in very violent times.  In the United States in 2012 there were nearly 10,000 people killed by drunk drivers.  There were over 14,000  Homicides in 2010 (not the highest, Mexico had over 25,000).  Wars continue in remote regions of the world.  Gang violence continues in our cities.  It seems hardly a day goes by without some type of grisly news.  To grab any attention it needs to be big and horrific.  Lately it has been a massacre in Newtown, CT or terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon.  All seemingly geared towards cable news, each political station with its own political bent and willing to capitalize on it as best they can.  We can point fingers at whom to blame.  The NRA? Hollywood? Video Games?  The only thing that is for certain when each is accused they turn a blind eye and say, “I am not to blame”.  And then they proceed to attack those who accuse them.

For all our concerns and fears of violence in society, we seem to forget we glorify it, we embrace it.  Weather we think we are macho and tough walking around with our guns and knives.  Watching films that numb us to what the reality and consequences of what it is we are viewing on-screen, until we are rendered thoughtless and emotionless.  Killing every bad guy around the corner in our video game culture.  And laughing when it happens, caught in some sort of competitive mind warp.  Then tragedy strikes and we wonder how it could happen.  Who would do such a thing and where id they learn this from?  We look outward and not inward.  Maybe we should ask simple questions. What do we want to be?  What do we want history to say about us?

The only thing we know for certain is every time there is a mass shooting, there is a number associated with it.  We will judge and benchmark it by how many died.  If less than ten it is a mini-massacre and will disappear from the press in a short amount of time, with only the victims loved ones to remember and mourn them. If in the ten to twenties it will garner more press time.  If you can do thirty, well you are working your way into history.  That is a really damning commentary on who we are and what we are becoming.  The other sad fact is those numbers will just continue to go up.  Technology has a down side and in time a Bushmaster will seem old and like a child’s toy.   We are also moving now towards laser devices.  This is just limiting the topic to guns, in lieu of what just happened in Boston bomb making will take on a whole new art form.  What about chemicals?  They will have a place as well as mini-science labs will easily made and I am not talking about pathetic meth labs, but labs cable of creating a lethal weapon.

Will we somehow get less violent?  Will we put laws into place that will help us reduce what seems to occur in society on a daily basis? It seems bleak in this country as politicians can never stray too far from what their lobbyists want them to say and how they want them to vote.  When I look at cable networks they are essentially lobbyists for various groups.  Fox holds and hides the NRA while MSNBC caters to Hollywood.  There are things that will enhance our safety.  Following Newtown the NRA argued we need armed guards and essentially more guns.  I don’t think will have to go that extreme measure as I believe down the road via video surveillance, infrared, robotics etc..these technology advancements will bring new methods of protection and make society safer. Our schools will be safer as anyone approaching with what is deemed violent intent will be detected before they get through the school doors, in fact maybe miles before they get to the school door.  This of course brings a new set of ramifications that will challenge our Constitutional rights.  What are we willing to give up?  The Constitution of the United States is a magnificent document but it is not infinite.

At times it seems to be a hopeless en devour and I am not sure I can add much that would comfort.  I started the dialog referencing anger as the emotion of the day.  The problem is anger does not usually end in unto itself, but festers and morphs into others forms of human emotion such as hate and cruelty.  These lead to man kinds worst fates of suffering and war.  However there is hope, we are a good race, not innately cruel hearted, we just have challenges. We have the ability to meet these challenges, but it will take compromise.  Something we view today as a weakness or at least the far left and far right do.  But we have to overcome for our survival. Not just to make not just a our country a safer and kinder society but our world a better place.  I leave you with the words that have comforted me that comes from the Greeks, so often referenced by Robert F. Kenned, “To tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world”.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann May 8, 2013

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