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Wake up and smell the violence

Published: October 12, 2007
Section: Opinions


What is it about American society and violence? Why is it that were all so enamored by and fascinated by it?

Recently, I read a book titled Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo depicting the lack of attention which society pays to violence and was amazed at how true to life the themes of this book are regarding our fascination with violence. It seems that we, as a technologically-obsessed country, have become so anesthetized to violence, and view it as such a normal part of everyday life, that its commonplace, maybe even a little fascinating, rather than horrifying.

The main character in Cosmopolis, Eric Packer is so technologically plugged in that he even goes so far as to distrust his own senses. Watching a riot with his head outside of his limo, Eric must retreat inside to watch it on TV because through this medium, it made more sense. Erics fixation with technology and failure to recognize the gravity of the violent situation represents societys devaluation of the importance and danger of violence due to the constant availability of violent images offered to us on a daily basis.

We have access to footage of violence at the tips of our fingers and this makes it that much more difficult to assess the horror of it because it is so normal in our society
Take TV for example. Has anyone noticed that there are maybe just a few too many crime shows lately? There are what, three versions of CSI alone? Then theres a plethora of other crime-fighting yet violence-glorifying shows.

We condone violence and watch it materialize onscreen, somehow absentmindedly absorbing the calculated images accosting our retinas. The show or movie opens up with some guy getting whacked-no big deal! We watch the violence add up until suddenly-Oh my God!- something happens to our favorite character. Then, somehow, for some odd reason, we can no longer justify the violence. We are at a loss for words to justify why something so horrible could happen to someone whose storyline we are heavily invested in. Yet, we are quick to say he had it coming to him or who cares, he wasnt an important character when its some less significant character.

Ive heard people complain theres not enough blood or gore in movies these days, yet I cant help but disagree. Maybe its because Im extremely squeamish, maybe its because I dont particularly enjoy watching people (even fake characters) get killed, but I think we have too much violence going on onscreen.

Then there are video games. Im amazed whenever Im around my little cousins to see how violent the youth of America has become. Granted, their violence may only amount to some tumbling matches followed five minutes later by a rematch at Playstation, but still! I dont remember kids ever being as volatile as they are today. Sure, I had some fights-albeit full-on screaming matches- with my sister when I was younger, but it was somehow different.

Youd think that a society which has been so vocal against certain wars and certain forms of violence worldwide would practice what they preached.

And have you ever wondered what is with our fixation on car crashes and accidents? Curiosity and fascination with other peoples misfortune and oftentimes pain leads to very annoying traffic jams, not to mention a sense of entitlement on our behalf, believing that we are privy to relish in the suffering of others.

We have chosen to simply accept violence as an inevitable reality, a part of life from which we will never escape due to technology. But we need not simply accept violence as out of our realm of power. We can recognize violence for the horror it truly is and the triviality which it has become if we become a little more critical of what were watching and simultaneously condoning. We must come out of our isolated TV land cocoons and step outside to truly see the chaos before our eyes